War in Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides)

Jimmy Stevens and his Coconut War warriors, 1980

Back in 1980, with pen and notebook in hand and a camera around my neck,  I rushed to the tiny group of islands in the Pacific then known as the New Hebrides. A rebellion was under way! It was big news!

The islands were being run jointly at the time by Britain and France, under what were already chaotic, indeed crazy, conditions. If you were sent to a French jail you had wine with your lunch. If it was the British jail you had water. The road signs were all British but everybody had to drive on the right, like in France.

In the south, on the island of Tanna, a group of villagers were busy worshipping their very special ‘god’ – none other than the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. Unbelievably, he had posed specially for them in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and had then sent them a formal signed photograph of himself holding the war club the tribe had sent to him.

Way up on an island to the north and and a few months before independence, when the New Hebrides was due to be renamed and become Vanuatu, Jimmy Stevens, an ageing tribal chief, declared his own form of independence, to the embarrassment and annoyance of the Brits, the French and the central government.

Madness descended throughout the country with French troops being prevented from flying to the rebel island by the Brits and vice versa. Meanwhile Jimmy, supported by a mysterious group of Americans allegedly linked to the CIA, appointed himself as the Prime Minister of the island – but his rule was short-lived when a ‘neutral’ force from Papua New Guinea grabbed him and he was thrown into jail.

The book I wrote at the time has long gone out of print but it’s now been revived and I’ve got it listed on Amazon as an eBook. But was the publishing process easy? Let’s put it this way – it took me longer to get the design and format right than it took me to fly from Sydney to interview Jimmy Stevens.

If you’re thinking of publishing your own eBook, you might find it easier than I did. Perseverance finally paid off and what I hope will be a fun book with historical qualities will outlive its paperback predecessor!



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