IT WAS one of the most callous atrocities of the Pacific war.
Seventy-five years yesterday, 160 Australian prisoners were bayoneted, beheaded, shot or burned alive by Japanese troops – on what was then Australian territory.
So horrific was the Tol Massacre on the island of New Britain that the Australian government suppressed details for 47 years.
That this tragedy is barely remembered and rarely commemorated blights Australia’s national conscience and to this day rankles the distressed families of the victims.
Few Australians know of the carnage at neighbouring Tol and Waitavalo plantations - nor that it came soon after one of the most shameful episodes of our war when 1,400 diggers and civilians were abandoned as ‘hostages to fortune’ ahead of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul on 23 January 1942.
Rabaul was the capital of Australian-mandated New Guinea and was protected by a tiny garrison consisting mainly of the 2/22nd Battalion Lark Force.