Next week Professor Kim Beazley, Australian ambassador-designate to the US and former leader of the Opposition, will meet with Veterans' Affairs Minister, Alan Griffin, to discuss how the Australian government can better recognise the Montevideo Maru tragedy.
Professor Beazley and the chairman of the Montevidea Maru Memorial Committee, Keith Jackson, will
present a submission seeking permanent national recognition for those who died
in the form of a memorial in
DIERCKE: There were no survivors at all. There were some Japanese survivors. Those numbers vary as well, but no allied POW survivors.
COONEY: Why no major recognition? I grew up in
DIERCKE: That's a very, very good question. If we go back to the Chifley government in 1945, the then government and the opposition both agreed they would not hold a post-war inquiry into the fall of Rabaul, one of the focuses of which is the Montevideo Maru incident.
Also there were no POW survivors and no witnesses until
very recently, when there was a Japanese sailor who was on board the Montevideo Maru. No one really had an
accurate account of what happened. No one knew. Even the story of Lark Force hasn't come through very well
COONEY: From reading a little bit of the detail about this and the way Rabaul fell, there was a certain level of embarrassment on the part of the Australian government?
DIERCKE: Well Lark Force was sent up to Rabaul in 1941 and, around December '41, the war cabinet in
So I guess that would be rather embarrassing if that became public
notice because the bulk of the military personnel onboard the Montevideo Maru
came from the Lark Force who were subsequently captured by the Japanese in and around
Rabaul. The other military people belonged to the PNGVR, Papua New Guinea
Voluntary Rifles, and also members of the First Independent Company who were on
COONEY: You've got some big guns working for you now to try and get some recognition on this. You don't get much bigger, no pun intended about the size of the man of course, when Kim Beazley is working with you on this one. That's got to be a coup on your part?
DIERCKE: It's fantastic that Kim has chosen to be the patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee. One of Kim's uncles perished on the Montevideo Maru. His name was Syd Beazley. He was with the Methodist missionaries in and around Rabaul at the time. So Kim's got a personal link there. Yes, and he's certainly supported us really well in this.
COONEY: Have you got any early indications from the Australian government that they will be receptive to what you're asking?"
DIERCKE: Well, so far this year on July 1 in
COONEY: We do know, you mentioned a war grave site as part of this, we do know where the Montevideo Maru lies? That's a known fact?
DIERCKE: The American submarine which sunk the Montevideo Maru, the USS Sturgeon, has given its locations in degrees and minutes to the exact sinking spot, yes.