Anzac Day 2023 – The Story of Ruby Boye Apr 24, 2023
On Anzac Day we commemorate the story of Ruby Boye – the only female Coast Watcher for the Allies in World War 2.
Ruby’s journey began in 1928 when she moved to Tulagi in the British Solomon Islands Protectorate with her husband, Skov Boye. Skov worked as a plantation manager for Lever Brothers, and Ruby found joy in playing the piano. However, with the outbreak of World War II, Ruby’s skills in radio were noticed by the Australian Navy Intelligence Division, and she was recruited to serve as a Coast Watcher.
The Boyes knew what usually happened to coastwatchers who fell into Japanese hands. In March 1942, an elderly Australian copra planter named Percy Good was executed by enemy troops on Bougainville in the western Solomon Islands.
Ruby’s primary duty was to transmit weather observations to the coastwatchers’ regional headquarters on Tulagi. She was stationed at Vanikoro, where her enciphered meteorological observations proved invaluable during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the invasion of Guadalcanal, and the Battle of Santa Cruz. Her observations helped the Allies gain a key advantage in these battles, which ultimately led to their victory.
Japanese intelligence officers knew all about Mrs. Boye and the work she was performing. When radio-delivered threats failed, a flying boat dropped pamphlets over Vanikoro that offered money in return for the death or capture of the island’s “European spies.
With the loss of Tulagi in May 1942, Vanikoro became a relay station between the American headquarters at Vila in the New Hebrides and coastwatchers operating far behind enemy lines to the west.
Sometime in 1943, Ruby Boye received a high-profile visitor when Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey arrived by seaplane to congratulate the coastwatcher on her wartime achievements.
Halsey introduced himself by exclaiming, “I want to meet the wonderful lady who operates the radio here.”
Australian officers were also impressed by this self-taught wireless operator, the sole female coastwatcher to serve during World War II.
Commander Eric Feldt arranged for her appointment as Honorary Third Officer in the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service (WRANS), effective July 27, 1943.
Ruby was 51 years of age when she accepted this commission. This was done also to protect her in case of her capture to prevent execution as a spy.
Skov and Ruby remained on Vanikoro until 1947, when he sickened with leukemia. The Boyes returned by chartered airplane to Sydney, where Skov Boye died shortly after being admitted to the hospital. Settling in Sydney, Ruby married Frank Jones in 1950. Sadly, she lost Frank after 11 years of wedlock.
Honorary Third Officer Ruby Boye lived to the age of 99, passing away on September 14, 1990.
Her contribution to the Allied victory in World War II has been commemorated by the dedication of an accommodation block—Boye House—at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
As we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our Anzac heroes, it is crucial to remember the lesser-known heroes, such as the Coast Watchers. They faced immense danger to protect our freedom and ensure the success of the Allied forces.
Ruby Boye was extra special in being the only female coast watcher – her name liveth for ever more and lest we forget.