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Relatives who endured still await a memorial


Montevideo Maru-1 THE MEMORIAL NOTICE in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 November 1945, read: ''Presumed lost at sea.'' Gunner Lloyd Sibraa, last reported on the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru, had not made contact with home.

The notice was inserted by Sibraa's mother, Mabel Sibraa, who clung to the hope that Lloyd, who had been in the 1st Independent Company in New Ireland had somehow made it. She kept the army informed of her address, lest Lloyd should have survived.

The Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine on July 1, 1942, and sank with the loss of more than 1000 men.

Mabel Sibraa knew that if anyone could get out of it, Lloyd could. He had worked as a drover around Fords Bridge on the Darling River and had come to Sydney to enlist. But on July 1, 1947, five years after the sinking, another notice appeared in which she acknowledged Lloyd would not be coming home. His mother had written a poem:

At night when the shadows are falling
And I am all alone
There comes that longing Lloydie
If you could just come home.

Further notices in Sibraa's memory appeared in 1951 and 1953. In the 1960s, in the last years of Mabel Sibraa's life, a relative spoke to her about it, but it was too painful to discuss.

Betty Muller - then Betty Gascoigne - endured the same agonising wait. She was 21 when she last saw her father and brother.

It was Boxing Day 1941, when she, her mother and brother Stanley, 12, were evacuated to Australia by ship from Rabaul on New Britain, where the Gascoignes had lived since 1924.

A month later, the Japanese invaded New Britain. It was the beginning of an almost unbearable silence that would last years. Ivor, who had just started his first job as an office boy at the island's branch of Amalgamated Wireless, had begged to stay in Rabaul with his father, an auctioneer, and his mother reluctantly agreed.

''It was the most difficult decision my mother ever had to take,'' says Muller, now 91.

Read the full story in the Sydney Morning Herald here

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