Issues & questions about the state of nations
A short memo from the Australian Defence Department

A memorial to honour the dead of the NG islands


Detail Rabaul & Montevideo Maru MemorialSEVENTY YEARS AGO TODAY, soon after midnight on 1 July 1942, the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru – carrying over 1,000 civilians and troops who had been captured in Rabaul – was torpedoed and sunk off the Philippines’ coast.

All of the prisoners, and many of the Japanese crew, died. It was one of Australia’s greatest tragedies and by far its worst maritime disaster.

Today, after several years work and a new recognition of this event in both Australia and Papua New Guinea, governor-general Quentin Bryce is to dedicate a splendid memorial in Canberra to mark those dark days in the New Guinea islands – the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial.

Both the Australian and PNG governments, as well as private donors, have provided generous amounts of money to make this long overdue tribute a reality.

And to mark this solemn date in the calendar, one of PNG’s finest poets, Michael Dom, has written this eloquent Haiku-style poem in dedication to those who died and their families and loved ones…..


Seventy years on / Montevideo Maru’s / roll is read out


In a blue-green vault;
Montevideo Maru,
resting anchorless

In Philippines sea;
Lost souls entombed in cold steel
await their roll call

Now we will claim them;
Sons sent to do our bidding,
lost, not forgotten
Hidden beneath seas;
But at a shrine of their foes,
an odd pile of notes

There in its pages
waiting a lifetime unread
an old list of names

These tomes lay unsought
foreign script, in foreign lands;
Stake a thousand sons

Prisoners of war;
Their story will now be told
Their freedom granted

Seventy years on
Montevideo Maru’s
roll call is read out

A testament for
a thousand sons lost to war;
Their score – stainless steel

Christine ArnottAnd in tribute to
Their great sacrifice, their hopes
now sail in our hearts

We remember them;
Their years spent on Rabaul’s soil
for Australia

We remember them;
Their bodies broken by war
for all our freedoms

We remember them;
Their joys and sorrows, their love
ours now to bestow

To their families
what more peace can we offer;
We remember them

Image: Christine Arnott


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