Montevideo Maru – Australia’s greatest tragedy of the Pacific War
With the sinking of the MONTEVIDEO MARU – Australia suffered the greatest single tragedy of the war in the Pacific.
The fate of those who had embarked at Rabaul on the Japanese Naval auxiliary transport on the 22 Jun 1942, remained a mystery for over three years, though the remaining internees learned on the tragedy on 11 July 1942.
Prior to boarding, all had been living under primitive conditions, subjected to brutalities and indignities, and under bombardment by the RAAF planes while at forced labour in the Blanche Bay area and in the unmarked compound.
At the end of May 1942, the Japanese Army handed the Camp over to the Navy, in preparation for drill something, thought to be the invasion of mainland New Guinea.
At about 4.30am on 22nd Jun 1942, Japanese marines and guards roused the camp and organised the internees into parties of fifty (50). The officers and a dozen or so civilians were retained in the camp.
It was learned from one of the guards, that the transfer was to the island of HAINAN, off the coast of China. Half starved and ill, the men marched from the compound at 9.00am, with a smile and a cheery farewell for those remaining – the stronger supporting the weaker, arm in arm as they boarded the ship.
Final recognition of the sinking was acknowledged in a letter from the Japanese Navy dated 6th Sep 1943, as a result of enquiries by the Australian Government through the Protecting Power, but the enquiry had at that time been ignored.
A Nominal Roll of the men stated to have been on board was also secured, but the roll was written in Japanese characters, representing a phonetic and not an actual spelling of each name and had to be re-translated.
The above was extracted from the book “RABAUL, 1942” by Douglas Aplin.
This was also previously included on the website: http://www.australian-pow-ww2.com/montevideo_maru_11.html however the link no longer exists (April 2020).
On this website there was a list of all Lark Force and civilians.