Anzac Day EVENTS, Rabaul 2024

As I landed in Rabaul, the skilled, female Air Niugini pilot slammed on the brakes. It was effective because we then cruised into the terminal in fairly leisurely fashion. Passengers arriving the day before had warned me to have the camera out. They had narrowly missed the safety cones announcing the end of the workable runway. Same the next day apparently. There were 11 people arriving on our 50-seater Dash 8-300.

Maintenance. It’s always needed if something is to operate smoothly, and so Tokua Airport is undergoing months of repairs by the National Airports Corporation, PNG. Whilst this meant severe weight restrictions on aircraft, it also meant an endless juggle of changing schedules and people being bumped at the last minute.

of Lark Force

Planning the trip had been a challenge. With special thanks to Air Niugini’s Marie Ozaltin and David Glover, a group of 38 travellers, consisting of both PNGAA members and descendants of Lark Force, visited Rabaul for Anzac Day 2024.

To kick off the week there were some villagers fighting between Rabaul and Kokopo but, thankfully, this eventually calmed, allowing the travellers to attend several services remembering those sacrificed in war and to enjoy the trip visiting places with special memories.
Andrea Williams

Tol Memorial Plaque

Welcome from the
school children during
the presentation
of the plaque.

The face of the
plaque honouring
those killed in
the Tol Massacre
February 1942

Tony Webster had arranged for a memorial plaque/storyboard to be taken to Tol to be presented to the community at the local school – named the 2/22nd Battalion Lark Force High School in honour of the 160 Australians brutally massacred there on 3 & 4 February 1942.

About 25 people travelled to Tol and back on 23 April 2024 by boat. It took 7 hours each way with three special hours at Tol.

School children in local dress provided a spectacular welcome and wonderful dance and song performances. Renewals of friendship and speeches were made.

The plaque, in English and Tok Pisin, is to be placed near the Tol Memorial Cairn erected in 1987 by Bill Harry and friends.

More information HERE.


Montevideo Maru Memorial Service

Tributes at the Montevideo Maru Memorial, Rabaul

With thanks to Susan McGrade OBE and the Rabaul Historical Society, a dusk service was held on 24 April 2024 to remember the 2/22nd Battalion at the Montevideo Maru Memorial.

As the sun set, providing rich colours over the harbour, a rainbow arched over Namanula, and the singing of ‘You Raise Me Up’ and the PNG Anthem by the local school students was magnificent.

The service was attended by Australian Defence officials from Port Moresby.

Following the service, dinner and drinks were enjoyed at the New Guinea Club, home of the Rabaul Historical Society.

PNGAA and the Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group are eternally grateful to the Rabaul Historical Society and Susan McGrade, along with Dave Flinn, Rod Rawlinson, Rod Pearce, Lily Blake, Rory Stewart and all those assisting who host these special services.

Dawn Service, Anzac Day 2024

Always a beautiful service in Rabaul, guests travelled along Mango Avenue, lit by flares, to the Rabaul Cenotaph. Each person was given a candle and handed wreaths and flowers which were kindly supplied by the Rabaul Hotel and Kulau Lodge. Chairs were placed in a semi-circle around the Cenotaph and everyone sat in silence, waiting for dawn. It’s quite special watching the first tentative rays of the day appear behind Mother, as we remember those who have given their lives for our freedom. It is an experience not to be missed!

We had woken, earlier, to the loud heaviness of tropical rain in full pelt, which fortunately dissipated before the service.

The service was solemn and respectful. Commander Jonathan Corker, RAN, and Frazer Harry from the 2/22nd Battalion, both gave addresses. We hope to have these on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru website soon – HERE

Following the service, a Gunfire Breakfast was held at the Rabaul Yacht Club with the assistance of staff from Kulau Lodge.

Bitapaka War Cemetery Commemoration, Anzac Day 2024

At 11 am guests gathered at the peaceful and spacious Bitapaka War Cemetery, which appears well kept. The introduction and welcome was given by Commander Jonathan Corker, RAN, a commemorative address was given by Lt Col Tony Evans and the Ode by Commander Graham Lebitina, PNGDF. Rabaul’s George Cheng, PNGDF also participated in the service.

Bitapaka Primary School gave incredibly beautiful renditions of the three national anthems —Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. These will be remembered forever!

The Bitapaka Scout Group raised the flags for the Reveille. A lunch followed at the Ralum Club, Kokopo.

All were special services in historical parts of East New Britain and the visit by the Australians, generally, was enjoyed by all.
Thank you to our members for sharing their stories at Anzac Day.

In Memory of Lost Women of Rabaul

Reinhard Minong of the Post Courier interviewed Rod Miller in Rabaul. The following is an excerpt, with thanks to Post Courier:

As remembrances of the World War II dead resonate on ANZAC Day, it is crucial to bring attention to another group whose bravery frequently goes unacknowledged, ‘The Internees’.

Rod Miller, a member of the team gathered to mark Anzac Day in Rabaul, stands amid the solemnity of the occasion in Rabaul town.

Miller has left a lasting legacy of recollection with his moving novel, Lost Women of Rabaul, which tells the story of the unsung tragedy behind the critically acclaimed ABC television drama, Sisters of War.

Kathleen Bignell is one of the heroines immortalised in Miller’s epic; her terrible tragedy is echoed throughout history. Miller says, ‘Kathleen survived till the end of the war, but her son … was killed … it was very tragic.’

Remembering the Montevideo Maru

Patrick Bourke wrote to his local paper, the St George Leader, to remember six men from the St George area who were on the Montevideo Maru. Patrick’s father’s cousin, Lloyd Sibraa, was with the 1st Independent Company. Four were with Lark Force and there was one civilian.

The other men were Neil Callaghan, great-uncle of Andrew Hastie, present Shadow Minister for Defence, Richard Grimshaw, Frederick Hopkins, John Manyon, Henry Wyatt and John Poole

We thank Rod and Patrick for reminding the local community about their loss on the Montevideo Maru, and keeping the story in the public consciousness.

Montevideo Maru Service, Brisbane: 1 July 2024

The annual Montevideo Maru Memorial Service, held by the NGVR & PNGVR Ex-Members Association, for those 1,053 lost Australians, military and civilian internees, on the MS Montevideo Maru in 1942 will be held in the Memorial Galleries located under the Brisbane Cenotaph at 10 am 1 July 2024. Anzac Day dress with medals as appropriate. Everyone welcome, please arrive by 9.45 am. Morning tea will follow the service. Enquiries to

Australian War Memorial, Canberra: 1 July 2024

The Last Post Ceremony, at 4.30pm, will commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru and William John Olney VX30074. If you would like to attend please email


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

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