Jun 21, 2010


Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Alan Griffin delivered an historic statement in Parliament today honouring those lost in the Montevideo Maru tragedy, Australia’s worst maritime disaster.
Category: Veteran Affairs
Posted by: Chops
VA036 - Monday, 21 June 2010

“On behalf of the Australian Government I would like to express our sincere sorrow for the tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, where 1,053 Australians lost their lives,” Mr Griffin said.

“I especially acknowledge the suffering of their families and friends.  They endured many long and painful years waiting for news of their loved ones and they deserve our sympathy.

“I’m please to announce the Australian Government has pledged $100,000 to assist the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee to build a national memorial in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. 

“Australia will always remember the service and sacrifice of those who perished on the Montevideo Maru,” Mr Griffin said.

On 22 June 1942, 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians who had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the island of New Britain (in what is now Papua New Guinea) boarded the Montevideo Maru.

Unaware that the vessel was carrying allied prisoners, on 1 July 1942 the United States submarine USS Sturgeon fired torpedoes at the Montevideo Maru, sinking the ship and killing all those imprisoned on board and most of the crew. 

The Red Cross made inquiries throughout the war, but it was not until October 1945 that a nominal roll of those on board was uncovered. 

“It was more than three years after the sinking that the families of those lost on the Montevideo Maru learnt of the tragedy, confirming their greatest fears,” Mr Griffin said.

All those lost on the Montevideo Maru are officially individually commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  The service personnel are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at the Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, and the civilian dead are commemorated on the Civilian Roll of Honour located at Westminster Abbey, London. Collectively those who were lost are also commemorated by the Montevideo Maru memorial at Simpson Harbour, Rabaul; by plaques at the Hellships Memorial at Subic Bay in the Philippines; and at the National Prisoner Of War memorial in Ballarat, Australia.

The full Statement on the loss of the Montevideo Maru is available on the DVA media centre