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Govt to give $100,000 for Maru memorial

AUSTRALIA’S MINISTER for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, Alan Griffin, delivered an historic statement in Parliament yesterday honouring the men lost in the Montevideo Maru tragedy, Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

“On behalf of the Australian Government I would like to express our sincere sorrow for the tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, where 1,053 Australians lost their lives,” Mr Griffin said.

“I especially acknowledge the suffering of their families and friends.  They endured many long and painful years waiting for news of their loved ones and they deserve our sympathy.

“I’m pleased to announce the Australian Government has pledged $100,000 to assist the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society to build a national memorial in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

Australia will always remember the service and sacrifice of those who perished on the Montevideo Maru,” Mr Griffin said.

On 22 June 1942, 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians, who had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul, boarded the Montevideo Maru.

Unaware that the vessel was carrying allied prisoners, on 1 July 1942 the submarine USS Sturgeon fired torpedoes, sinking the ship and killing all those imprisoned on board and most of the crew.

“It was more than three years after the sinking that the families of those lost on the Montevideo Maru learnt of the tragedy, confirming their greatest fears,” Mr Griffin said.

The Red Cross made inquiries throughout the war, but it was not until October 1945 that a nominal roll of those on board was uncovered. This was mysteriously lost soon after the war, and is currently the object of an intensive records' search by the Australian Army.


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Max Uechtritz

A belated greeting to two of the correspondents on this thread, Juliet Ramsay and Doug Gowing.

I am a journalist with a special interest in Rabaul and PNG. Our family had friends and acquaintances on board. I was on the original Montevideo Maru Committee with Keith. With the 75th anniversary of the Montevideo Maru almost upon us, I've been asked to write about it again.

Juliet, I would be delighted if you have a photograph of your uncle Mack. Doug, I am interested in hearing about the other '36 or '38 Wallabies who died in WW2.

I can be contacted on [email protected]

Priscilla Cocks

I have just had lunch today with the last surviving relative of Mack Ramsey.

His sister Robin Barton (nee Ramsey) was telling me his story.

According to Robin, Mack was very ill with malaria but was on the 'Montevideo Maru' and died in that disaster.

Juliet Ramsay

Hi Keith - Kenelm (Mack) Ramsay was my father's young brother. Only one sister of the family is still alive.

It is good to know he will be remembered in Quirindi. The three Ramsay brothers, David, Rod and Mack were pupils of Tamworth High School.

I believe the terrible disaster should be remembered but I wonder if a memorial is the best means for remembrance.

Canberra now has too many memorials and not a lot of people pay attention to them. Perhaps a special gallery in the Australian War Memorial would be better, where people can read about the disaster and the people killed.

Doug Gowing

Hi Keith - My path to your site started when I began looking for information on Kenelm Mackenzie Ramsay. 'Mac' Ramsay was born at Quirindi, NSW, and went on to become the district's first Wallaby (Australian Rugby Union test player).

I was born at Quirindi and lived there for the first 37 years of my life, moving to Queensland's Gold Coast 24 years ago.

After only recently discovering that 'Mac' Ramsay was a Wallaby (we are a rugby family), I decided to produce a tribute to him, to be framed, for hanging on the Quirindi Rugby clubhouse wall!

The further I probed, the more interesting his story became, until I found out that he was (more than likely) aboard the 'Montevideo Maru' on the night of 1 July 1942!

What a story that is! I wonder how many other young men (Mac was 27) from north-west NSW were also on board the MM? I was saddened to find out how many members of the 1936 Wallaby team that toured New Zealand were killed or died during WW2!

I think the Rabaul and MM memorial at the Australian War Memorial would be the least this country could do to remember the men who died in such a significant event, and in light of "the secrecy" that surrounds the incident.

I will write to the Liverpool Plains Shire Council at Quirindi, and suggest that they contact you, with a view to contributing to the memorial.

Perhaps similar local government organisations who lost "local boys", along with State governments, could do likewise?

Thanks Doug, we'll certainly follow through your suggestions. The records in our possession show that it was highly likely that NX25468 Corporal Kenelm McKenzie Ramsay of the 1st Independent Company died on the Montevideo Maru. As you say, he was aged 27 - KJ

Murray Bladwell

Keith - The warmest congratulations to the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society cmmittee and yourself as president for your dogged pursuit of the authorities to gain national recognition for those who so tragically died.

A memorial located in the grounds of the national War Memorial in Canberra is a most fitting way to acknowledge the pain suffered by the families of those men whose lives were lost to history and national recognition for so many years.

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