This Sunday, 1 July, a memorial to the 1122 people who died on the Montevideo Maru, including 12 Methodist missionaries and mission personnel from Papua New Guinea, is being dedicated in Canberra.
In what remains Australia’s greatest maritime tragedy, 1053 Australian Prisoners of War and civilian internees died.
On 1 July, 1942, the Methodist mission staff were among those killed when a US submarine torpedoed the ship on which they were travelling to China as prisoners of the Japanese Army.
The memorial will also commemorate the hundreds of soldiers and civilians who died or were executed in and around Rabaul during the war.
“This tragedy represents the most significant loss of life in mission personnel the then Methodist Church and now Uniting Church in Australia have experienced,” say Rev Alistair Macrea, Uniting Church President, and Rev Dr Kerry Enright, UnitingWorld’s National Director, in a joint statement.
“The memorial reminds us that the devastation of war affects all who get in its way and heightens our sense of shared vulnerability and responsibility for each other.”
Mrs Margaret Reeson, former mission worker in Papua New Guinea, is the author of Whereabouts Unknown, an account of the experience of those who died on the Montevideo Maru and those whose fate is still unknown.
“It was a privilege to interview the families of those lost – missionaries, soldiers and civilians – and it is my hope that the recognition of their pain through this memorial will help to bring healing. Sunday’s ceremony is an important recognition of those who died and a significant occasion for their families.” Mrs Reeson says.
“The dedication of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial has special meaning for Uniting Church in Australia and our partner church United Church of Papua New Guinea,” Mrs Reeson says. “It is also a reminder of the price many Papua New Guineans paid throughout the years of war.”
On this special occasion, the Uniting Church remembers and gives thanks for:
The Rev’d Laurence McArthur, Chairman of District, Rabaul
The Rev’d Laurence Linggood, Raluana
The Rev’d Dan Oakes, New Ireland
The Rev’d Howard Pearson, Vunairima
The Rev’d John Poole, Baining Mounrains
The Rev’d Herbert Shelton, Duke of York Islands
The Rev’d Thomas Simpson, New Hanover
The Rev’d Jack Trevitt, Principal of George Brown College, Vunairima
Mr Sydney Beazley, carpenter and teacher
Mr Wilfred Pearce, accountant
Mr Ron Wayne, former mission staff, Rabaul
Mr Ken Allsop, former mission staff, Rabaul
The Rev’d Don Alley, New Zealand Methodist Missionary, Bougainville