Ceremony farewells lost uncle

Ross Tucker of Palmwoods is travelling to Canberra on Monday to take part in next weekend's memorial for the more than 1000 Australians who died on the Japanese prisioner of war ship the Montevideo Maru.
Ross Tucker of Palmwoods is travelling to Canberra on Monday to take part in next weekend's memorial for the more than 1000 Australians who died on the Japanese prisioner of war ship the Montevideo Maru. Cade Mooney

ROSS TUCKER will finally get the chance to farewell his uncle next weekend, exactly 70 years after the war that claimed his life.

Roy McPherson, the son of a former Caboolture shire clerk, was one of more than 1000 Australian soldiers and civilians killed when the unmarked Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru was sunk by an American submarine off the Philippines on July 1, 1942.

The until now little heralded historical footnote remains Australia's worst maritime disaster.

McPherson, who first became a teacher working at Ascot State School, travelled to Papua New Guinea to pursue his profession at a European school in Kaviang before going on to work as accountant for businessman Frank Saunders.

Mr Tucker, of Palmwoods, still has the pearl shell featuring a painting of a ship, his sole reminder of an uncle trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Five years ago he joined the Montevideo Maru Foundation, a group that with the assistance of some of this country's foremost business leaders and both the Australian and PNG governments, raised $400,000 for the memorial that will be unveiled next Sunday in Canberra.

Ross says his uncle's fate was sealed when one of five schooners his boss Saunders had organised to evacuate his staff broke down.

Before it could be repaired McPherson was captured and assigned to the Montevideo Maru for transport to Japan.

"The worst part for my grand mother was she did not know what happened to him," Ross says.

The Montevido Maru had left Rabaul for Japan when it was spotted by the submarine USS Sturgeon.

The 845 Australian soldiers on board had been made POWs in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands on January 23, 1942.

They were members of the 2/22nd Infantry Battalion, the 1st Independent Company, and the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles along with small associated units.

The civilian internees numbered 208 and included officers of the then Australian Administration, businessmen, bankers, planters, missionaries and merchant seaman.

Women and children had earlier been evacuated to Australia. Many would not learn of the fate of their loved ones until war's end.

Topics:  canberra maritime memorial ship war

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