British Western Pacific Territories

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British Western Pacific Territories
Colonial entity

God Save the Queen 
Capital Suva 1877-1952
Honiara 1952-1976
Languages English (official)

Fijian, Tongan
various Austronesian languages regionally

Government Constitutional monarchy, colony
High Commissioner
 •  1877-1880 Sir Arthur Hamilton-Gordon
 •  1973-1976 Sir Donald Luddington
(23rd and final)
Chief Judicial Commissioner
 •  1877-1882 Sir John Gorrie
 •  1965-1975 Sir Jocelyn Bodilly
(14th and final)
Historical era 19th and 20th Centuries
 •  Western Pacific Order in Council 13 August 1877; 142 years ago (1877-08-13) 1877
 •  Dissolution 2 January 1976; 44 years ago (1976-01-02) 1976
Currency British pound sterling
Today part of  Cook Islands
 Pitcairn Islands
 Solomon Islands

The British Western Pacific Territories was the name of a colonial entity, created in 1877, for the administration, under a single representative of the British Crown, styled High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, of a series of Pacific islands in and around Oceania. Except for Fiji and the Solomon Islands, most of these colonial possessions were relatively minor.


The composition of the territories varied over time. The most durable members were Fiji (from 1877 to 1952) and the Solomon Islands (from 1893 to 1976). Between 1942 and 1945, the high commission was suspended. While most islands were under British military administration, the Solomon Islands, Gilbert Islands and Phoenix Islands came under Japanese occupation.

The position of Western Pacific High Commissioner was formalized by the Western Pacific Order in Council 1877 by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Article 12 established a High Commissioner's Court for the Western Pacific.[1]

In 1952, Fiji was separated from the High Commission. Following this, the High Commissioner's post moved to Honiara in the Solomon Islands, and the High Commissioner was also the Governor of the Solomon Islands. The High Commissioner's Court, however, continued to meet in Suva, with the Chief Justice of Fiji continuing as Chief Judicial Commissioner for another decade, until 1962, when the two offices were separated. Under the Western Pacific (Courts) Order in Council, gazetted on 15 August 1961 and effective from 9 April 1962, the High Commissioner's Court was renamed the High Court of the Western Pacific and relocated to the Solomon Islands.[1] The court consisted of a Chief Justice (as the office of Chief Judicial Commissioner was renamed) and two puisne judges, one based in Port Vila, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), and the other in Tarawa, Gilbert and Ellice Islands (now Kiribati and Tuvalu).

Most of the island groups had gained either independence or internal self-government by 1971. On 2 January 1976 after nearly all had been given separate statehood, the office of High Commissioner and the entity of the Pacific Territories were abolished. A remnant of the High Commission, however, was the right of appeal from the courts of many island nations to the Fijan Court of Appeal, which persisted into the late 1970s.[2] With the independence of Kiribati in 1980, all islands formerly a part of the Territories (except the Pitcairn Islands) had either gained independence or been attached to other entities.

In 2002 the archived records of this High Commission were transferred to New Zealand, and are now held at The University of Auckland Library, Special Collections.[1]

Island groups

SS Tokelau - Government Steamer Gilbert & Ellice Islands Protectorates (30 April 1909)

In Polynesia

In Micronesia

In Melanesia

Sources, References & External Links

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Judicial System". Solomon Islands Historical Encyclopaedia 1893-1978. © Solomon Islands Historical Encyclopaedia, 1893-1978, 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Justice Gordon Ward (2005) Achieving effective legal representation in small Pacific island Commonwealth States. Commonwealth Law Conference, London, September 2005
  • WorldStatesmen
  • Deryck Scarr, Fragments of Empire. A History of the Western Pacific High Commission. 1877-1914, Canberra: Australian National University Press & London: C. Hurst & Co., 1967.

See also