AN INDEFATIGABLE JAPANESE RESEARCHER, who prefers not to be publicly identified, has been able to confirm the authenticity of the list of men who died in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru prison ship on 1 July 1942.
The men – troops and civilians - were being transported from Rabaul to Hainan, China, when the vessel was torpedoed by a US submarine off the Philippines. All the prisoners and many Japanese sailors and marines died in the incident.
Australia’s worst maritime disaster will be marked at a ceremony in Canberra on Sunday when the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial [detail from invitation at right] is to be dedicated by Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce exactly 70 years after the ship was sunk.
The Japanese researcher, who once worked in Papua New Guinea, has been a most tenacious and assiduous student of the history of the sinking and has devoted years of research to determining the authenticity of records used to identify who exactly was on board the ship.
Earlier this month, he informed Australian authorities that the list of men on the ship, first assembled by Australian Army Major Harold Williams in Japan late 1945 was largely correct.
However he has also identified additional information, covering both civilians and troops.
The National Archives of Australia will unveil the document at a public viewing in Canberra tomorrow.
The researcher and I have been corresponding on this matter for some years, and – through email - I have been privileged to share his journey of discovery through its twists and turns, breakthroughs and setbacks, including the tragic death of leading Australian researcher Chris Diercke two years ago.
Despite having nailed the list down with admirable precision, the Japanese researcher is now extending his study to PNG, which is where some of our readers may be able to help. He has told me:
“One of my most important findings is that there was a complete nominal roll of the men (servicemen and civilians) sent by the Central Army Records Office (2nd Echelon) to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Waigani, NCD [Papua New Guinea] in 1966."
If you may be able to help locate this record, you can get in touch with me at PNG Attitude.