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PM asked to fund Montevideo search

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia has asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to commit the Commonwealth Government to an expedition to locate the last resting place of the Montevideo Maru and the men she carried.

The sinking of this vessel in the South China Sea off the Philippines in the early hours of July 1942 claimed the lives of 1,053 Australian troops and civilians who had been interned in Rabaul. It remains Australia's greatest ever maritime disaster.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru has special relevance for anyone associated with Papua New Guinea. Most of the 208 civilians who died were Australians who considered the Territory of New Guinea their home. Whilst women and children were evacuated, the men had to remain at their places of employment in the New Guinea Islands leading up to the Japanese invasion.

They came from all walks of life, administration officers, school teachers, planters, missionaries and traders; they were of all ages (the youngest a youth of 15); and many had seen prior service in World War I before moving to New Guinea.

The PNGAA has asked Mr Rudd to financially support the search for the Montevideo Maru, declare the site of the sinking a Commonwealth War Grave and erect a monument at an appropriate place on the Philippines coast as a permanent memorial.

I've provided Mr Rudd with a list of the civilians who died aboard the ship. As I found, merely to read their names, ages, occupations and places of work, personalises the tragedy in a most poignant way. Along with the PNGAA media release, you can find the list here [Download Montevideo Maru.pdf].

Source: PNGAA Media Release, 5 May 2008

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