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These men are not forgotten, they are honoured

These extracts are taken from the speech given by ROD SMITH, Australia's Ambassador to the Philippines, who presided at the Montevideo Maru memorial service at Subic Bay today

Smith_Rod At about a quarter past ten on the night of Tuesday 30 June 1942, the United States  submarine Sturgeon patrolling northwest of Bojeador of Luzon sighted a darkened ship on a westerly course going at high speed.

The log of the submarine’s captain, Lieutenant Commander WL Wright, tells the story:

“Put on all engines and worked up to full power, proceeding to westward in attempt to get ahead of him. For an hour and a half we couldn't make a nickel. This fellow was really going, making at least 17 knots…

“Determined to hang on in the hope he would slow … sure enough, about midnight he slowed to about 12 knots. After that it was easy…

“At 0225 fired four-torpedo spread, range 4000 yards. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 feet abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first. He was a big one.

“A few lights were observed on deck just after the explosion, but there was apparently no power available, and his bow was well up in the air in six minutes.”

The ship torpedoed and sunk was the Montevideo Maru. To the best of our knowledge, she carried 1,053 prisoners from the Australian Territory of New Guinea, one as young as fifteen.

There were fathers and sons, civilians and troops, missionaries and traders, businessmen and administrators. They had all been captured and interned by the Japanese in Rabaul. They all died.

The youngest, the fifteen-year old, was Ivan Gascoigne, recorded as a clerk, the son of Cyril Gascoigne, who also died.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru at 2.40 am on Wednesday 1 July 1942 was Australia’s greatest disaster at sea, then and now. It remains one of our country’s worst disasters.

This memorial to the Hell Ships of World War 2 now includes a commemorative plaque to mark the tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru 67 years ago today.

The plaque has been placed here as a result of the generosity of a number of private organisations - the NGVR/PNGVR Ex-Members Association, the Lark Force Association, the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia and the Greenbank Returned Services League Club in Brisbane.

I pay tribute today to all of you who have travelled so far to be present for this historic event in this special place.

This tragedy is not forgotten. The families are not forgotten. These men are not forgotten. We honour them all.


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