We will remember them. Lest we forget.
(More information about the Montevideo Maru can be found at : www.memorial.org.au )
The unmarked Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru was sunk by an American submarine off the Philippines on July 1, 1942 and more than 1,000 Australian soldiers and civilians perished. It remains Australia's worst - and least known - maritime disaster.
Seventy five years on, hundreds of relatives converged on Canberra to attend a commemorative service and dinner last year.
The service was held at the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial, Australian War Memorial, on Saturday, July 1 2017 at 1pm. Keynote speaker at the service was Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson AO.
Keynote speaker at the 75th Anniversary Dinner on 1 July 2017 was Mr Gordon Ramsay MLA, ACT Attorney General and ACT Minister for Veterans and Seniors.
This followed a five day tour of Rabaul and East New Britain, PNG, by a party of 30 Australians culminating in a 75th Anniversary Dusk Service at the Rabaul 1942-1945 Memorial. The dusk service was held on 22 June 2017, the 75th anniversary of the men boarding the Montevideo Maru and leaving Rabaul.
Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Bruce Davis AM, gave a thoughtful and sensitive tribute, acknowledging the various aspects of this tragedy.
Australian country singer
Kylie Adams-Collier gave a moving performance of her soon to be released song ‘Montevideo Maru 1942’. Kylie Adams-Collier performed this again at the 75th anniversary service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on 1 July 2017.
Andrea Williams, President of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, said:
‘75 years ago today the Australians who embarked on the Montevideo Maru had no idea they would be making history…that their names would be listed in the worst maritime disaster the Australian nation has known, the only hellship with no allied survivors; a disaster which was unknown for three and half years… It is important to acknowledge the sacrifice and remember these men so present and future generations of Australians are aware of the contribution made towards making our nation what it is today.’
The Australian soldiers were taken prisoners of war (POWs) in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands on January 23, 1942. They were members of the 2/22nd Infantry Battalion and ancillary units, the 1st Independent Company, and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles.
The civilian internees were officers of the then Australian Administration, businessmen, bankers, planters, missionaries and merchant seaman. They included relatives of some well-known Australians - Kim Beazley's uncle was a builder with the Methodist Mission; Peter Garrett's grandfather was a planter; and one time Prime Minister Sir Earl Page lost a brother who was the senior government official in Rabaul.
Over 50 of the victims had fought in WW1, 47 of whom were civilian internees.
Australian boys over 16 remained in Rabaul but in a few cases younger boys stayed. One 11 year old was executed in Rabaul with his parents.
Women and children had been evacuated to Australia in the weeks preceding the
Japanese invasion and for the majority it was not until 1945, after the war ended, that they learned whether their husbands and fathers were alive or dead.
About 400 Australians did manage to escape but many died trying to do so. Some were captured and summarily executed; others died from illness and starvation, or drowned crossing fast flowing rivers.
The PNGAA has recently published a book ‘When the War Came: New Guinea Islands 1942’. It comprises personal stories of those who faced WWII on Australian territory and our greatest maritime disaster – the sinking of Montevideo Maru.
Kylie Adams-Collier’s grandfather Harry Adams was one of the Prisoners of war who died on the Montevideo Maru along with his his brother –in law and nephew. Harry Adams ran plantations in Papua New Guinea. Kylie’s father was born in Rabaul.
Last year Kylie joined the party of people who travelled to Rabaul for the 75th Rabual and Montevideo Maru anniversary service. She sang her song Montevideo Maru 1942 at the service held by the Rabaul Harbour foreshore where the prisoners of war were embarked onto the Montevideo Maru ship.
The party made up of descendants of those who died on the ship shared over five days of an itinerary around Rabaul and Kokapo visiting war sites and relics to get a better understanding of the Japanese invasion so long ago.
Kylie also performed her song infront of hundreds at the Australian War Memorial as mentioned earlier.
Kylie released her song to radio in June 2018, around the anniversary of the Prisoners of war embarking on the ship and the 1st July when the ship Was sunk under allied fire.
“Montevideo Maru 1942” is available on Kylie’s album “ Liitte Stone “on Kross Kut Records. Produced by Lindsay Waddington.
Kylie is donating 50 cents from every album sold to the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia to help raise awareness of this great maritime tragedy. The money will go towards an Educational package for schools about Papua New Guinea and the Montevideo Maru.
Kylie’s tour guide from Rabaul , Albert Konie is selling her “Little Stone” album in Papua New Guinea and is encouraging everyone to visit Rabaul to help get the economy back on it’s feet again.
A party of MVM descendants travelled to Rabaul for the 2018 Anzac Day Service.
Released to iTunes 29th June 2018.
More information about the Montevideo Maru can be found at :
When the war came : New Guinea Islands 1942 : personal stories of those who faced WWII on Australian territory and our greatest maritime disaster - the sinking of Montevideo Maru / compiled by Gayle Thwaites.
- A social history of those who faced WWII on Australian territory - stories of evacuation, escape, massacres, prisoners of war and our greatest maritime disaster, the tragic sinking of Montevideo Maru. Commorating the 75th anniversary of this period in the New Guinea Islands. This collection of personal and family stories is about the Australian settlers in New Guinea, civilians and ex-servicemen who had their lives disrupted by war, and of the young soldiers who found themselves defending a tropical township.
Hell and High Fever - David Selby 1956 This is about the 2/22nd
escape down the coast from Rabaul. Maybe hard to find.
This Crowd Beats Us All - Bishop Leo Scharmach 1960 The missionaries of Vunapope
moved to the Ramale Valley on New Britain to
escape the allied bombing. It might be hard to find but it is a good read.
I went to the Ramale valley July 2002 to have a look.
Rabaul 1942- Douglas Alpin 1980. Douglas was a member of the
2/22nd Battalion who escaped in 1942.
Hostages to Freedom the fall of Rabaul - Peter Stone 1994
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in Rabaul. Peter Stone
must of spent many hours working on this book.
Rabaul Diary - David Bloomfield 2001. Similar to Hell and High fever.
El Tigre Frank Holland MBE - Peter Stone . The story of Frank Holland who helped escaping 2/22nd Men.
Heroes at Sea - Don Wall 1991. Chapter on Montevideo Maru plus copy of official lists.
A Very Long War - Margaret Reeson 2000.
Masked Eden - a History of the Australians in New Guinea.
- Anne McCosker 1998. Interesting chapter on Montevideo Maru.
Mr Michel's War From Manila to Mukden an American Navy Officer's War with the Japanese 1941-1945
- John J.A. Michel 1998 (see text on previous page for details)
Captives Australian Army Nurses in Japanese Prison Camps - Catherine Kenny 1986.
An excellent book for anybody researching the Rabaul nurses.
That They Might Live - Ellen Kettle 1979 This book covers the history of Nursing in PNG.
Where Abouts Unknown - Margaret Reeson 1993. Information on the
Methodist missionaries and their families who waited in Australia.
Little Hell -The Story of the 2/22nd Battalion and Lark Force
compiled by Carl Johnson 2004
Brave & True: From Blue to Khaki - the Band of the 2/22nd Battalion http://www.salvationarmy.com.au/supplies/product.asp?pID=99&cID=1
Finding Darcy - Sue Lawson 2008.
Sue lost her grandfather - Pte WA McLennan on the Montevideo Maru.
Aimed at the teenage market this is the first novel written based on the the events at Rabaul.
It highlights the 2/22nd and Montevideo Maru, focusing on the impact on the families.
Payback - John Bell 2008
Payback weaves the lives of two fictional families,
whose blood feud invokes the ancient New Guinea tribal code of payback.
Much more than a fictional saga… a thinly disguised story of the author’s own family.
He's Not Coming Home - Gillian Nikakis 2005
Gillian lost her father who was on the Montevideo Maru
Her book describes the life of civilians in Rabaul leading up to and
following the invasion.
Available from the author [email protected]
War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945