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.

Mr Kim Beazley, Member House of Representatives

When the allegation came out that there had been no prisoners on the Montevideo Maru, that they had been murdered and buried in a mass grave and that their wristlet watches had been found, it was a very authoritative statement by a very distinguished citizen. And my widowed sister in law was extremely upset. So I wrote to Paul Hasluck, then the Minister for Territories, and he caused certain research to be made.

There is no doubt for instance that the American submarine Sturgeon, commanded by Captain Wright, torpedoed and sank the Montevideo Maru off Luzon in the Philippines. The question still remains, were the people on board? I came up here about 12 years ago to see if I could find any New Guinea man whom my brother had trained and had actually seen them go on the ship. The then Education Officer, knowing that my brother was a technical instructor who had instructed New Guinea men to build houses, houses in the European style, thought and then he realised there was a group of older New Guinea men building in a particular area who must have been trained by my brother.

So he drove me out into the country, into a clearing. I was introduced to the foreman. When he heard my name his face lit up.

He had known my brother and he had been compelled to carry luggage to the water front at the spot where the memorial is and had actually seen them going on to the ship.

So that resolved the problem as far as I was concerned, that whoever had been killed and buried in a mass grave, there was no doubt that hundreds had been taken on board the Montevideo Maru, including my brother.

The President of the Town Council just mentioned that nothing of the Rabaul that these men knew now remains. But there are other things that remain and they are important.

There were men of the Administration and the missions then who were absolutely clear that they were assisting the people of New Guinea to build a nation. There were two men here who were prisoners who had been educated by some of these men who died. One of them was Matthias Toliman who has since been a minister and is now Leader of the Opposition in the National Parliament of this country and the other was Paul Lapun who is now a Minister, and a very distinguished one, in the present Government.

So the work that those men did still goes on. They didnít know that they were training men who would become ministers of government but their vision was not betrayed. They did participate in training the future leadership of this country and that is very important.

Also, as I saw that day in the clearing, the instructions, the training they had given, was still being carried on. So the faithful work which was done by a generation which, especially in this area, was extremely ill fated, still lives on.

And when one considers the life of Mr Toliman and Mr Lapun I think it will live permanently in the life of this nation and thatís why there is gratitude in the way we remember today.

In my brotherís case he never saw a child born posthumously after his wife was evacuated to Australia. There were many other personal tragedies like that and many Australian families remember today and will be interested in the service which you are holding here this afternoon.

And on behalf of the Parliament of Australia I would like to thank the citizens of Rabaul for their thought in commemorating those people, including many Australian servicemen and distinguished Australian citizens who gave their service to this country on this occasion.

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.