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19 December 2010

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Growing up in Madang, I knew an old German Lutheran missionary wife who lost her husband who was a POW aboard a Japanese hospital ship that was mistakenly attacked by US Armed Force military aircraft.

Mama Welch, as I knew her, told my father that her husband was amoung many POWs who were told to lie down on the decks of the Japanese hospital ship while it was being strafed by US fighter aircraft.

Mr Welch was wounded and, like many other Australian, German and US missionaries and military POW wounded, were thrown overboard alive by Japanese naval officers.

This could explain for an unbalanced accounting of POWs.

Keith - During a recent visit to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, I had an opportunity to peruse some of the Rolls of Honour held within The Scottish National War Memorial.

The Memorial is located in Crown Square, the highest point within the Castle complex overlooking the city of Edinburgh, and is a dignified place of remembrance.

The Rolls of Honour, in easily accessible folders, contain the names of persons of Scottish heritage who have fallen in war all over the world.

Interestingly, the folder listing those who served with Australian forces during World War II revealed the names of military personnel and civilians of Scottish background lost in the sinking of the 'Montevideo Maru'.

Perhaps relatives and those with an interest in this wartime tragedy already know of these Rolls of Honour?

If not, they might wish to read the records should they have an opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle.

I am so greatful for your reliable evidence as Nelson Tokiel is my loving grandfather. Thank you Keith.

What a revelation. At long last the bowels of Army archives are opened.

Preliminary observations. There is no page 124. HH Page is listed as being on the MvMaru, yet we have the disclosure of Nelson Tokiel (a NGPF policeman from 1938 until 1971 and on whom I would trust my life) saying in the article on his life in the Post Courier on his retirement that he saw Page and about 20 Europeans sent on the lead vessel (Ayatosan Maru) of a convoy leaving Rabaul and which vessel he saw bombed and beached at Gona.

There is also the evidence of Albert Speer that around 1951, he saw European graves at the high water mark at the same place.

It may be that the list was compiled some time before the MvMaru sailed and, for reasons best known to the Japs, that Page and other Europeans sighted by Tokiel, were being sent to the mainland. maybe as part of a prisoner exchange deal, or for political reasons related to the the Japs "greater prosperity" scheme.

Page as a/Adminstrator would have ranked at least equal, if not superior to, the Army officers on the Naruto Maru.

One thing is for certain, the jig saw will never be put completely together.

Thank you Keith - efforts of you and others rewarded - giving closure to many, I am sure.

I must say, Keith, that I was very surprised to come across the roll during some routine wartime historical research which I have been undertaking.

At first, I wondered if this might be the Holy Grail which Montevideo Maru Society members have been seeking over the years.

However, I quickly dismissed this thought as I just presumed that the Society would have seen this material in the past and, in fact, would have known that the AHU was publishing the details online.

As you say, it may not be the definitive document on the subject, but at least it is a fascinating and important piece in the jigsaw puzzle and I'm pleased that I brought it to your attention.

I was especially taken by the detail provided in the roll, not the least being the occupations of civilians interned in Rabaul and who also lost their lives when the ship was torpedoed.

It also occurs to me that if this is a translation of the original Japanese nominal roll, that key document itself might also be known to the AHU and could be lurking somewhere in their files or, at least, its whereabouts may be known to them.

Lest we forget.
____________________

This is a very important document. Unfortunately the Army has made some errors in its compilation. If the History Unit had consulted with the Society, as we had requested, I feel certain these would have been avoided.

That said, the document provides the most reliable current evidence of who was actually on the ship and it will provide a boon for researchers - KJ

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