Sunday, 1 May 2011

The New Zealand Military cemetery in Bourail

Bourail is about 1.5 hours drive north of Noumea.  It's a very sleepy little town with a good surf break only about 10 minutes from it. 
It's also where the New Zealand war cemetery is, the final resting place of more than 200 kiwi soldiers who fought and lost their lives during the second world war.  There was a large contingent of Kiwis who were stationed in Bourail and they fought up in Bougainville, Guadalcanal and other areas in the north Pacific. 

The cemetery is beautifully kept, with gorgeous lawns surrounded by well-established trees.  The whole area is nested into the foothills around Bourail and it's a very tranquil place.  The gardener who carefully maintains the cemetery has worked there for more than 30 years and his passion is clear in the spotless gardens.

 It's easy to forget just how far south the fighting came in WWII.  There were no battles in New Caledonia but those in the Solomons were clearly pretty horrific and the Solomons really aren't that far from here.

The kiwis in Bourail seemed to have made the most of the lovely beach at La Roche Perce.  There was an area known as the 'kiwi club' where off-duty service people could come and chill out over some well-earned brewskies.  

The kiwis weren't the only service-men here.  There were also Australians and 20,000 Americans.  The Americans had a large base here and the infrastructure they built during the war is still used every day.  They built the international airport out at Tontouta, sorted out the roads in and out of Noumea and today the suburbs of Noumea retain the names given to them during the war - such as Motorpool.  The American hospital even remains, as the polyclinic which is now a small hospital, (mainly maternity) beside the beach.