TODAY MARKS 69 years since the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, and the loss of 1,053 Australian Prisoners of War in the Pacific Ocean.
Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson, said the 845 soldiers and 243 civilians were being taken from New Guinea to Japan and an uncertain fate.
“Japan invaded the islands of New Britain and New Hanover in early 1942. A small, yet dedicated, force of Australian troops, known as Lark Force, was all that stood between the Japanese and victory.”
“After easily overcoming the small force, the Japanese took the soldiers prisoner.
“In late June 1942, the Japanese ordered the prisoners to board the Montevideo Maru, a prison ship, which would take them to Japan.”
“After leaving Rabaul heading for Japan, the ship was torpedoed by a United States submarine off the coast of The Philippines. The ship sank and all 1,288 prisoners and civilians aboard perished.”
Senator Ronaldson said the Coalition and the Government have both committed $100,000 to the construction of a Memorial to the Montevideo Maru in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.
“I hope that the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society can now raise the additional funds necessary to construct this Memorial in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in time for the 70th anniversary next year”.
“I have also written to Minister Snowdon asking him to look favourably upon a request for additional funds if they are required to expedite construction ahead of the 70th anniversary.”
Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the Montevideo Maru Memorial fund can do so by contacting the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society at PO Box 1743 Neutral Bay NSW 2089.