Resources - Transcripts - Letter from Gordon Thomas to Mrs Brawn
288 Queen Street
February 24, 1965
My dear Mrs Brawn,
Yesterday I had a pleasant visit from Mr Carr and from him I received your letter of 21st with enquiries about that sad, old question: Was the Montevideo Maru tragedy a reality or just a war-time rumour?
Your husband has probably told you that I am quite convinced in my own mind that the sinking did occur, also that our people were on board, with the exception of the officers and nurses, who embarked in another vessel.
Much confusion has been caused I believe through the fact of several white people having been seen in Rabaul after the Montevideo Maru sailed. It must be remembered that besides myself and three companions at first stationed at the Rabaul Freezer, there was a party of technicians and prisoners captured after the sailing, amongst them Albert Evensen, Bill Korn, Eric Hopkins, Sherwin, who were housed in the old army camp, along the Malagunan Road - all of whom were liquidated at near end of war - also Vic Pratt and his party (who had been hiding on Raniolo plantation) were brought in to Rabaul, and then I am almost positive were executed. Thompson (of WRC) was amongst the party, and his wristlet watch was traced.
Regarding Inui and his report. It is quite likely he could have been one of the natives to whom I shouted in the language as we passed in the lorry on that night we travelled from Namare Jap headquarters to Ramale mission camp, calling at the HQ of the Kempei in the area known as Kuranakane. (I have just looked up my MS of those days.) It was my custom at all times when I saw a native to address him in the native language, because many of the natives knew of my knowledge of the Talk and therefore would be able to spread the news that a whiteman, knowing the language, had passed that way. Afterwards I learned it had had the desired result.
The four of us on that late afternoon in question could easily have fitted the descriptions you gave of the missionaries. Two of us were tall, one very thin, and two of us were medium height. James Benson was quite correct in the description of our arrival at Ramale late at night.
It was late when we left the Kempei HQ, we had remained there for supper, and the police put on quite a spread. All the time I was fearful that this was our Last Supper and that we would be taken out and had our nappers lopped off. This was the custom of the Japs: to have a feast, followed by an execution, but for some reason they made an exception this time.
You say that I can clear up 'something that many of the friends and relatives of the men would be pleased to know'. I very much doubt whether anything I can say will clear up the question. I have done my best with many of the relatives but they shrug me off and finally remark: 'Well, I just feel that he is still somewhere, and that he did not go on that boat.' Whether it is any more comfort for these poor relatives to know their loved ones were 'liquidated' and not drowned at sea, I do not know.
If Mr Fardon were to question some of the older Chinese who were in Rabaul at the time (June 1942) they would be able to give him some information no doubt as to seeing the Europeans embark on the M.M. and they would perhaps be able to tell him they had heard of the sinking later on. Our informants were the Japanese themselves (they didn't mind telling us because it was not their fault - but our own allies!) and also from Chinese and some half-castes. I think I remember Kwong Chong Bros. being amongst the Asiatics who knew of the tragedy. They were working in the Freezer at the time with us.
If there is any further information which you think I may be able to supply, please write and ask me. I shall only be too glad to do anything I can to help. It is the least I can do in return for having been saved from the same fate as those who were lost.
With very kind regards, I am
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