GRANTLEE KIEZA | The Courier-Mail (Brisbane)
BRISBANE - They were herded onto the cargo vessel and into the hot, dark, airless hold. Beaten, bullied and bedraggled, they were slaves of the merciless Japanese army during the darkest days of Australia’s history and were treated worse than animals.
It was 22 June 1942 at the tropical outpost of Rabaul, a port on New Britain, part of the Australian mandated territory of New Guinea.
The great volcano there had erupted five years earlier but that disaster was nothing compared with the man-made carnage as Japanese soldiers thrust bayonets toward their prisoners or beat them with bamboo rods.
Soon these men — numbering more than 1,000 and including at least 49 Queenslanders — would become casualties in Australia’s worst ever maritime disaster.