Rabaul 1945/1971

Mr E.V. Smith, Acting District Commissioner

Mr H.W. Smith, RSL, 2/22 Battalion

Rev. N. Threfall

Rev. Mikael To Bilak

Father Mooney, Catholic Church

Pastor Solomon, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church

Mr Henry Chow, President Rabaul Town Council

Mr Kim Beazley, Member House of Representatives

Return to Lost Lives

Commemorative Service
Held on the 30th anniversary of the sailing date, on the Cleland Drive frontage, Rabaul Community Hostel, at 4.30 pm.

Rev. N. Threfall

Rev. Mikael To Bilak of the United Church who also represents the local people of the Gazelle Peninsula and who was also a young pastor at the time of the war and bore the brunt of the work of the church during the occupation, will speak particularly about the Methodist missionaries he knew.

Rev. Mikael To Bilak

(translated from the Pidgin)

Mr Acting District Commissioner, Mr Smith, and all you friends, this is an important day indeed for us, to think of the men who were all lost in the war in our country. I was in the Bainings then. I have heard Mr Smith speak of Saimon Gaius. I was with him in that place. We knew Mr McArthur who was the Chairman of the Methodist Church in this district, the New Guinea islands. He and four ministers came up to the Bainings, to where I was with Mr Poole at Kalas. Mr Linggood, Mr McArthur and some others came together and stayed at Kalas.

Then Mr Ball(?), the leader of the soldiers at Rabaul, came with a big group of his soldiers, who were escaping into the hills. They were throwing away all their guns and equipment and heading into the bush to go down towards Nakanai. We were very sorry for them, and we wept for them, when we saw them, because we thought of them as our people, who were here to help our Territory, and all the people cried as they saw them go through the bush on their way.

The Chairman of the Methodist Church had prepared our ministers and told them to send their wives first to Australia, and only the ministers were left; they had sent their wives away and they were left. But there were four nursing sisters of the Methodist Church who stayed to help any men who were injured, but the Japanese took them and imprisoned them at Vunapope, and later took them on a ship to Japan. Later they came back to their own country.

But many hardships happened to them, as they did to the government officers and business men. The men of our church did not suffer these things to no purpose, and they did not die idly; they died for us, the people of Papua New Guinea, to help us to become good men and women in our living. They were here to help us. Many who had left here came back again. It is good for us to see this big thing which they did to help us and to help our country to be a good one. We must follow truly the laws for our Church and of our government. This is my little talk, and it is finished.

Father Mooney, Catholic Church

We all have come here this afternoon from whatever work we were doing, to honour the men who went down on the Montevideo Maru. It has always been a bit of a mystery to me until this afternoon. But I hear from Mr Beazley here and also from the previous speakers the true facts of the Montevideo Maru.

I said it's always been a bit of mystery to me the manner in which these men died. But I never had any doubt about the reason why they died. I think were here to pay tribute to loyalty and sense of responsibility.

After the women and children had been evacuated there were certain men who stopped back here because it was their duty to do it. There were of course the soldiers. They had the duty to defend Rabaul against great odds. There were other men who stopped here out of loyalty to the Administration or out of loyalty to some institution, perchance, a hospital or a trading firm or to those services which kept the town functioning, and there were the religious people who stopped here for religious motives.

Well Im especially here this afternoon to pay tribute to Father David McCullough and Brother Clifford Brennan, and to Father Hennesy from Bougainville whom I did not know. But I spent years, many years, with the former two. I knew them very well and I feel privileged to be here to speak about them today.

These men stopped back here because of their belief in the work that the mission was doing and the need the people would have of them. They happened to be the only two Australian Roman Catholic missionaries in this area.

There were Australian nuns here but they did not put women on the ship. The other nationalities were put up in the valley there to die. They were not given food. They would have starved had not the natives come in at their peril to give them food until they could grow their own.

Father McCullough had the added responsibility as chaplain to the 2/22 Battalion.

They laboured and they toiled a lot and loaded ships, but I would not like you to think that all their captors were inhumane because I myself did read a letter which Father McCullough wrote at the time to his mother. It was a very frank letter about what was going on. That letter was dropped by a friendly Japanese pilot over Port Moresby and was picked up by Australian soldiers and taken to his mother. So all his captors here were not completely heartless.

Anyhow I join with you all now in recalling to mind the inspiration of those men ... who were all loyal to some ideal or other, and I ask you to remember them today and may they rest in peace.

Pastor Solomon, of the Seventh Day Adventist Church

(translated from Pidgin)

District Commissioner, Mr Smith, distinguished guests and all friends: I think when this happened I was only a little boy, and I do not know these things personally. But because I represent the Seventh Day Adventist Mission in Rabaul, I shall speak a little about what happened to two missionaries, Pastor Malcolm Abbott and Mr Collett, and why they were on this ship.

Pastor Abbott was Superintendent of the Mission. He was at Palm Beach, at Toboi, at that time ... Mr Collett was a lay worker of the Mission, who had come to New Guinea as a self supporting missionary. He ran a saw mill in the Mussau and Emira area to provide timber and build up the work. The war came and the two got a ship at Mussau and came down past New Ireland to Kambubu on New Britain. They thought of getting a ship or an aeroplane to take them down to Tol or Wide Bay, to go home to Australia ...

One thing is clear, that those people who died on the ship were interested in the spiritual life of the people of the country, as well as the physical life of the people of the country

Previous Transcript provided by George Oakes.
Image of Rabaul, 1945 AWM #096796 with permission of the Australian War Memorial.
Image of Rabaul, 1971 with permission of the National Library of Australia.