A LIST of Australian prisoners of war and civilians who perished in the “Montevideo Maru” disaster of 1942 was unveiled today at the National Archives by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, in the lead-up to the 70th anniversary on July 1 of Australia’s worst maritime disaster.
Mr Snowdon expressed his condolences to the relatives of the more than 1000 prisoners of war and civilian internees thought to have been on board the Japanese ship when it was torpedoed by the American submarine, USS Sturgeon, on July 1, 1942.
These included relatives of current and former parliamentarians, Peter Garrett and Kim Beazley.
Peter Garrett’s relative, Tom Garrett, was a planter, and one of the civilians on board. Kim Beazley’s relative the Reverend Syd Beazley, was a Methodist missionary who was interned by the Japanese.
The lists of names, in both English and Japanese, now in the custody of the National Archives, was presented to Australia by the government of Japan earlier this year together with other prisoner-of-war records given at the same time and the Japanese section of the list has now been translated into English by an accredited translator.
The listing is in two parts includes civilians, to be translated. But the English listing is of servicemen only. The Japanese document also includes the Norwegian crew of the freighter Herstein which was in Rabaul harbour at the time of the Japanese invasion.
“The new list is significant because it is likely to be the most complete surviving record of who was on the Montevideo Maru when it sank, it is therefore very significant to more than one thousand Australian families who lost a loved one in this tragedy,” Mr Snowdon said.
The National Archives’ new website http://montevideomaru.naa.gov.au where the list will be accessible and where individual names are linked to service dossiers and other information will go live on July 1.
Director-general of the Archives, David Fricker, said, “We hope this website will give the relatives of those who perished a chance to learn more about their loved ones.”
All Australians will be able to search for family members on the list, and link to additional materials the National Archives holds about many of those on board. They can also add their own photographs and stories as a tribute to their loved ones.
To safeguard its future preservation, the document will be on display only for one week after today’s unveiling, but the information it contains will be available online.
Meantime, Melbourne sculptor James Parrett, who claims inspiration from American artists and sculptors, Jasper Jones and Frank Stella, has completed a new Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial, to be dedicated at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra at 11.30am on Sunday, July 1.
“I felt I had to do justice to them and their memory and this special place by designing an abstract sculpture, outside the traditional memorial box, yet with a modern feel that will speak to future generations,” Parrett said