Ruby Boye, WRAN Coastwatcher

Ruby Boye

 

MRS. RUBY BOYE lived with her husband, Mr. Skov Boye, at Vanikoro, a small tropical island in the Santa Cruz group of the then British Solomon Islands

Soon after the commencement of World War 2, the Australian Navy installed a powerful AWA tele-radio for communication between Vanikoro and Tulagi. The radio was operated by a qualified telegraphist on the island.

The Vanikoro radio operator wished to return to Australia to join the RAAF.  Before departing, he taught Ruby how to transmit weather reports and operate the radio in code, and during the following months she learned Morse Code from a book.  Eric Feldt, the Commander in Charge of the Coastwatcher movement,  appointed Mr. and Mrs. Boye as members of his organization.

Ruby Boye on Vanikoro

Mr. and Mrs. Boye realized the importance of Vanikoro in relation to coastwatching, and few white men knew more about the Solomons and Santa Cruz Islands than Mr. Boye.  When the evacuee ship arrived, Ruby refused to leave, announcing that she proposed to stay and operate her radio.  As well as their own safety, Mr. and Mrs. Boye had their two sons, Ken in the RAAF and Don, still a schoolboy in Sydney, to consider.

With the evacuation of the other Europeans from Vanikoro, Ruby and Skov took on many extra tasks. They had to act as doctor treating the sick. They extracted teeth and arbitrated disputes between the natives.

After the Japanese landed at Tulagi, Charles Bignell, a Solomon Islands plantation owner, called at Vanikoro in his ketch for fresh water and food. Charles warned Ruby and her husband that a Japanese ship was in the Santa Anna area. Charles’ wife, Kathleen, and son, Ted, both good friends of Ruby’s, had been captured by the Japanese at Rabaul. Margaret Clarence’s book ‘Yield Not to the Wind‘ covers this episode.

Ruby Boye

Between 4th and 8th May 1942, the Battle of the Coral Sea took place. Ruby,  some 700 miles away from the Coral Sea Battle area, was sending out coded meteorological data, and acted as an emergency relay station in communicating reports between coastwatching stations in the Solomons and Vila, the US Navy base receiving station, in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).

The USS Lexington was lost while the Japanese carrier Shoho was sunk. HMAS  Australia and Hobart took part in the battle. The Japanese main object, the capture of Port Moresby, was denied them, nor did they ever get as far south again.

Even so in 1942 Japanese naval forces were operating north, south, east and west of Vanikoro.  Ruby was on duty during the Battle of Savo Island in August 1942, when HMAS Canberra was lost, together with the USS  AstoriaVincennes and Quincy.

Guadalcanal, where the Japanese fought until early 1943, was only some 500 miles north by west of Vanikoro and during that critical period, Ruby was in easy range of Japanese aircraft that flew at low heights over the Island on many occasions. For safety reasons it was decided to relocate the tall radio mast and equipment across the river from the living quarters.

A punt.

After the suspension bridge crossing the river from the residence to the radio shack was destroyed in a cyclone, four times a day, often in torrential tropical downpours, this indomitable lady had to cross the crocodile-infested Lawrence River by punt, and then often walk through ankle-deep mud to transmit the important meteorological data obtained from her own readings.

The night transmitting session was the most hair-raising, because the crocodiles became active at dusk. Spotlights would sometimes reveal the evil eyes gleaming like two orange lights in the dark. In fact a number of dogs and cats were killed and fowls perched under Ruby’s residence were often seized by the crocodiles.

Newspaper article on Ruby Boye

In September 1942, the USS Wasp was torpedoed while covering a Guadalcanal Troop Convoy. The burning carrier sank with the loss of 193 sailors, leaving during that month the USS Hornet as the only operational undamaged US carrier in the Pacific. The Hornet was to meet her end in the Battle of Santa Cruz, in October 1942. In the same engagement, the Japanese carriers Zuiho and Shokaku were damaged. This battle took place very close to the Island Group of which Vanikoro was part. Ruby recalls: After sending the usual weather report, an English-speaking Japanese voice came crackling through. ‘Calling Mrs. Boye, Japanese Commander say you get out.’ The message at this point was jammed by other coastwatchers and she was informed later the rest of the message was unprintable.

Japanese aircraft dropped pamphlets to the Vanikoro natives telling them to work for the Japanese and report the whereabouts of Europeans. On Guadacanal, coastwatchers found the bodies of nuns and priests bayoneted  by the Japanese. As a result of the Japanese threats, it was considered desirable that Ruby should be in uniform for the sake of her own protection.

Remainder of Ruby Boye article.

At times US Navy seaplane tenders, including the USS Curtiss, were based at Vanikoro to refuel and service Catalina flying boats.  A group of American Naval Officers landed, Mr. Boye was greeted by an Admiral who said ‘My name is Halsey. I’d like to meet that wonderful lady who operates the radio here.’ Admiral William A. ‘Bull’ Halsey was the C- in-C of the South Pacific area at that time.  He had such a high regard for Ruby that he arranged for a US Naval Catalina Flying Boat to take her south for medical treatment for shingles. While Ruby was on sick leave, she was replaced by four US Naval Radio men, two on duty and two off.

In 1944 Ruby was awarded the BEM for meritorious service as a Coastwatcher in the Solomons. In addition, she received the 1939/45 Star, the Pacific Star, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal, the Returned From Active Service Badge and is a Life Member of the WRANS Association.

The letters of appreciation, the photos and autographs from Admirals Nimitz, Halsey and Fitch and the recent invitation to Texas for the Grand Opening of the Admiral Nimitz Memorial mean more to Ruby than money.

Ruby returned to Sydney in 1947 with her husband when he became terminally ill. He arrived in Sydney just two weeks before his death.  Ruby Boye passed away 14 September 1990.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – Saturday Evening Post style – 

“And when you go forth into the world,
be it as riveters, welders, or mechanics,
keep ever bright before you the slogan of
Sweet Lawn Seminary—’A lady, first, a lady always!'”
June 5, 1943

“It’s some game she learned in the Army.”
August 22, 1942

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Joseph F. Boschetti – Philadelphia, PA; USMC, WWII, PTO, KIA (Tarawa)

Edward Dillon (100) – San Diego, CA; US Army, WWII, ETO, 3rd Army

Philip Gamache – Blairsville, GA; USMC, WWII, PTO

Richard Keatinge – Tenderfield, AUS; Australian Military, WWII, Medical Team

Imogene Kinge – Monette, TX; Civilian, “Rosie”, aircraft construction

Birdie McInnis – Clanton, AL; Civilian, WWII, Brooklyn Army Airfield, aircraft inspector

Richard Oster – New Orleans, LA; US Army, WWII, PTO

Gerald B. Raeymacker – Erie, PA; US Army, Korea, Sgt., KIA (Chosin Reservoir)

Evelyn Smith – Westwood, KS; Civilian, Secretary to the Commander of the 6th Corps, Camp McCoy

Louis Wiesehan Jr. – Richmond, IN; USMC; WWII, PTO, F/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on October 24, 2019, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 115 Comments.

  1. Great story GP — I was not aware of this. As a matter of interest my wife was an operator signals in the Australian army and had to take morse at 30 words per minute.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ruby Boye wat a great lady.Thanks for that story it’ fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great woman and an amazing story, GP! So they had to replace her with four men when she was on sick leave? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad to know this, what a story, very brave to stay on and stay at her post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great lady! Great story!

    Like

  6. Thank you for sharing this great story

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s great to read about women getting credit for their dedicated war efforts..BRAVO!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on The mind is an unexplored country. and commented:
    Every Australian can be proud of Ruby Boye’s service, yet I’d be surprised if more than a handful of us recognised her name.
    “At times US Navy seaplane tenders, including the USS Curtiss, were based at Vanikoro to refuel and service Catalina flying boats. A group of American Naval Officers landed, Mr. Boye was greeted by an Admiral who said ‘My name is Halsey. I’d like to meet that wonderful lady who operates the radio here.’ Admiral William A. ‘Bull’ Halsey was the C- in-C of the South Pacific area at that time. He had such a high regard for Ruby that he arranged for a US Naval Catalina Flying Boat to take her south for medical treatment for shingles. While Ruby was on sick leave, she was replaced by four US Naval Radio men, two on duty and two off.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A woman of remarkable courage. And yet, GP, I will guarantee that practically no Australian knows of Ruby Boye’s service in WW2. Hell, we barely remember Nancy Wake.
    ‘The rest of the message was unprintable’ – that took me back. That phrase got used quite often in fiction of that period. These days, of course, we wouldn’t exercise such decorum!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. this is a great story, GP! These people were so important to the war effort. They lived in constant danger – I can’t imagine living like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Powerful. Thank you, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a fascinating piece of history!! Ruby was one remarkable woman.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love the ” My name is Halsey…..” Just the admiral in charge of the whole shooting match ! Great honor for Ruby.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dear GP Cox,
    what a great story. Usually, we prefer fiction but here the reality is much better. An amazing woman, indeed!
    Thank you very much and wishing our American friend a great weekend
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for another great piece of information, GP! I dont know why, but women as soldier i love more without guns, more in the logistic and nursery branch. 😉 Have a wonderful weekend my friend. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A remarkable lady. Thank you for recounting her story during the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Such courage. What an amazing person.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Excellent reading on a very brave woman, those years showed up many traits from the females of that era, bravery,integrity and patriotism, sadly traits missing today.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A gripping, exemplary, story. How sad that her husband died so soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I always liked the coastwatcher, Stanley Holloway as Clayton Canfil, in the movie In Harm’s Way.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. YAY for Ruby Boye! When the goin’ gets tough, women get goin’! Thank you for sharing her with us, GP! What an encouragement and inspiration she was/is to all people! She used her mind, her hands, and her heart for good!
    And, yes, it always takes at least 4 men to replace a hard-workin’ woman like Ruby! 😉 😀
    I am grateful for Ruby and so many other women who have kept the world spinnin’!
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. What a wonderful story. It is particularly nice that she got her just rewards from those famous admirals of the US Navy. Thank you so much for sharing it all with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Ruby was certainly a brave and loyal lady. Just the thought of going through those waters with crocodiles sends chills down my spine. Thanks for sharing her story.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. What an amazing story and wonderful woman and absorbing blog, thank you GP. She was very very lucky to survive… the NZ coastwatchers on an island called Betio, were beheaded when the Japanese got there. My husband was one of the people who campaigned to have them recognised and remembered here in NZ…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hurray for your husband, Valerie. The coastwatchers were an astounding group of people. I can’t imagine anyone NOT wanting to honor them!! Betio in the Tarawa Atoll was the center of action for the Marines – one awful battle fought there – we’re still identifying the bodies found there. I have been including their names in the Farewell Salutes as they come home.

      Like

      • It was hushed up at the time, though the NZ government has paid for the education of their (un-official) children on the island… seventeen coastwatchers and five civilians were beheaded. The campaign was to recognise them in this country, and thanks to Mr Jones, the last survivor, who my husband worked with, there is now a memorial to them in Wellingtons. Yes their bodies are still there like the US soldiers, but have never been found

        Liked by 1 person

        • I suppose there are no groups, private or governmental, that are looking for those KIA? I applaud your husband and Mr. Jones for their work in having the coastwatchers recognized and honored.

          Like

  25. Thanks for sharing Ruby’s story GP. The heroism and contributions of Pacific radio operators has been overlooked for so long. It took one Kiwi survivor from the Kiribati station 60 years to get the NZ government to acknowledge and commemorate the loss of his comrades to the Japanese.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is awful. That bunch of people were amazingly brave to do the job requested of them. I know governments are often slow to recognize accomplishments, but 60 years is far too long!!

      Like

  26. What an incredibly brave woman she was!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Another amazing story and what an exceptional woman. Thank you for bringing these stories to our attention. My dad was a crewman on HMAS Australia and was there at the Coral Sea Battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’ve always been fascinated with Coast Watchers. I’m glad that Ruby’s story has a happy ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Fabulous post, GP! Once again you’ve fitted a piece into place of the complex puzzle that was World War II, showing once again that winning it wasn’t only an American effort. The ANZAC contributions were quite important and it’s so good that the tapestry you weave of the war story has more than American threads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should have more of these stories, but all too often these stories are grouped together as being from the Commonwealth. I’m always happy to find one that says exactly who they are and where they’re from. I always try to show their participation in the Farewell Salutes as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Super post, GP. Ruby was one in a million. (or maybe one of a million)

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I enjoyed reading about Ruby. Lovely post, GP. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. What an inspirational lady! Extreme situations can either bring out the best in us, or the worst. And Ruby’s best leaves us all in the shade. A remarkable story so well told

    Liked by 2 people

  33. What a lady. No what a hero who just happens to be a lady.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. First I’ve heard of this. Thanks for sharing GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  35. There’s a movie waiting to be made! Thanks for the story, I’d never heard this one.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Another amazing story of ordinary folks doing the extraordinary. I am awed.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. A wonderful post. Amazing what a brave and determined lady can do. Getting recognition from Nimitz and Halsey must top every rewards!

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Quite a lady! And a very interesting post.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. It’s a wonderful story of a woman I would have enjoyed meeting. I confess I laughed aloud when I read that, during her time off because of illness, she was replaced by four guys. The truth, of course, is that they still do make ’em like that — partly because women like Ruby Boye have shown what can be done, and inspired others to follow in her footsteps — right past those crocodiles!

    Liked by 4 people

  40. Wonderful.
    You have compiled so much interesting information, I wonder if you have considered a book or another means to archive it when you are no longer interested in blogging,

    Liked by 2 people

    • My main interest is getting stories like this out there to be read and remembered – and to introduce people to my father, Smitty. A book is not in my immediate thoughts due to having to locate and receive a ton of permissions to re-write – frankly I don’t think I’d live that long!

      Liked by 1 person

  41. I appreciated Adm. Halsey’s appreciation of her!

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Great post…the Coast watchers are unsung heroes of WW@ in the Pacific….chuq

    Liked by 2 people

  43. An amazing lady and story. Astounding bravery really.

    Liked by 6 people

  44. Absolutely fascinating, and as an Aussie I am embarrassed admitting to not having heard of her before.
    What a courageous woman! I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that she had a recipe for crocodile having read a little more about her…….

    Liked by 5 people

  45. Crocodiles. Oh my! She sure had a lot of gumption.

    Liked by 4 people

  46. What a wonderful story of a brave and determined lady, GP. They ‘don’t make ’em like that anymore’, as the old saying goes. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 5 people

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