Memorial News September 2017

75 years ago, in January 1942, Rabaul was Australia’s front line in the Pacific war.  This was a war fought on Australian soil against Australian people, both soldiers and civilians…a critical period in the history of both Australia and what was then the Australian Mandated Territory of New Guinea

Australian High Commissioner to PNG Bruce Davis AM

The resultant losses, close to 75% of the Australians in Rabaul and Kavieng at that time, accounted for 15% of all Australian POWs who died in captivity in WWII.  This was just the first six months of the Pacific War and the figures do not include the local population who also suffered terribly.

Australia’s history reflects over 1000 men drowned with the Montevideo Maru, about 160 were killed in the Tol and Waitavelo Massacres and around 250 died of illness, starvation or being taken out to sea whilst trying to escape. We remember all those involved in this terrible conflict.

Unlike other hellships there were no Australian survivors from the Montevideo Maru – yet the majority of the Japanese crew, about 100 of 120, survived the sinking, only to be killed by Filipino guerrillas after landing on the Philippines. And we remember that, in 2011, Japan publicly offered apologies to some of the Australian prisoners-of-war who survived this dreadful time.

Max Uechtritz states in his LinkedIn article ‘Death cries in a sea of indifference’  the sinking of the Montevideo Maru was – and remains – Australia’s greatest maritime catastrophe. ‘The greatest loss of Australian lives at sea in war or peace.’ 

Significant funding is given to tell the stories and ensure living commemorations of many other theatres of Australians at war – yet, besides Kokoda, not for the vast story of Australia’s front line and first battles of the Pacific War.  Confusing – isn’t it?

Listening to the Alan Jones interview with David Mearns who discovered the HMAS Sydney, we can sense the enormous relief and feeling of accomplishment at the huge achievement after finding the ‘grave for 645 men’.

WHY is it that the wartime history for Australia in the pre-WWII New Guinea islands is not recognised better by our nation?

Where else would an Australian capital and community disappear without trace and be almost ignored?

The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is a significant place for relatives and friends to pause and reflect – and it’s a tribute to all our members, past and present, that this was achieved.  It was wonderful to see the enormous support for this very successful occasion this year with many family members and friends coming from all the Australian States.

Andrea Williams

Note: If anyone has photos of Kavieng or other islands please send in!

75th Anniversary New Guinea Islands and Montevideo Maru

The 75th Anniversary commemorations in Rabaul on 22 June 2017 and in Canberra on 1 July 2017 were special tributes remembering all those in the New Guinea Islands at the start of WWII.  The services and the dinner were occasions which will be remembered by the many who attended.  Older friendships were renewed and new friendships were made – together ensuring that the events of early 1942 in Rabaul, Kavieng and the surrounding islands will not be forgotten.

The PNGAA Rabaul and Montevideo Maru group, together with the Rabaul Hotel/Rabaul Historical Society, commemorated the 75th anniversary of World War 2 at a service in Rabaul on Thursday 22 June 2017. The 25 visitors to Rabaul in June had a wonderful few days there warmly welcomed on arrival with colourful frangipani leis and a singsing group.  An energetic tour program saw that the highlights of the Gazelle, both scenically and relating to WWII, were all experienced.  Pre-dinners were spent with a kulau or cocktail around the pool with Kylie Adams-Collier on the guitar and Graham Egan on the mouth organ.  Post dinners, Gideon Kakabin shared more of the island’s WWII history and Ian Sayers, returning after 50 years, explained the role of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR).

On 22 June 2017, the day 75 years before that the men embarked Montevideo Maru, Australian High Commissioner to PNG, Bruce Davis AM gave an eloquent, thoughtful address to all those present – the Rabaul Lord Mayor, the PNG Head of Australian Defence Staff Colonel Dave Buller (who later in the service said the Ode), the President of the NGVR/PNGVR Ex members Association Phillip Ainsworth, the 25 Australian visitors of the PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru group to Rabaul, members of the Rabaul Historical Society, St Martins Primary School Choir and the Australian and Papua New Guinea residents who attended the service.

 

Gideon Kakabin

Gideon Kakabin then gave a poignant address from the PNG perspective, speaking about the effect of WWII on local residents.

Held as dusk approached, beside the Rabaul 1942-1945 Memorial and the Montevideo Maru Memorial, and between the harbour and the spectacular volcanoes, ensured the poignancy of the service.

 

 

Fr Allen of St Francis Xavier parish led the service which included an inspiring, heart rending song by Australian country singer Kylie Adams-Collier, whose grandfather, Harry Adams, was on the Montevideo Maru.   Long time Rabaul personality Gerry McGrade who participated in rebuilding the town after WWII, also attended.  The service was organised by the Rabaul Historical Society with Rob Rawlinson as MC. 

It was well attended by local Rabaul residents.  St Martins Primary School Choir gave much pleasure with their melodious singing of the PNG and Australian Anthems which was greatly appreciated by all attending, as was the ‘sek han’ [shaking of hands] at the end of the service.  Susie McGrade of the Rabaul Hotel – where the visitors stayed – was the key organiser of the event. 

Wreaths were laid by the Australian High Commissioner, the Head of Australian Defence, the President of the PNGAA, the President of the NGVR/PNGVR Ex members Association, guests as well as by the Rabaul Lord Mayor Hon Changol Manuai, the Baining people, leading members of the Rabaul community as well as  visitors to Rabaul.

 

 

An excerpt of the keynote address by the Australian High Commissioner follows, with a link to the full address on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial website:

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru truly was one of the great tragedies of the war for Australia. 

In this year of commemoration, as we mark 75 years since the New Guinea and Papuan campaigns, I also hope that we – as Australians – can cast our gaze wider than the traditional focal points of Kokoda and the Papuan battlefields to remember the trauma and sacrifice endured in other parts of this country.

I am also conscious that many people believe the historic failure by the Australian Government to commemorate adequately the fall of Rabaul–compared with the major commemorations surrounding the anniversaries of the fall of Singapore and the attacks on Darwin–represented a betrayal of the victims’ memory.

The loss of the Montevideo Maru and the atrocities which followed the fall of Rabaul were shocking and tragic events.  As was the loss of thousands of Papua New Guineans in a war that was not their own.  They are stories that should be told to every Australian and Papua New Guinea schoolchild.

I commend the sustained efforts of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia over many years for your dedicated leadership.’

The Australian High Commissioner’s full speech can be found on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru website at:  https://www.memorial.org.au/About/75Commem.html

 

Photos of the tour can be found on the PNGAA website under the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial Photo Galleries – 75th Anniversary Rabaul and Montevideo Memorial Tour 2017.

On 1 July 2017 a 75th Anniversary service was commemorated at the Australian War Memorial, followed by the AWM Last Post Service at 5pm and then the 75th Anniversary Dinner at the Canberra Mercure Hotel. 

Director of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Brendan Nelson AO, gave a powerful address to the approximately 300 people gathered for the 1pm service at the AWM to remember those who drowned with the sinking of the unmarked Montevideo Maru when it was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Sturgeon 75 years earlier, all those who died as a result of the Japanese invasion and occupation of the New Guinea islands, and to remember the few who managed to survive despite horrendous circumstances.

Lt Col Samuel Pho kindly provided the Prayers.  The Salvation Army Crossfire Ensemble provided prelude music as people arrived and music through the service including the National Anthem and during the wreath laying. 

Kylie Adams-Collier gave a stirring performance of her song ‘Montevideo Maru’ which will feature on an album coming out in early 2018.

Don Hook said the Ode.

In his address, Dr Nelson said:

Our comfortable 21st century lives breed easy indifference to sacrifices made in our name, devotion to duty and to our country. Neglectful indifference can allow the past to be a distant stranger…. Much that is precious was lost. But something precious was also gained.  From their sacrifice and the anguished pain arising from it, we have gained a greater belief in ourselves and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.’

Dr Nelson’s full speech is on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial website at:

https://www.memorial.org.au/About/Nelson2017.html

Andrea Williams, speaking on behalf of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia and the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group said:

75 years ago the Australian prisoners 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 wartime disaster unknown for three and a half years

Hank Nelson once said:  Of all the 23,000 Australians who had been taken prisoner-of-war, or interned by the Japanese, the ones Australians knew least about by August 1945 were those captured on Australian territory.

It is a sad fact that many younger Australians have no idea of the long and close connections Australia has had with Papua New Guinea.  It is important to acknowledge the sacrifice of 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 Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial at the AWM in Canberra is a special place for the relatives and friends of those with a connection to this part of Australian history and we thank Dr Brendan Nelson and the Australian War Memorial for their support.’

Andrea Williams’ full speech is on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial website at

https://www.memorial.org.au/About/Williams2017.html

Attending both the 75th Anniversary Service at the Australian War Memorial and the 75th Anniversary Dinner were Minister Gordon Ramsay MLA, ACT Attorney General, Minister for the Arts and Community Events and Minister for Veterans and Seniors, Lt Col Samuel Pho National Secretary of the Salvation Army, together with PNG Acting High Commissioner Sakias Tameo and Mrs Mary Tameo and PNG Consul General Mr Sumasy Singin and Mrs Mary Singin; Phil Ainsworth, President of the NGVR/PNGVR Assn; Margaret and Ron Reeson attended the events on 1 July, having been asked to be the representatives of the President of Uniting Church In Australia Stuart Macmillan and the Director of Uniting World, Rob Floyd.  Rev David Thiem, a UCA minister and Defence Force Chaplain based in Canberra also attended the Service of Commemoration.

Many of those visiting Canberra also attended the Last Post Ceremony which highlighted the Montevideo Maru.  The AWM have a live stream of this 1 July 2017 service on their YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7PXvnY3fS0

A Commemorative Dinner was held at the Canberra Mercure Hotel on the evening of Saturday 1 July 2017 where the PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru book ‘When the War Came: New Guinea Islands 1942’ was launched for the 75th anniversary.  The dinner was booked out well in advance with 140 people accepting and was a most enjoyable occasion, with thanks to Sara Turner for organising and ensuring everything ran smoothly on the night.  Thanks go too, to Roger Carroll, Jane Turner and Kylie Adams Collier who assisted with book sales, the beautiful flowers on tables etc. Sara’s thoughtful and humorous thank you to Minister Ramsay was much appreciated by all.  

ACT Minister for Veterans and seniors, Gordon Ramsay, was a knowledgable guest speaker at the dinner having also written the foreword in Kathryn Spurling’s recent book, ‘Abandoned and Sacrificed: The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru’, also launched by him during the evening. 

We were delighted that PNG Acting High Commissioner Tameo Sakias gave a powerful speech emphasising the common bonds between PNG and Australia – forged not least in the sacrifice during WWII.

The links for the official Australian War Memorial photos taken at the 75th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands and in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru on Saturday at the AWM.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/australianwarmemorial/sets/72157682659278662/with/35552979381/

Photos of the Last Post Ceremony can be found here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/australianwarmemorial/sets/72157683019963353

The Last Post Ceremony at the AWM is live streamed and, after the initial 3m45s can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7PXvnY3fS0

https://www.flickr.com/…/australia…/albums/72157683019963353

Thank you to those who did ‘their bit’ to remind the general population that we recently marked the 75th anniversary of the first six months of the Pacific War, culminating in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.  Sometimes efforts to get it remembered were picked up, but more often, not.  Regrettably the Australian media did not cover or acknowledge the beautiful commemorative services in either Rabaul or Canberra to mark this significant part of our Australian/PNG history.

Media Articles:

For the Tokpisin speakers Radio Australia had an article on 22 June 2017 about the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru highlighting that schools in both Australia and PNG could teach their students about this history.

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/tokpisin/2017-06-22/singaut-long-moa-luksave-long-ship-montevideo-maru-long-png-na-australia/1680658

On 22 June 2017 Pacific Beat did an interview with Gideon Kakabin discussing reasons for the Rabaul Historical Society (in connection with the PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group)  holding a commemorative service that afternoon to remember the lives lost when the Japanese prison ship, the Montevideo Maru, was torpedoed 75 years ago.  Gideon makes in the interview that many local PNGns lost beloved leaders and probably have no idea what happened to them … to this day

http://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/pacific-beat/2017-06-22/east-new-britain-marks-75th-anniversary-of-the/8641646

An article about the upcoming commemoration in Rabaul was  included on 31 May 2017, written by Frankiy Kapin:  http://postcourier.com.pg/rabaul-mark-anniversaries/

On 29 June 2017, the Northern Daily Leader published a letter from Walcha resident Judy Ireland ‘Australia’s Greatest Maritime Disaster’.

http://www.northerndailyleader.com.au/story/4760178/letter-to-the-editor/

On Thursday 29 June 2017 Andrea Williams was interviewed live by Kirsten Aiken on ABC News24 in the lead up to the 75th Anniversary.

In The Roar of 30 June 2017 Max Uechtritz wrote:

Remembering Wallaby “Mac” Ramsay – WW2 Hell Ship victim

http://www.theroar.com.au/2017/06/30/remembering-wallaby-mac-ramsay-ww2-hell-ship-victim/

Kylie Adams-Collier was interviewed after her Rabaul trip on www.ozcmr.com at 10.30am 26 June 2017.  Kylie Adams-Collier was also interviewed by Robert Bath on 99.9 Voice fm on 5 July 2017 at 11.10am. Discussion included the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, my song “Montevideo Maru 1942″ ( released next year on Kross Kut Records) the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia , the recent services and tour to Papua New Guinea and the ” When the War Came” book launch.

Letter to Editor:  I have just finished a harrowing read of Abandoned and Sacrificed by Kathryn Spurling. I got thinking about 2022 – and our 80th celebration. It would be great if this could feature a positive celebration and I fantasised about someone producing a film celebrating all the fine features exhibited by e.g. McCarthy, Holland, and Gladys Baker.  I’m encouraged in this thought by the release of the film Dunkirk.                      Dr Les Drew

History Teachers’ Association of Australia – National History Conference 2017 will be held at All Hallows’ School, Brisbane, from 27-29 September 2017. The PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group thanks Karen McPherson who will do a presentation and workshop on behalf of the association. A bus is being hired to take participants to the PNGVR Museum at Wacol for an afternoon excursion.   See further information on page …

LAUNCHED!  The book produced by the PNGAA/Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Group

WHEN THE WAR CAME: New Guinea Islands 194‘When the War Came – New Guinea Islands 1942’, compiled by Gayle Thwaites with editing by Jeanette Gilligan of Dragonwick, and self published by the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia Inc (PNGAA), was launched at the 75th Anniversary Commemorative Dinner at the Hotel Mercure, Canberra ACT on 1 July 2017 and is now available for purchase through the PNGAA..

This book is a collection of personal stories, memories and reflections that enhance the history of civilians and soldiers living in Rabaul, Kavieng and the New Guinea islands at the outbreak of World War II, who suffered a fate that is seldom acknowledge – when the Japanese bombed, and subsequently invaded Rabaul, the capital of New Guinea in January 1942.  The stories also cover the largest maritime disaster in Australia’s history, where 1053 prisoners of war and residents were loaded onto a Japanese merchant vessel, Montevideo Maru.  All perished at sea when the unmarked boat was sunk by a US submarine on 1 July 2017 off the coast of the Philippines.

When the War Came, published to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of this period in the New Guinea islands, validates and brings into focus the actions and characters of young men who left home to willingly serve their country, and then literally vanished off the face of the early; of nurses and missionaries who volunteered to stay to help both the war effort and the local people; and of civilians – both men and women – caught at home on WWII’s Pacific front line.  Alongside are incredulous stories of escape and survival in an environment that threw every obstacle in their path.  Their journeys deserve to be heard, too.

For those of you that had family members or friends involved in this time of our history – or are just interested in Australia’s past – When the War Came, with over 460 photographs and 540 large format pages, is an invaluable addition to your library.  This is a vital chapter in a tragic conflict that should be better understood, and hopefully more deeply remembered.

The book includes a foreword by the Hon Peter Garrett AM, an introductory piece by Max Uechtritz ‘Our National Myopia: A History Forgotten’, Table of Contents, Introduction, maps, 70th Anniversary Dedication of Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial 2012, Individual Memorials and a detailed Index. of World War II, who suffered a fate that is seldom acknowleged – when the Japanese bombed, and subsequently invaded Rabaul, the capital of New Guinea in January 1942.

Pre-ordered books were packed and mailed out following the service in Canberra by members of our hard working Management Committee: The stories also cover the largest maritime disaster in Australia’s history, where 1,053 prisoners of war and residents were loaded onto a Japanese merchant vessel, Montevideo Maru. All perished at sea when the unmarked boat was sunk by a US submarine on 1 July 1942 off the coast of the Philippines.

When the War Came, published to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of this period in the New Guinea Islands, validates and brings into focus the actions and characters of young men, who left home to willingly serve their county, and then literally vanished off the face of the earth; of nurses and missionaries who volunteered to stay to help both the war effort and the local people; and of civilians – both men and women – caught at home on WWII’s Pacific front line. Alongside are incredulous stories of escape and survival in an environment that threw every obstable in their path. Their journeys deserve to be heard, too.

For those of you that had family members or friends involved in this time of our history – or are just interested in Australia’s past – When the War Came, with over 460 photographs and 540 large format pages, is an invaluable addition to your library. This is a vital chapter in a tragic conflict that should be better understood, and hopefully more deeply remembered.

Most of the Australians – including teens and grandfathers – died trapped in the ship’s hold. Their families ween’t told for nearly four years.Even then they were tormented for decades by official indifference and lack of recognition for their loved ones. The nominal roll was lost for nearly 70 years and many didn’t know for sure whether their men had actually been on board.

Today the Australian War Memorial hosted 250 descendant families, friends and dignitaries in a special service to mark the 75th anniversary.

AWM Director Dr Brendan Nelson gave an powerful and eloquent address. There was a stirring song by the grand daughter of a victim.

Again – more than 1000 Australians died in most horrific of circumstances in our worst disaster at sea in war or peace. Twice as many killed – in eleven minutes – as during the entire Vietnam war and 400 more than perished on the HMAS Sydney.

They were sent, abandoned and sacrificed by an inept governments. Their families were shamefully and shabbily treated for generations. Public recognition and media coverage has been piecemeal, despite the scale and controversy of the tragedy.

Descendants were very grateful to ABC News 24 and ARN (Australian Radio Network) which distinguished themselves this week by doing anniversary preview stories.

But not one Australian media organisation bothered to turn up today’s important commemoration.

Sadly, it surprised no-one.

Most of the Australians – including teens and grandfathers – died trapped in the ship’s hold. Their families ween’t told for nearly four years.Even then they were tormented for decades by official indifference and lack of recognition for their loved ones. The nominal roll was lost for nearly 70 years and many didn’t know for sure whether their men had actually been on board.

Today the Australian War Memorial hosted 250 descendant families, friends and dignitaries in a special service to mark the 75th anniversary.

AWM Director Dr Brendan Nelson gave an powerful and eloquent address. There was a stirring song by the grand daughter of a victim.

Again – more than 1000 Australians died in most horrific of circumstances in our worst disaster at sea in war or peace. Twice as many killed – in eleven minutes – as during the entire Vietnam war and 400 more than perished on the HMAS Sydney.

They were sent, abandoned and sacrificed by an inept governments. Their families were shamefully and shabbily treated for generations. Public recognition and media coverage has been piecemeal, despite the scale and controversy of the tragedy.

Descendants were very grateful to ABC News 24 and ARN (Australian Radio Network) which distinguished themselves this week by doing anniversary preview stories.

But not one Australian media organisation bothered to turn up today’s important commemoration.

Sadly, it surprised no-one.

https://www.flickr.com/…/australia…/albums/72157683019963353

Some of the comments on email and facebook!

–          Well done to everyone! It’s a wonderful publication and I’m enjoying reading about my Dad’s comrades.

–          Many thanks to all involved, a job well done. I received my copy yesterday and spent the evening poring over the stories.

–          Congratulations to the team! I have just finished reading the book cover to cover, what a fantastic collection, wow, the stories were all amazing and have shed so much light on the Rabaul and following incidents. So many names that I knew when I was only young, some of whom kept in touch with my mother long after my dad died, and some of their letters to mum I still have. I think that what this book has achieved for me is a greater sense of understanding of what these men endured. What a Rollercoaster of emotions! Anger at our government, sadness, some laughter at some of the antics, but at the end a sense of peace. Another thing is that I have found other relatives who were on the Montevideo Maru, this has helped with my genealogy enquiries tracing people.

–          Such a wonderful book. Thank you so much for all the reading.

–          Thank you very much to all involved, a good quality publication which I am enjoying reading – sometimes with a tear or two.

–          Received mine and can’t wait to stick my head in it! Maybe a follow up book for the people that missed out on getting their story’s in?

–          Excellent book – thank you all so much – especially enjoyed reading of my mate’s great uncle Bill Box.

…And on the weekend generally:

– Congratulations for all your efforts in making the Anniversary celebrations such a success. The ceremony and dinner were perfect and it was great to see high level representation and interest in the Montevideo Maru tragedy and the fate of Lark Force garrison and civilian internees. Brendan Nelson was perfect for the occasional address and the singer and Salvation Army Band added that extra special touch.