Unveiling of a Commemorative Seat and Storyboard at Mornington Memorial Park

A special community event on 23 January 2023 remembered the 1,053 Australian soldiers and civilians who died as prisoners on the hell ship, Montevideo Maru.

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia (PNGAA), Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group (R&MMG) is proud to have sponsored and achieved the unveiling of this Commemorative Chair and Storyboard remembering those who died when Montevideo Maru was torpedoed on 1 July 1942.  The chair is located at the peaceful Mornington Memorial Park, 22 Empire Street, Mornington, Victoria, and was unveiled on the 81st anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Rabaul and Kavieng—23 January 2023.

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru group is especially grateful to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and Mornington RSL for their support in making this event particularly successful.

Over 100 guests arrived from 10 am for the service, which commenced at 11 am on a perfect summer Mornington morning. 

The Commemorative Chair was magnificently surrounded by a beautiful red ribbon with purple edges, draped diagonally across the chair. It looked truly stunning!

Music from the 2/22nd Battalion Band and its Bandmaster, Arthur Gullidge, was played as guests arrived and were seated, with thanks to Max Clarke.

Well-known local Mornington identity, Brodie Goozee – Producer/Broadcaster/Podcaster at RPPFM – Your Peninsula Radio, graciously accepted an invitation to be Master of Ceremonies. His sensitive understanding of the day ensured it all flowed smoothly and meaningfully.

David Howell – Secretary, Mornington RSL, provided the Welcome Address which included the history of Mornington Memorial Park.  David, an author, tour guide and historian, is co-founder of Kokoda Historical and specialises in the South West Pacific Area of Operations during the Second World War. David and the Mornington RSL assisted the event by sponsoring both the piper and the delicious refreshments, which followed the service. David’s support at all times was generous and much appreciated.

Andrea Williams spoke about the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group.  With a personal connection, she acknowledged the challenging journey to achieve recognition of this disaster in Australian history.  Following the achievement of a national memorial at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the association’s current focus is on educating Australians and Papua New Guineans, and continuing to reach out to the many Australians who are connected to this story.

The Commemorative Address was given by Cr Steve Holland, Mayor of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council who spoke knowledgeably about what happened when Japan invaded and occupied what was, in 1942, an Australian Mandated Territory. 

The chair was unveiled by the Mornington Mayor, Cr Steve Holland, together with Andrea Williams and Gillian Nikakis. 

Following this, flowers were laid, including from the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru group (Andrea Williams) and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Ex-Members Association (Phil Ainsworth).

The Ode was read by Phil Ainsworth, President of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Ex-Members Association.  Phil provided some background about the Ode and included two stanzas of Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem, ‘For the Fallen’.

Piper, Benjamin Casey, of the 5/6 Royal Victoria Regimental Association performed the Last Post and Reveille before guests joined together in singing the National Anthem of Australia.

Gillian Nikakis, who was evacuated from Rabaul before losing her father in this appalling tragedy, and who later wrote the book, He’s Not Coming Home, provided a poignant reflection.

It was a hugely successful and very memorable day. It was wonderful to see so many former PNG residents and interested guests, especially those living in and around Mornington attend. James (Jim) Burrowes, one of two known living former WWII coastwatchers, looked spritely, as always, as he attended with family, much to the delight of all there. Jim will be 100 years old this year. PNGAA also appreciated several Mornington Councillors attending.

It was tremendous to see generations of families attending and to hear the positive feedback about the speeches and the day which appeared greatly appreciated by all who attended. This special memorial will encourage families to return to the park, and visitors to put Mornington on their travel list.

The commemorative chair sits in a peaceful park,

a beautiful spot for reflection on this WWII disaster, and we know it will be enjoyed for many, many years.

Photographs of this event are on the PNGAA website in the photo galleries and on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru facebook page.

Background:  Mornington resident, Gillian Nikakis, together with Mornington Council, in particular Jayne Johnson and Tina McGuffie, greatly assisted the PNGAA/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group to make this possible, especially with the many finer details on the day such as providing microphone, chairs, programs, umbrellas, water, photography, etc. The PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group were also greatly appreciative of the support from David Howell and the generous offer of Mornington RSL to provide light refreshments following the service in their clubrooms, and to find and support this service with an appropriate Piper. The amazing ribbon was provided by Gail Nunan.

Notes: Mornington Peninsula News covered the event on 16 January 2023 (‘Place of Rest to Reflect on Lasting War Losses’) and 6 February 2023 (‘Memorial Remembers Montevideo Maru’).  Photography by Lindsay Turner for Mornington Council and PNGAA.

Don Hook’s Contribution to R&MMG

Don Hook, whose vale appears on page 53 of this issue, was an early participant in the campaign to establish a memorial to the victims of the Montevideo Maru disaster.

His interest in the Montevideo Maru Group was because his father Wally Hook  served in the ill-fated 2/1st Independent Company based in Kavieng, New Ireland at the start of the Pacific War. Fortunately, Wally, then aged 40 years, was in Rabaul for medical treatment at the time of the Japanese invasion in January 1942. Wally and another commando, Mick Morrell, aged 21 years, escaped and walked for weeks along the south coast of New Britain before being rescued and taken to Port Moresby on the MV Laurabada, arriving there in April 1942. Most of the 2/1st Independent Company men, about 180, were captured and later lost on the Japanese prison-ship Montevideo Maru when it was sunk by friendly fire on 1 July 1942 enroute to Hainan Island, China.

In 2008, Keith Jackson, the Chair of the Montevideo Group and a fellow journalist, knew Don and his interest in the Montevideo Maru and invited him onto the committee. When the group changed its name to Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society and incorporated in Canberra, Don became its Public Officer. When Keith Jackson resigned in early 2011, Phil Ainsworth became  Chair, Andrea Williams Secretary and Don Hook Public Officer and Canberra representative for the Society. Amongst other things, a two-year timetable was set to raise $500,000 for the design, installation and dedication of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru National Memorial at the Australian War Memorial (AWM), Canberra.

This was achieved and the memorial was dedicated by Governor General Quentin Bryce on 1 July 2012, the 70th Anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru and loss of 1,053 Australian military personnel and civilian internees. Don organised several events following our annual services in Canberra between 2010 and 2012, and secured speakers, masters of ceremonies and much general support for the cause from top levels of government, journalism and the wider public . Don knew people everywhere.

PNGAA Fundraising

Stay in touch! Become a member of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia Inc at

Fundraising is ongoing and helps the association to achieve its objectives.  If you can help, please donate at

When making a donation, please email and, if you wish, advise you are part of the Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group! Thank you.

Lost at Sea Memorial Unveiled at Mona Vale, Sydney

On 14 October 2022 a memorial to 1,800 prisoners of war, citizens, nurses and others who were lost at sea in the Pacific theatre in World War II, was unveiled at Mona Vale, Sydney. An initiative of the late Wal Williams OAM, himself a survivor of capture and enslavement by the Japanese, and the Pittwater Branch of the RSL, the memorial was dedicated at a ceremony attended by the local MP, the Hon Rob Stokes, the Minister for Veterans Affairs NSW, the Hon. David Elliot and the mayor of Northern Beaches Council, Michael Regan. Guests were welcomed by Deborah Carter JP, President of the Pittwater Branch of the RSL.

Kylie Adams-Collier and Rod Miller attended the dedication of the ‘Lost at Sea’ memorial representing the PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group. The memorial and seat are placed to overlook the Pacific Ocean at Robert Dunn Reserve and Mona Vale Headland.

Writing an account of the event in the RSL Newsletter Kylie included this comment:

I returned to the Memorial later in the morning, sat on the seat, looked out to sea and had a good cry. Flowers blew in the wind, dogs sniffed around the new sandstone and the sun beat down on the waves rolling in from the distant horizon.

The photographs included in this story were taken and provided by Kylie Adams-Collier.

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne—2/22nd Battalion, Lark Force Service

A service, organised by 2/22nd Battalion, Lark Force, was held at midday on 22 January 2023 at the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.  Laurie Luxmoore was MC and Sue Bussell provided a moving Address.  Phil Ainsworth, President of NGVR & PNGVR Ex-Members Association and a management committee member of PNGAA, laid a wreath on behalf of the NGVR/PNGVR Ex-Members Association and PNGAA.  Marg Curtis and ‘Cupcake’ Jenny Cooper Penrose had organised delicious refreshments following the service.


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

Leave a Reply