A plan to unveil a Philippines’ memorial to mark the World War II sinking of the Montevideo Maru – which cost the lives of 1,053 mainly Australian prisoners of war – has been delayed until next year. CLIVE TROY reports from Manila.....
The unveiling and dedication of the memorial will now take place on Sunday 5 July 2009. It is now evident that the logistics required to stage the event on Remembrance Day this year were insufficient and would possibly have resulted in a half-baked event. Such an outcome would not have been appropriate considering the significance of the matter and the need for proper resolution. It must be an event to deliver closure.
I met the committee last Sunday after discussions with the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, the Senior Australian Defence Attache, the Australian Army Representative and representatives of the Angeles City and Subic Bay RSL sub-branches. We all agree that – with the great interest this event is likely to generate among many Australians – the logistical arrangements must be comprehensive and robust.
I know some people retain the hope that somehow a ship manifest of prisoners’ names might be in the Montevideo Maru’s safe. My own observation of old wrecks which shows how quickly metal corrodes in tropical waters makes such an outcome unlikely, even if the Japanese had compiled such a manifest. If there were records, they would have been on rice paper and dissolved in 30 minutes. Waterproof safes had not been even thought of then, let alone invented.
So 5 July next year is the key date to commemorate the worst maritime disaster in our nation’s history.