Museum Takes Flight With Digital Pigeon

Bob Hill & Alma Wensi

We’re always looking for more efficient ways of streamlining our workflow – particularly as the Museum has a number of contributors who are based outside of Vanuatu, principally in Australia and New Zealand. That’s why we’re very pleased to announce that Digital Pigeon

has come on board as a supporter, to assist us in the transfer of large files such as video edits and documents. With Vanuatu’s internet services being somewhat unpredictable at times, Digital Pigeon allows us to see who has accessed our files and whether they’ve been successfully downloaded, while always remaining ‘in the cloud’ should the connection fall over. Sean Gay, General Manager and Software Engineer at Digital Pigeon said, “We definitely want to support good causes when they arise. We’d love to get on board with the South Pacific World War II Museum and assist where we can.”

Digital Pigeon’s customer list includes major film production and post productions studios, recording studios, TV stations, advertising agencies and content producers. So the Museum is in good company.

New Friends In Darwin

The South Pacific World War II Museum is excited to announce that we have now entered into a partnership with the Darwin Military Museum (DMM) and the Royal Australian Artillery Association-NT (RAAA-NT), who own and operate the DMM in Darwin, Australia.

The Northern Territory city was attacked in February 1942 by aircraft from four Japanese carriers which had been a part of the attack on Pearl Harbour. The DMM features some impressive displays and presentations surrounding the attack on Darwin, as well as other aspects of military history in Australia’s ‘Top End’. It’s a very popular tourist destination for many thousands of visitors to Australia’s most northern city.

Both the DMM and RAAA-NT are proud to be associated with the South Pacific WWII Museum to assist with its development. We look forward to learning as much as we can from the DMM team about how they operate and then potentially applying some of their thinking to our project as the Museum grows.

Thanks again to the DMM for agreeing to provide us with assistance and to Australian war historian Dr Peter Williams who has helped facilitate the partnership.

The Darwin Military Museum is set amongst concrete gun emplacements and other fortifications in an area that was one of the most heavily fortified areas of Australia during the war. The museum features and impressive display of anti aircraft guns, vehicles, and items such as weapons and uniforms from World War II. It’s located at East Point, a short drive north of the centre of Darwin and is open 7 days a week. Gun emplacement photo courtesy of

You can find out more from the Darwin Military Museum website at

Announcing the ‘Thiele Boys’ as a Navara Sponsor

Our Navara funding program continues to go from strength to strength and it’s not just companies and commercial enterprises showing their support for the museum project. We’re pleased to announce the ‘Thiele Boys’ have become our latest Navara sponsor and their kind donation will assist in the day-to-day operation of our Project Office and Mini Museum.

So just who are the Thiele Boys?

Lt (jg) Ray F. Thiele was a command pilot assigned to Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron 128 (VPB-128). Since October 1944 VPB-128 had been stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Station (NAS) on the island of Oahu in Hawaii where crews maintained their proficiency in their twin engine, Lockheed built, PV1 Ventura aircraft. On December 23rd, the crews departed Kaneohe NAS and made stops at Palmyra, Canton and Funafuti before arriving on Espiritu Santo. The crews then flew to Guadalcanal, Bougainville and Los Negros before arriving on Owi, just south of the much larger island of Biak in New Guinea. The squadron arrived on Owi on January 2, 1945.

Fast forward 26 years later, Ray, long since having retired from the United States Navy as a Commander, returned to Espiritu Santo again in December of 1970. On this trip, Ray and his mother Marie Thiele, were visiting three of Ray’s sons and their son’s mother, Barbara. She had sold her property in Hawaii and moved to Hog Harbour and began construction of a home on the road that leads to Lonnoc and Champagne beach. She brought her three children with her – John (14), Mark (8) and Chris (6).

Barbara and her sons, Mark and Chris, lived on Santo until May of 1976. During the nearly six years that she spent on the island she made the best of island living while overseeing her home being built, operating a small store – which sold ice cream – from within the home, providing a local area taxi service using a pick-up truck and providing rooms for rent for longer term visitors to Hog Harbour.

Ray passed away in November 2000. He had been there once during a war and another time during relative peace.

It’s the wonderful memories of life on Santo that the brothers John, Mark and Chris want to commemorate, through a donation to our Navara program. As John says, “During the years of our absence from the island our thoughts and interest in that which is going on has never waned. Our experiences as kids growing up there and then living in Hog Harbour and being associated with so many of the villagers, or being part of Luganville then, remembering the Hotel Corsica, the fishery at Palikulo where we would sell

squash grown in Hog Harbour and buy Swordfish for 55 cents a kilo, paddling the canoes that we bought from villagers in Port Olry, fishing, catching coconut crabs, hunting for pigs and pigeons in the jungle and surviving earthquakes and hurricanes are all etched into our memory. We have an attachment to Espiritu Santo. Add to that that our father passed through Luganville in 1944 only adds to the attachment.”

Barbara never returned to Vanuatu. She passed away in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA in May 2013. John was the first of the boys to visit the island again. He was there with his wife in December of 2017. Chris and his wife plan to visit in 2019. Mark and his wife have yet to schedule a visit. “Traveling to Espiritu Santo after having been away for such a long time was a wonderful refreshment of my own memories of Santo. Add to that the South Pacific World War II museum being organized and developed honouring the effort that won the war in the Pacific for the allies. It just seemed such a natural thing for us to do to support the museum in its endeavours, as a way of commemorating all of our fond memories of a place and a time we will never forget”, John added.

If you’d like to know more about our Navara program, you’ll find it here. Alternatively, if you’d like to talk to our Museum Manager Alma Wensi about a charitable donation to the South Pacific World War II Museum, you can email him at

Announcing Two New Navara Sponsors

Following our announcement a couple of weeks ago that Air Vanuatu has signed on as a Navara Sponsor, we’re excited to announce that Bank of South Pacific and Tropex Exports have also become Navara sponsors of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. Both companies will be

assisting with the running costs of the project office in Luganville over the next three years. The Chairman of the Museum Association’s board, Bradley Wood, says they are very excited with the support and faith being shown in the project by both sponsors.

Bank Of South Pacific

Earlier this week, Bank of South Pacific announced it was getting behind the museum by becoming a Navara Sponsor of the South Pacific World War II Museum project. Bradley said he is delighted with BSP’s support – and how appropriate it is.

“Our Museum will tell the stories of how the whole South Pacific became a focus of the fight for peace here and a focus of the world,” Bradley said. “How fitting that BSP are joining us, because they are the Bank of the South Pacific, having started in Papua New Guinea, and now operating in 7 Pacific nations,” he added.

Nik Regenvanu, the country head for BSP, says they are proud to be playing a role in nourishing the Vanuatu community, such as the recent VT1 million contribution to medical emergency services. “We look forward to a long partnership with the South Pacific World War II Museum,” he said.

BSP is also demonstrating a commitment to supporting educational change in Vanuatu, with scholarship support for educating young women. Bradley Wood says education is a big part of the Museum. The Project Office mini museum opened around sic months ago, is already drawing a lot of young Ni-Van visitors, including school visits. “They’re very excited to see wartime items and hear the history. It’s a real eye opener for them,” he said. One of the goals of the Museum is to provide an opportunity for education, working with local schools, and developing opportunities for training in tourism and other related fields.

Bradley says such support is a huge help in sustaining the project as it develops its fundraising over the next two years. “BSP have shown their community involvement with a number of other sponsorships. Their motto is Our Culture is Our Strength, and that really chimes with the Museum’s brand theme of Inspiring Everyday Heroes. That theme is about how the stories of yesteryear and our project can inspire today’s new generation.”

Tropex Exports

The South Pacific World War II Museum is also delighted to announce Tropex Exports as a Navara Fund supporter of the project.

Tropex Exports is a New Zealand company that has been a wonderful supporter of the Museum project for two years, and has recently committed to a further three years of support. Museum Chairman Bradley Wood said, “Tropex were one of our first supporters when we were getting the project off the ground. Their faith in our vision for the project as demonstrated by their support is something we cannot express our gratitude more highly for.”

Tropex was established in 1968 to provide representation for manufacturers exporting to the Pacific region. With over 50 years experience, it now represents many highly-respected manufacturers from a wide range of industries including construction, agriculture, steel & wire through to air conditioning and refrigeration.

Steve Hirst, the financial director of Tropex, says they are delighted to be a Navara Fund member. “We have built strong relationships with the families, businesses and industries of the Pacific, and are very keen to seen the Museum project succeed.”

Bradley went on to say, “Our Navara Fund is a chance in particular for local businesses and those companies with ties to Espiritu Santo to show their commitment to this exciting project. We’re most grateful for their assistance and look forward to further expanding our links with the Vanuatu business community “

If you wish to know more about becoming a Navara Fund member, you can see more here.

Museum Sponsorship Deal Takes Wings

The South Pacific World War II Museum is delighted to announce that Air Vanuatu has joined as a sponsor of the Museum’s new Navara Fund.

The Navara Fund has been created to allow Vanuatu businesses and other commercial sponsors to directly assist the Museum Project Office as it works to fundraise for this exciting project on Espiritu Santo.

The Project Office manager Alma Wensi said Air Vanuatu is a key link for growing tourism into Espiritu Santo.

“We believe this museum will be a significant drawcard and yet another reason for people to visit this wonderful island. We see Air Vanuatu’s support as a vote of confidence in us, and we look forward to a partnership that benefits both organisations.”

Paul Pio, Public Relations and Marketing Officer for Air Vanuatu said, “Air Vanuatu is delighted to support the South Pacific World War II Museum. Given the significant role played by Vanuatu in supporting the allied war effort, the museum will be a fitting tribute to the tireless efforts and sacrifices made by Ni-Vanuatu people throughout the archipelago”.

Alma Wensi says many Ni Vanuatu people are visiting the museum project office and learning about a history that many of them, until now, were unaware of.

“The Navara Fund is a way that local businesses, in particular, can demonstrate their commitment to a museum that will also serve as an economic and educational boost to our people.”

Bringing The Museum To Life in 3D

“What will the South Pacific World War II Museum look like?” It’s a question we get asked often, particularly by visitors to our Project Office in Luganville. Well we thought it was time we brought it to life – in a virtual sense anyway.

We got in touch with Marcel Marais from 3D Spaces Media in Brisbane, Australia. His company specialises in taking flat 2-dimensional plans of proposed structures and turning them into fully interactive 3D media. We asked him whether he could take the initial plans John Pearce from Arkitektika had drawn up and create something spectacular that could be viewed from any angle? Having worked extensively with some of Australia’s largest developers and construction companies creating immersive 3D media for a wide range of projects, Marcel said his team could bring our project to life like nothing we’d ever seen before. And we think what 3D Spaces Media have created for the Museum is nothing short of spectacular and a lot of fun to explore.

The rendered 3D museum model requires no additional software as the technology is completely cloud-based. It runs on any browser and on any device, but requires webgl which is found in all newer browsers. If by some chance you can’t view the 3D museum model, then you probably need to turn on webgl in your browser. It’s very easy to do, just do a Google search for ‘turn on webgl in chrome’ or ‘firefox’ or whatever browser you are running.

We’d like to thank Marcel and 3D Spaces Media for their support of the South Pacific WWII Museum project.

To view the 3D render and explore the museum like you’ve never seen it before, click either of the images above or click here.

A Piece of Espiritu Santo’s History Revealed

Following the demolition of a derelict building on Espiritu Santo, to make way for a new hardware store, a piece of what appeared to be World War II history was discovered. There, written on a timber beam was an inscription from a New Zealand soldier by the name of James Walcott. It listed his address in Dunedin, an identifying number, and his dates of service on Santo. Museum project Chairman Bradley Wood spotted the inscription and so began some detective work to see if we could trace it back to James’ family – assuming we could find them. Some initial research found that James was a storeman, he was the son of Ruby Doris Foord and Vernon Rupert Walcott and was baptised in Alexandra Parish in 1925.

Kevin McCarthy, the museum’s new Fundraising, Marketing & Communications Advisor from New Zealand – thanks to New Zealand’s Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) – then sent the details of the find to the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand, hoping someone might know something. And someone certainly did.

Paul Gorman, who wrote the original story in the Times was contacted by Jude Walcott, James’ daughter and Senior Communications Advisor at Radio New Zealand. Jude’s cousin had seen the story and passed it on to her. Jude was thrilled that a piece of her family’s history had been discovered and we were just as thrilled to be able to solve a small puzzle of Santo’s hidden history.

Jude will be further researching her father’s time on Santo through the New Zealand Air Force Archives, and as she discovers more, we’ll post it here.

New Museum Video Launches

A new year and a new chapter for the museum project. 2018 sees the beginning of the major fundraising needed to progress the museum. With that in mind we thought it was an appropriate time to launch a new video that highlights what we’ve achieved so far and our plans for the future. A special word of thanks to Karl von Moller ( for some of the footage in the video and Simon Baumfield ( for the underwater shots. Hope you enjoy it.

2018 Kicks Off At the Project Office

A Happy New Year from the South Pacific World War II Museum. 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Museum. Already we’ve had two cruise ships come through Luganville late in 2017 and early 2018. As a result, the Museum Project Office and our mini museum was visited by a steady stream of passengers from the Noordam and Pacific Eden who enjoyed the air-conditioned comfort of our new facilities. Judging by their feedback and comments, we’re certainly on the right track in developing an exciting new tourist destination for the island. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank those passengers who kindly donated to the Museum and to Rick and Brad for the steady supply of fresh chilled pineapple for the passengers to enjoy.

New Museum Development Office Opens

We’re delighted to announce that our new Project Development Office has officially opened in Unity Park in Luganville. The opening, attended by local and international dignitaries, coincided with the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the SS President Coolidge just off the Espiritu Santo Coast.

The office has been a long time in coming with extensive planning, design, negotiations with various local government departments and the build itself – involving Santo Hardware volunteers – requiring some skilful leadership headed up by Museum Development Manager Alma Wensi.

If you’d like to read the full story about the day’s activities and look through our gallery of images, we’ve created a special page to do just that.


Alternatively, we’ve cut together a video of the day’s events including the memorial service, mini-museum opening and the opening of our Project Development Office. Click on the video above if you’d like to view it.

Not only will the museum serve as a reminder of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, it will bring into focus the legacy they left behind.