Keith Morris GRAY
Born: 1920, Adelaide, South Australia
Died: 1 July 1942, on the Montevideo Maru, South China Sea
(Compiled by Jenny Haskins, niece – May 2012)
Keith was the youngest child of George and Mary Gray of Oaklands, Adelaide SA. He had three elder brothers and one sister: Edgar, Harold, Mabel, Walter (all deceased) and Ronald (my father now 99 – 2012). Keith was seven years younger than dad and by what I was told quite an ‘after thought’!
From my earliest memories mum, rather than dad, kept Keith’s memory alive and the following is what I recall mum told me.
Keith was the baby of the Gray family and at an early age, around 16, he went to the Adventist hospital in Wahroonga to train as a male nurse. When the war broke out he forged his parents signature (he was 17) so he could go as a medical assistant in a hospital in New Britain.
Mum begged Keith not to go to New Guinea, as they stood on the docks in Sydney bidding him farewell, however he had a calling and so he sailed off. He was quite the charmer and very good looking and mum totally loved him.
When the Japanese invaded New Guinea, he was interned in Rabaul and subsequently sent post cards to his mother stating he was a prisoner of the Japanese, was fine and being treated well.
Keith’s parents were notified of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru sometime after it was sunk, being told it was a hospital ship and the Americans had bombed it. The story then was that the Japanese would often put a Red Cross flag on their troop ships and thus the reason for the US bombing the ship.
Dad has always carried a picture of Keith in his bible, and although his once brilliant mind has slowly left him, this picture is still in his bible that sits by his bed side. It was only a year ago that dad could still tell me the names of his brothers and sister, and always knew who Keith was from his photo (I believe this was one of the last memories to leave him).
My sister Sue and myself (Jenny) are Keith’s nieces, (being the only daughters of Mary and Ron Gray) and we were so thrilled to know that at last the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, described by historians as the ‘worst maritime disaster in the history of Australia´, is finally being officially acknowledged.
The over 200 civilians who stayed behind in Rabaul to defend New Guinea and subsequently lost their lives, in the Montevideo Maru, need to be remembered as the true heroes they are – their names should be recorded so future generations will never forget not only the fact that they sacrificed their lives for our freedom, but the permanent loss to the families left behind.
On behalf of the Gray family, thank you to everyone concerned who finally have brought about a little closure and recognition for the families who lost loved ones in Rabaul during WWII. The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial will certainly be in the spirit of the ANZACS – ‘Lest we Forget’, Keith you will never be forgotten.