New Britain (Tok Pisin: Niu Briten) is the largest island in the
Bismarck Archipelago (named after Otto von Bismarck) of Papua New
Guinea. It is separated from the island of
New Guinea by the Dampier
and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel. The
main towns of
New Britain are Rabaul/
Kokopo and Kimbe. The island is
roughly the size of Taiwan. While the island was part of German New
Guinea, it was named Neupommern ("New Pomerania").
2 Administrative divisions
3 Modern history
3.2 World War I
3.3 Between the world wars
3.4 World War II
3.5 Since 1945
4 People and culture
6 See also
7 References and sources
8 External links
Topography of New Britain
New Britain, with selected towns and volcanoes
Ulawun Volcano and Lolobau Island
New Britain extends from 148°18'31" to 152°23'57" E longitude and
from 4°08'25" to 6°18'31" S latitude. It is crescent-shaped,
approximately 520 km (320 mi) along its southeastern
coastline, and from 29 to 146 km (18–91 miles) wide, not
including a small central peninsula. The air-line distance from west
to east is 477 km (296 mi). The island is the 38th largest
in the world, with an area of 36,520 km2
(14,100 sq mi).
Steep cliffs form some sections of the coastline; in others the
mountains are further inland, and the coastal area is flat and
bordered by coral reefs. The highest point, at 2,438 m
(7,999 ft), is Mount Sinewit in the Baining range in the east.
Most of the terrain is covered with tropical rainforest and several
large rivers are fed by the high rainfall.
New Britain was largely formed by volcanic processes, and there are
several active volcanoes on the island, including
Ulawun (the highest
volcano in Papua New Guinea), Langila, the Garbuna Group, the Sulu
Range, and the volcanoes
Tavurvur and Vulcan of the
Rabaul caldera. A
major eruption of
Tavurvur in 1994 destroyed the East New Britain
provincial capital of Rabaul. Most of the town still lies under metres
of ash, and the capital has been moved to nearby Kokopo.
New Britain forms part of the Islands Region, one of four regions of
Papua New Guinea. It comprises the mainland of two provinces:
East New Britain
East New Britain with headquarters in
Kokopo (formerly Rabaul)
West New Britain
West New Britain with headquarters in Kimbe
For the missionary history, see Apostolic Vicariate of Northern
William Dampier became the first known European to visit New Britain
on 27 February 1700: he dubbed the island with the Latin name Nova
Britannia, (Eng: New Britain).
In November 1884, Germany proclaimed its protectorate over the New
Britain Archipelago; the German colonial administration gave New
Britain and New Ireland the names of Neupommern (or Neu-Pommern; "New
Pomerania") and Neumecklenburg (or Neu-Mecklenburg; "New Mecklenburg")
respectively, and the whole island group was renamed the Bismarck
New Britain became part of German New Guinea.
In 1909, the indigenous population was estimated at about 190,000; the
foreign population at 773 (474 white). The expatriate population was
practically confined to the northeastern Gazelle Peninsula, which
included the capital, Herbertshöhe (now Kokopo). At the time 5,448
hectares (13,464 acres) had been converted to plantations, primarily
growing copra, cotton, coffee and rubber. Westerners avoided exploring
the interior initially, believing that the indigenous peoples were
warlike and would fiercely resist intrusions.
Native recruits during drill in German New Guinea, 1910
World War I
On 11 September 1914,
New Britain became the site of one of the
earliest battles of
World War I
World War I when the Australian Naval and Military
Expeditionary Force landed on the island. They quickly overwhelmed the
German forces and occupied the island for the duration of the war.
Between the world wars
World War I
World War I the
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919,
where Germany was stripped on all its possessions outside Europe. In
League of Nations
League of Nations included
New Britain along with the former
German colony on
New Guinea in the Territory of New Guinea, a mandated
territory of Australia.
World War II
Two photographs of native New British Islanders, 1944
New Britain Campaign
World War II
World War II the Japanese attacked
New Britain soon after the
outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific Ocean. Strategic bases at
Kavieng (New Ireland) were defended by a small Australian
detachment, Lark Force. During January 1942, the Japanese heavily
bombed Rabaul. On 23 January, Japanese marines landed by the
thousands, starting the Battle of Rabaul. The Japanese used
a key base until 1944; it served as the key point for the failed
Port Moresby (May to November, 1942).
Soldiers of the 1st Marine Division display Japanese flags captured
during the Battle of Cape Gloucester.
New Britain was invaded by the U.S. 1st Marine Division in the Cape
Gloucester area of the very western end of the island, and also by
U.S. Army soldiers at some other coastal points. As for Cape
Gloucester, with its swamps and mosquitos, the marines said that it
was "worse than Guadalcanal". They captured an airfield but
accomplished little toward reducing the Japanese base at Rabaul.
The Allied plan involved bypassing
Rabaul by surrounding it with air
and naval bases on surrounding islands and on
New Britain itself. The
adjacent island of New Ireland was bypassed altogether. Much of the
story from the Japanese side, especially the two suicide charges by
the Baalen group, are retold in Shigeru Mizuki's Onward Towards Our
Noble Deaths. The factual telemovie
Sisters of War recounts
experiences of Australian army nurses and Catholic nuns during the
The population of the main town of
Rabaul was evacuated as a result of
a volcanic activity in 1994 which buried the town under a thick layer
of volcanic ash.
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People and culture
The indigenous people of
New Britain fall into two main groups: the
Papuans, who have inhabited the island for tens of thousands of years,
and the Austronesians, who arrived around two thousand years ago.
There are around ten Papuan languages spoken and about forty
Austronesian languages, as well as
Tok Pisin and English. The Papuan
population is largely confined to the eastern third of the island and
a couple of small enclaves in the central highlands. At Jacquinot Bay,
in the south-east, they live beside the beach where a waterfall
crashes directly into the sea.
New Britain, c. 1882
The population of
New Britain was 493,585 in 2010. Austronesian people
make up the majority on the island. The major towns are Rabaul/Kokopo
East New Britain
East New Britain and
Kimbe in West New Britain.
New Britain hosts diverse and complex traditional cultures. While the
Tolai of the
Rabaul area of
East New Britain
East New Britain have a matrilineal
society, other groups are patrilineal in structure. There are numerous
traditions which remain active today, such as the dukduk secret
society (also known as tubuan) in the Tolai area.
New Britain have been rapidly destroyed in recent years,
largely to clear land for oil palm plantations. Lowland rainforest has
been hardest hit, with nearly a quarter of the forest below 100 m
disappearing between 1989 and 2000. If those rates of deforestation
continue, it is estimated that all forest below 200 m will be cleared
Postage stamps of New Britain
References and sources
^ Tansley, Craig (24 January 2009). "Treasure Islands". The Age.
Fairfax Media. pp. Traveller supplement (pp. 10–11). Retrieved
27 January 2009.
^ Buchanan, G. M., Butchart, S. H. M., Dutson, G., Pilgrim, J. D.,
Steininger, M. K., Bishop, K. D. and Mayaux, P. (2008). "Using remote
sensing to inform conservation status assessment: estimates of recent
deforestation rates on
New Britain and the impacts upon endemic
birds". Biol. Conserv. 141: 56–66.
doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.08.023. CS1 maint: Multiple names:
authors list (link)
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Thomas Kennedy (1913). "Vicariate Apostolic of New
Pomerania". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York:
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "New Pomerania".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Look up new britain in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea portal
Nationsonline.org: Solomon Islands
Ethnologue.com: Map of languages of New Britain
Australian War Memorial, Operations against German Pacific territories
— (6 August−6 November 1914).
Wikimedia Commons has media related to New Britain.
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Coordinates: 5°44′S 150°44′E / 5.733°S 150.733°E /