On the surface the Solomon Islands is an untouched tropical paradise, but during World War II the region was one of the Imperial Japanese Army’s most formidable strongholds.

On August 7, 1942, the Allied forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand launched a counter attack on the region to protect their supply lines from the Japanese.

After the fog of battle had cleared, an unmeasurable number of explosives, bombs, projectiles and other munitions were left behind.

Countless shells had been fired at the islands only to malfunction and not detonate on impact, lying dormant for years thereafter, waiting to be triggered by unsuspecting locals.

That’s why Australia, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands collaborate on Operation Render Safe every year.

A task group of Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces and Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) personnel, located, identified and disposed of hundreds of explosive remnants of war as part of Operation Render Safe from October 27-November 4.

While unexploded ordnance has become part of everyday life in the Solomon Islands, it continues to significantly impact Solomon Islanders’ ability to go about their daily business.

Supported by HMAS Adelaide, boasting her amphibious capabilities to quickly deploy up to 710 personnel from island to island, Solomon Islanders saw the best of what Australia has to offer when lending a hand to its partners.

On arrival at the small village of Tame, the joint task group consulted with locals and the chief before beginning work.

Under the guidance of RSIPF divers, Navy clearance divers from Australia and New Zealand trawled the shallows and beaches identifying and tagging hundreds of old mortars, bombs and projectiles before removing them.

Meanwhile, Australian and Kiwi explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams scoured the jungle around the village.

By the end of the first afternoon, the combined efforts of the task group resulted in 250 items of unexploded ordnance tagged or disposed of.

Officer in Command of Operation Render Safe, Major Taylor Luxford-Sanderson, said each year the task group prioritised which communities received assistance.

“It’s been an excellent way to bring together all the services to conduct a mission in a relatively short period of time.”

“The most supported areas are high population centres and locations where explosive remnants of war are affecting people’s day-to-day lives,” Major Luxford-Sanderson said.

“Firstly we engage with the community through the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, we then go and identify the munitions.

“We can dispose of the explosive remnants of war in-situ, or we can move it to a safe disposal site if it is deemed safe to do so.”

Major Luxford-Sanderson said the experience had been personally rewarding for him, commending local Solomon Island authorities on their expertise and how the partnership with local police was mutually beneficial.

“The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force are very professional in their performance of explosive remnants of war disposal. Their engagement with the community has been second to none,” Major Luxford-Sanderson said.

“It’s been an excellent way to bring together all the services to conduct a mission in a relatively short period of time.”

Throughout the operation, Australian, Kiwi and Solomon Island teams continued to learn from each other.

 RSIPF Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Inspector Clifford Tunuki was appreciative of the support, emphasising the importance of Operation Render Safe for communities in the Solomon Islands.

“It’s been more than 75 years that the explosive remnants of war have been laying around the environment of our local communities, so it’s really important that Operation Render Safe is conducted annually or biannually to reduce the risks that are posed to our communities,” Inspector Tunuki said.

He said his team had a positive working relationship with the Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel.

“We have the knowledge and skills in physical identification of the ordnance, so we share the experience, the knowledge, and the skills between the Solomon Islands EOD teams and the Australian and New Zealand Defence Force personnel,” he said.

By the end of the week, the land-based explosive remnants were obliterated with the “bang” they were initially intended to make 77 years ago.

In total, the joint task group located, identified, tagged and disposed of more than 1400 dangerous pieces of ordnance.