These men are not forgotten, they are honoured
AusAID boss heads off into the bleak unknown

MvM recognition boosted – and now the next step


During the last week or so - and especially in the last 24 hours - there has been great media and political attention on the 1 July 1942 sinking of the Japanese prison ship, Montevideo Maru, that cost 1,053 lives.

You can find ABC-TV's report (WWII tragedy remembered) on yesterday's ceremony at Subic Bay here and SBS-TV’s report (Maritime disaster remembered) here. You'll have to forgive the ABC's interpretation of the ship's name - Motivideo Maru – and get through the SBS intro ad, but both pieces are worth a look. Our thanks to PJ Madam (SBS) and Gavin Fang (ABC) for their work.

The press coverage of the issue has been too extensive to list here but there were substantial articles in all of Australia’s major newspapers – including The Australian, Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times – as well as in many regional papers and on the internet. 

Alan Jones was particularly supportive through his nationally syndicated radio program.

And Foxtel took the opportunity of the anniversary to announce that it will screen John Schindler's two-part documentary, The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru, later this year.

After an early hiccough, the political commentary was generous and to the point.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin called for the nation to pause and remember the 1053 Australian lives lost. “War brings many tragedies and today we remember one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War,” he said.

Shadow Minister Louise Markus thanked and acknowledged the men who “made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, a sacrifice that has contributed to the peace we enjoy today”, adding: “But there is still more to do for the families of these heroes. I urge the Australian Government to do everything that it can to locate the resting place of the Montevideo Maru.

And Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Rod Smith, appended an eloquent and pertinent footnote when he concluded yesterday’s speech at Subic Bay by saying: “This tragedy is not forgotten. The families are not forgotten. These men are not forgotten. We honour them all.”

These are words that the victims’ families have wanted to hear and have so often been denied by politicians and bureaucrats down the years.

The public exposure of the Montevideo Maru issue will take a rest for a while, but the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee will continue to prepare a submission for the Federal Government on how this tragedy can be prominently and permanently marked.

Some proposals include a memorial in Canberra and for the site of the sinking to be declared a Commonwealth War Grave. PNG Attitude reader Bob Curtis has usefully suggested that the PNGAA could take the lead in organising a public subscription for a memorial plaque.

These and other ideas will be considered by the Committee. The submission is expected to be with the Commonwealth early next year – and then will follow a vigorous process of advocacy.

We’ll keep you informed from time to time, but if you want more regular information through a monthly newsletter or to express support for these activities you can become a Friend of Montevideo Maru by emailing me here. By the way, yesterday the number of Friends passed the 100 milestone.

Photo: Andrea Williams (PNGAA) and Phil Ainsworth (PNGVR Ex-Members Association) at Subic Bay. Both are organising members of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee.


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Andrea Williams

Back from the Philippines. The trip was terrific. It was a great group of people and we were all so glad we went.

The Montevideo Maru plaque is prominent within the ‘Hellships Memorial’, which is both beautiful and impressive. It’s made from Italian granite and overlooks Subic Bay, which is very large and, with the mountains in the distance, has some similarities to Rabaul.

I think, in time, the Memorial will attract international visitors in the same way, but on a smaller scale, as Pearl Harbour. Having the story on the plaque will help get the story to an international audience. There were so many allied prisoners transported on the hellships and the memorial will become a focal point for those wishing to reflect on what happened to their men.

It is such a beautiful and peaceful setting and will help to assuage the feelings that their father’s/brothers simply disappeared. In the case of the men from Rabaul it is a very appropriate setting to mark their final resting place.

The attention to detail for the ceremony was phenomenal. A band played before the ceremony commenced, there was a police guard on either side of the memorial and the local Mayor attended, as did members of local RSL clubs.

There were stunning floral tributes and the Australian Ambassador, Rod Smith, delivered a most poignant speech which was appreciated by all. Several members of the Salvation Army attended as did two Norwegians. It was lovely to have their support on the day.

Overall it was a truly magnificent tribute. Clive Troy deserves our huge congratulations for pulling it all together. In addition, Clive and Harriet were wonderful and warm hosts and made us all feel very welcome.

Liz Thurston

The coverage was marvellous and thank you for all your energy, focus and continuous communication with all parties. It has pulled all the strands together.

I had an email from PJ Madam at SBS who said it was nerve wracking as the story just made it in time. It first had to go to the UK for approval.

I think the release of John Schindler's doco will be the next opportunity to garner media attention. Meanwhile its back to the classroom to work on the submission for the Federal Government.

From the Media

Dennis Shanahan, The Australian, 1 July 2009

Bomber Kim Beazley hits job bullseye

Kevin Rudd has appointed former Deputy Prime Minister, Australian National University chancellor and Montevideo Maru Memorial Association patron, Kim Beazley, to the council of the Australian War Memorial.

The appointment recognises Mr Beazley's service and interests in military matters. He will replace Howard government minister Jocelyn Newman, whose term expires this year.

Andrea Williams

Just back from Subic Bay - you've done an unbelievable job on the media for the Montevideo Maru - WOW! Never seen anything like it and I feel certain this energy and momentum is the catalyst needed to achieve the recognition
the MvM deserves. A HUGE Thank You!

We all had a wonderful trip to Manila and Subic Bay. The dedication of the plaque was a tremendous event and a beautiful ceremony ... All very special.

The attention to detail in so many aspects was greatly appreciated by all the visitors.

The Ambassador's speech was very appropriate and poignant - what a delightful man. Randy Anderson who, along with his team, initially
conceptualised the Hellship's Memorial, spent the previous evening mingling with the visitors and explaining how the idea came about.

Clive Troy really is to be congratulated on his vision in picking up the significance of the site and following through with an enormously successful comemmoration and meaningful tribute.

Colin Huggins

Thanks James.
The ABC should get facts correct. I was wondering if way back then the "Yanks" had a frigate that was a below the water machine. As for "Montevideo" - well geography and an atlas is something of the past!
Hopefully the uninformed will now see something that has been hidden. The "Committee" to get this in the news is to be highly commended.

Miles & Maria Turnbull

There was also a brief news article on Channel Ten late news last night showing the unveiling of the plaque.

Lorraine Tait

This tragedy has always had a mystery to it.MY father was on the ship never to return home and I was never to meet him. We the families that are left need some sort of closure. It is always there in the mind as to what really happened, were the men on the ship or not? Why didn't the government of the time look for the ship? or was it because they actually sacrificed all those men and didn't get them out in time.'What a waste of all those lives.Not to be forgotten .

Malum Nalu

Press coverage in Papua New Guinea has also been extensive in the lead-up to the anniversary, a lot of emotions have surfaced, and new evidence is coming out of the woodwork, particularly Rabaul.

James Lloyd

I saw the ABC News item about the Montevideo Maru and was delighted that they ran the story but disappointed that our National News broadcaster got the detail wrong.

As you point out they couldn’t spell the name of the ship properly (a pretty important fact) and considering it was named after a capital city it should not be that hard. They also called the USS Sturgeon a frigate instead of submarine.

Garnett L Ferguson, Atlanta, USA

I was able to see the video. It was a good dedication to those heroes of the war that most people in the world have never heard about.

It is hard to realize it was so long ago, but then I look into the mirror and see that I am not still 17.

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