14 June 2010


SOME 350 FRIENDS of Montevideo Maru will gather in Canberra next Monday as the Australian Parliament honours military personnel and civilians who died as a result of the New Guinea Islands conflict in World War II.

Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister, Alan Griffin, will make a major Ministerial Statement on the matter and a historic private members’ motion will be debated in the evening. The same resolution will pass through the Senate.

This is the first time the Australian Parliament has formally acknowledged the sacrifices made in the 68 years since the fall of Rabaul on 24 January 1942 and the consequent sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of over 1,000 lives on 1 July 1942.

The resolution will agree that the Parliament of Australia:

Expresses the gratitude of the Australian nation to the service personnel and civilians in Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands for their services in the defence of Australia during World War II.

Expresses its regret and sorrow for the sacrifices that were made in the defence of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands and in the subsequent sinking of the Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.

Conveys its condolences to the relatives and loved ones of the people who died in this conflict.

Conveys its thanks to the relatives for their forbearance and efforts in ensuring that the nation remembers the sacrifices made.

A number of Lark Force veterans will be present including:

Lorna Whyte – an army nurse in Rabaul during World War II and a POW in Japan

Fred Kollmorgen (94) – the sole survivor of the 2/22nd (Salvation Army) Band. Fred escaped down the south coast of New Britain.

Stan Cooper (93) – Officer with Royal Australian Artillery Heavy Battery. After months in Rabaul as a POW in 1942, he was taken on the Naruto Maru which left Rabaul two weeks after the Montevideo Maru. He spent the next three years in Zentsuji POW camp in Japan.

Lionel Veale (91) – 1st Independent Company, Kavieng. Was sent to Vila to train the Free French Forces and later became a Coastwatcher.

David Harper (90) – David was with the 1st Independent Company on New Ireland and initially escaped to Rabaul on the Induna Star. He then caught a ship to Buka and went on to the Solomon Islands.

Norm Furness (88) – President of the Lark Force Association. Norm escaped from Rabaul down the south coast of New Britain and then joined the Laurabada in its rescue mission of late March 1942.

The principal public debate on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru matter will take the form of a Ministerial Statement in the House of Representatives by Alan Griffin, which will be responded to by Louise Markus, Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Following the Ministerial Statement, guests will make their way to a reception hosted by Mr Griffin in the Queens Terrace Gallery.

During private members’ business from about 9 pm Monday evening, the motion will be debated and resolved in recognition of the tragedy, honouring those who lost their lives and thanking their relatives.