Concept: British Solomon Islands Protectorate, Proclamation of


The Pacific Order in Council 1893, proclaimed on 15 March 1893, declared a Protectorate over the Solomon Islands, so far as they were not within the jurisdiction of the German Empire, and also over the Santa Cruz and Reef (Wilson) groups. A naval expedition from the Australian Station comprised of HMS Curacoa under Captain Gibson and HMS Goldfinch under Lieutenant Commander Floyd visited the Solomon Islands during June and July of 1893, landed on a number of islands, hoisted the Union Jack, fired a feu de joie and read a proclamation. It was first read on Mono Island in the Treasury Group on 11 June. (The Shortlands were under German New Guinea (q.v.) control, but this did not include Mono, which the British used as a naval coaling station.) In most cases, copies of the hand-written proclamations were either handed to chiefs or buried in bottles. For example, Captain Gibson reached Port Purvis at the southern entrance to the Mboli Passage, Nggela, on 28 June 1893 and sailed through the passage in his steam barge to Mboli Harbour. He landed at the northern end at Siota village, where he met with Chief Joseph Havousi and explained that they had come to hoist the British flag. Rev. Comins from the Melanesian Mission accompanied the ship on its trip to Malaita.

The first Resident Commissioner, Charles Morris Woodford was appointed part-time in February 1896 and established his headquarters at Tulagi in June 1897. His 'equipment' consisted of an 8.2 metre open whaleboat, eight Fijian police and a £1,200 grant-in-aid, on the understanding that the Protectorate would become financially independent as soon as possible. Soon after Woodford arrived, in June 1897, HMS Wallaroo visited Rennell and Bellona, Sikaiana Atoll (the Stewart Group), and Captain G. N. Pollard proclaimed them to be under British protection. Although the Order in Council 1893 included the Santa Cruz and Duff groups, the proclamation was not formally made in these islands until 1898. During May and July of that year Commander Freeman of HMS Mohawk and Lieutenant-Commander Leggatt of HMS Goldfinch reconfirmed British protection of Rennell and Bellona Islands, and Sikaiana, and extended the protection to the Santa Cruz Islands, the Reef and Duff Group, plus Vanikolo, Anuta (Cherry), Fataka (Mitre), Temotu (Trevannion) and Tikopia.

Until 1885, the territory of German New Guinea stopped east of New Britain and New Ireland. In 1886 it was extended to include Buka, Bougainville and the islands of the Shortland Group (except Mono). The Germans also claimed Isabel, Choiseul, Fauro, Ontong Java (Lord Howe) Atoll, and the Nukumanu (Tasman) Group. All of the islands south of the Shortlands were transferred to Great Britain by a convention with Germany dated 14 November 1899. In the Shortlands, the British flag was hoisted by fourteen-year-old Clara Austin, daughter of Edward and Minnie Austin. (Tedder 2008, 139) It had been thought that the Nukumanu Islands, fifty-three kilometres north of Ontong Java, were included in the transfer when in fact they were still within German territory. The proclamation over the Tasman Group was revoked in 1900, and in 1906 Woodford visited there to formally withdraw the British presence. The 1893 Order in Council gave the High Commissioner the power to control prisons, immigration, lodgement of returns of imports and exports and the observation of treaties, and to legislate for peace, order and good government. (WPHC Proclamations, 17 Sept. 1894, 28 Jan. 1899, 6 Oct. 1900, 8 Jan. 1902; Naval Officer 1893, 450; AR 1898-1899, 4, AR 1899-1900, 5; Burns, Philp 1899, 58; Sydney Morning Herald, 5 Sept. 1898)

In 1966, one of the original Union Jack flags used for the proclamation was lodged with the Solomons Museum Collection housed at Kukum. The flag came from Pileni in the Reef Islands and was thought to have been unfurled at Nukapu. In 1970, a photograph appeared in the BSIP News Sheet of one of the original proclamations. The letter had come into the possession of the Commissioner for Lands 'Spearline' Wilson, who took the document with him to Sydney during the Second World War when he ran the Protectorate's office there. The document was returned to the Solomons after the war and held in the Treasury Department strongroom. (PIM Sept. 1952; NS Oct. 1961, 21 Apr. 1966, 15 July 1970)

Two changes were later made to the territorial limits. In 1975, the Solomons gave Papua New Guinea Polkington Reef as an independence present, and in January 1978 sovereign territory was extended to a 321 kilometres (200-mile) limit under the Fisheries Limits Ordinance. (SND 13 Jan. 1977; Moore 2003, 196)

Related Places

Published resources


  • Burns, Philp & Co Ltd, Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd., Handbook of Information, John Andrew & Co., Sydney, 1899. Details
  • Moore, Clive, New Guinea: Crossing Boundaries and History, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 2003. Details
  • Tedder, James L.O., Solomon Islands Years: A District Administrator in the Islands, 1952-1974, Tuatu Studies, Stuarts Point, NSW, 2008. Details


  • Pacific Islands Monthly. Details
  • Solomons News Drum, 1974-1982. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details