‘We owe those who lost their lives and their families the dignity of the more formal and public recognition the Society has championed.’ – Hon. Peter Garrett

150 members and friends gathered together on 2 and 3 July to remember and honour those who fought, died and risked their lives with the invasion of the New Guinea islands and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

We were delighted that Major General John Pearn was able to be with us.  His informative words reflecting on and providing a wider understanding of time and place were enormously appreciated.

Patron of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, The Hon. Peter Garrett,   enthused everyone present with the energy and commitment he gave with his heartfelt words.

With his close personal connection to the events, Paul Lockyer was a wonderful MC, his anecdotes resonating to the core of all those who know and understand this incredible story.

The wearing of Rev John May’s scarf by Chaplain Catie Inches-Odgers combined with Arthur Gullidge’s beautiful music at the moving ceremony at Duntroon  provided a real connection with the men, transcending the generations and lifting everyone’s spirits. We thank Canberra Legacy’s Southside Laurel Club for the delicious refreshments – and all those who contributed to this memorable day.

See here for the full speech by the Hon. Peter Garrett to the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society.

Reflections—On Humanity: Address by Professor John Pearn.

A portfolio of photos from the Anniversary event can be found in the Members’ Area.


The beautiful notes of Arthur Gullidge’s musical compositions played by the Tuggeranong Salvation Army Band filled the chapel. Everyone listening. Everyone quietly admiring the extraordinary gift so short-lived, tragically taken.

Chaplain Catie Inches-Odgers began the poignant Memorial Service on Sunday 3 July 2011 by announcing she was removing her own scarf and replacing it with that of Rev John May. Those present were deeply touched. There was an immediate connection with the men.

She continued with the following words:

John May was Anglican Chaplain to the 2/22nd battalion in Rabaul and then after the war at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, from 1952-55. As a chaplain, his role brought him in contact with all ranks.

When the main body of men left Malaguna camp to board the Montevideo Maru on 22 June 1942, the officers were prevented from making contact or joining them. They, the nurses and some civilians were shipped to Japan a few weeks later on board the Naruto Maru.

In his memoir from the time, Captain David Hutchinson-Smith wrote:

At about 4 30am we were awakened by unusual activity on the part of the guards. There was shouting and stamping and we could hear the men and civilians moving about and talking. Many of us rose, but when we went to leave the hut, we found light machine guns laid on the doorway at each end and the Japanese made it unmistakeably clear that we were to remain inside. We could see the men and civilians collecting their miserable possessions and discussing the movement. Then they were formed into partied of about 50 men, the sick having to be supported or half carried, and several transported on improvised stretches or old doors.

The actual movement out of the compound did not commence until about 9 am and it was in the interim that Stewart Nottage asked that we be permitted to go with the men, or that, if we had to stay, the men be allowed to remain with us. This request the authorities refused.

John May led prayers through the open side of our hut and read the Psalm for the day, which was singularly appropriate*, and Vic. Turner spoke encouragingly to the members of his flock. We shook hands with the men and a large number of acquaintances, and learned from them in whispers that they expected to go to Hainan. They were re-formed and marched out with cheerful grins and banter; about 1,053 men gong to death. It was not until the August, 1943, that we were to receive a hint of their fate, and not until the war was over of their tragic loss in the Montevideo Maru. This was the first anniversary of the German invasion of Russia – indeed a fateful day.”

[*The psalm of the day was Psalm 107, containing some lines about men who go down to the sea in ships]

A verse that John May frequently used in Rabaul and in Japan when partings were occurring and people were heading off into uncertainty is the first part of a poem entitled God Knows by Minnie Louise Haskins, used by King George VI in his 1939 Christmas message:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”