1939 - 1943
On 4 September 1939, the Administrator of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, Sir Walter McNicoll, was given authorisation from the Australian Government to form a volunteer defence force to be known as the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles. NGVR members were public servants, merchants, bankers, business men, members of the Christian missions, miners, prospectors, traders and plantation owners, managers or associated employees.
Extract from Pacific Islands Monthly, March 1946:-
Roll of NGVR Wanted - Australian Army Bureaucrats Will Not Help
Here, for the delectation of residents of New Guinea, is another example of the efficiency of the bureaucrats of Australia.
A considerable time before Japan entered World War II, there was formed in New Guinea a military unit called the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles - partly veterans of World War 1, partly younger men resident in New Guinea. They were keen, and they trained assiduously.
Before Pearl Harbour they were merely civilians trying to do their duty by their community. But when Japan struck and invaded the islands they suddenly became frontline troops.
Their record was magnificent. Almost every man who survived the first Jap onslaught gave distinguished service. But the organisation was cut to pieces in the early invasion. A considerable section was trapped in Rabaul and these men were either killed in the fight near Vulcan Island on January 23 1942; or cut down in the jungle; or murdered at Tol; or they were taken prisoners and perished on the Jap hell ship Montevideo Maru.
We have been asked, again and again, to publish the full list of members of the NGVR, while their deeds and their record still are fresh in the memory of Territorians; but we could not obtain this list. Finally in February we appealed to the Australian Army. It stands to reason that that body possesses the original roll; and as it would mean the copying out of only two or three hundred names, we felt that we might fairly ask for this information and the following is the reply from the Secretary of the Australian Department of the Army, dated February 27:-
"Replying to your request of February 18 1946, for a nominal roll of members of New Guinea Volunteer Rifles at the time of the Japanese invasion, you are advised that while the object is appreciated, it is regretted that at present it is impracticable to undertake the preparation of any such list.
It appears likely that demands for nominal rolls of personnel who served in all the units of the AMF will arise, but it can readily be appreciated that as this will be a task of some magnitude, it has been necessary to postpone any immediate action in their preparation.
The matter has not been lost sight of, but in all probability a commencement in the preparation of rolls of this type could not be made until after demobilisation is complete, and more urgent tasks arising out of the finalisation of the services of personnel who served in the AMF have been disposed of.
That elaborate terminology means simply that the Army classes the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles as AMF; that lots of other AMF units probably will want lists of personnel; and that the Army is much too busy to attend to our humble request.
If any person interested in New Guinea should have a list of NGVR personnel, even if it only approximately correct, we should be very glad to have it. We should then try, with the help of various NGVR veterans, to build up a reasonably complete list, with a view to its publication as part of New Guinea's wartime records. Obviously it is no use looking to the Australian Army for any help.
- Ian Downs, The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles NGVR 1939-1943 A History, Pacific Press, Broadbeach Waters, Queensland, 1999, 359 pp.
- John Winterbotham, Nominal Roll of New Guinea Servicemen (includes NGVR, Native servicemen and civilians who lost their lives on Montevideo Maru or were killed in Air raids during the war), Book and CD versions, John Winterbotham, 2003. (Also available at http://www.angelfire.com/alt2/prisonersofwar/ngvrnominalroll.html)
- John Farquharson, 'Short But Pivotal Role in WWII', Canberra Times, review of Downs, Ian, The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles NGVR 1939-1943 A History, 22 January 2000, p. 22.
- List of Members of New Guinea Volunteer Rifles on full-time duty reported to have been on board Montevideo Maru when torpedoed on 1/7/1942., c. 1942, 13; A7030 Lists of Servicemen and Civilians reported missing or lost etc. Papua and New Guinea; CA 42 Department of External Territories [I], Central Office; National Archives of Australia, National Office.
Raw Recruits New Guinea Volunteer Rifles NGVR 1939