Spectrum 769. A coastwatcher's story
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A documentary on Southlander 'Kid' Richards work in the early 1940s as a coastwatcher - a surveillance network operating behind the lines in the Pacific during the Japanese advance. ‘Kid’ Richards of Southland recalls his wartime experiences as a coast-watcher around Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands during World War II.
Aged 16 in 1942 he was unable to convince recruiters he was old enough to sign up, so joined a tramp steamer which set out from Bluff to Sydney then Perth . He and two other men were left floating on a raft surrounded by sharks after an explosion. He was rescued by a Japanese-Australian on a pearling vessel who took him to Broome. There he met Eric Feldt who prior to the war had been obsessed with the idea of the Japanese invading Australia and set up a radio network in the Torres Strait.
Richards recalls the training he underwent to join Feldt’s Coast Watchers organisation and the work they did in the Torres Strait and New Guinea once Japan entered the war. He talks about working with local people in the islands to watch for Japanese movements and the aircraft and vessels they used. He recalls being supplied with cyanide in case they were captured and tortured or suffered tropical sores and malaria.
Richards was 18 years old when the war ended.