Dinner with the King of Norway … in the Snow – ANDREA WILLIAMS

Dinner with the King of Norway … in the Snow – ANDREA WILLIAMS

Under a domed night sky reminding us of early celestial navigators …

The Royal Palace, Oslo;

Flying from a warm Australian spring to Oslo, Norway, just below the Arctic Circle, in late October 2023 meant that the Silentworld Expedition members travelling, including PNGAA members Andrea Williams and Max Uechtritz, landed in a country cloaked in snow. It was beautiful.

King Harald V of Norway (centre) & Andrea Williams (right);

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway attended a special dinner on 2 November to mark the finding of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru and to commemorate a WWII tragedy that has indelibly linked Australia and Norway for more than eight decades.

Twenty-four Norwegian sailors from the MS Herstein—a ship serving the Australian Government in the lead-up to the Japanese invasion of New Guinea in 1942—were captured, and later perished, along with nearly 1,000 Australians when Montevideo Maru was sunk off the Philippines. A genealogist had worked for months to trace descendant families, 20 of whom were present.

Australia’s Silentworld Foundation organised the event at the Oslo Sjomannsforening (Oslo Seamen’s Association) in collaboration with Norway’s Centre for the History of Seafarers at War at ARKIVET Peace and Human Rights Centre in Kristiansand. With its stunning, blue-domed ceiling showcasing a sky designed for celestial navigation, it was the perfect location.

John Mullen, Kerin Ayyalaraju, Bjørn Arild Gram & Lauri Bambus;

The gathering included the Norwegian Minister of Defence, Bjørn Arild Gram and Australia’s Ambassador to Norway, Ms Kerin Ayyalaraju.

During the dinner, there were speeches by Silentworld founder and expedition leader, John Mullen, Bjørn Arild Gram and Bjørn Tore Rosendahl, leader of Norway’s Centre for the History of Seafarers at War. John Møller spoke on behalf of the families of the Norwegians who perished.

Absolute silence reigned as everyone watched, mesmerised, the premiere of a short film by acclaimed documentary producer, Max Uechtritz, titled ‘Bond of History: Australia & Norway and the Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru’. It was a moving tribute to these brave Norwegian war sailors who had travelled so far from

Max Uechtritz, Andrea Williams, Roger Turner & Michael Gooding;

Silentworld Montevideo Maru Commemorative Medal

their homes, and to the sophisticated technology which enabled the finding of Montevideo Maru. Families had been isolated for the intervening 81 years and the shared evening began a heartening bond.

It was an extraordinary evening with the film, the heartfelt tributes, a special gift of a thoughtfully designed Commemorative Medal—to be treasured always—and, significantly, a gift to the Norwegian government of the final report detailing the search expedition in April 2023.

An unforgettable occasion.


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

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