"In his report RE-OCCUPATION OF RABAUL ….Major Bates wrote, 'Approximately 1030 hours 10 Sept 45 the convoy arrived Rabaul...'
Bates was to write:
'Within a few minutes of landing many ANGAU personnel were recognised by the local natives and without much effort, any assistance required was eagerly given... By the third day contact was made with officials representing some 20,000 natives - their pleasure at our return was very evident...
It is evident that they are pathetically over-joyed at our return - and no greater recommendation of our pre-war Administration of these natives could be made - they have suffered - whole families have been broken up... nearly four fifths of their land taken from them for use by the enemy - this land must be returned to them immediately but present indications are that the Japanese are to be concentrated in the very midst of them in greater intensity... (we must) get the Japs into some area which will not affect natives...
It is intended as soon as possible to re-institute the Native Councils, and already steps are being taken to have old Council sites cleared and prepared.
Some of the old reliable chiefs have died - some killed - some from disease - but fortunately there remain many who can carry on.3'
What of the men of Rabaul?
'More or less simultaneously in contacting Chinese ANGAU made contact with POW camp at Ramalei near Bitagalip - Kokopo.
In this camp were some 157 Europeans and 200 half castes and natives the majority being members of Vunapope Mission. Included in the Europeans were five well known Europeans ex-residents| of Rabaul… complete nominal rolls of internees of this camp has already been forwarded to you.'
Major Bates reported the number 'five'. He gives the name of only four men. Four civilian men - from over two hundred souls captured in the Rabaul area - only four, were found."
Note. PRELIMINARY REPORT - REOCCUPATION OF RABAUL, Major Bates. 27.9.45 AWM
Extract from MASKED EDEN Chapter 12 page 244, Note, page 337
"In November 1945 the Australian Government began to send formal letters to the next-of-kin of many pre-war Rabaul civilians, informing them that the deaths of these men were no longer in doubt. It was alleged that these men lost their lives when the 'Montevideo Maru', a small Japanese freighter was sunk off the Philippines by an American submarine on the 1st July 1942. Over a thousand Australian soldiers and civilians were said to have been on board.
And the civilians said to have been on this ship? Harold Page, the Acting Administrator, Nobby Clark the Chief Civil Warden, Orton Townsend, Administration Treasurer, Gerald Hogan, Crown Law Officer, Freddy Mantle, Chief Magistrate. The names went on and on and on...............
Phil Coote, Manager of Burns Philp, District Officer Gregory, Harry Holland, Manager of A.W.A., were dead."
Extract from MASKED EDEN Chapter 12, page 246
"In May 1946 a ship with Stan on board moved slowly into Blanche Bay heading for Simpson Harbour and Rabaul. The much-loved, familiar landmarks came once more into view. The Mother, North Daughter, South Daughter, hunch-backed Matupi, monstrous Vulcan, the Beehives.
The ship made its way towards the inner harbour. Stan could see parts of Rabaul now, or at least where Rabaul had been. There was nothing - only a great gaping void of ugliness and a few skeleton-like palms, with broken-headed crowns, jutting out like skulls of war, death, evil, destruction.
The shoreline was littered with bombed, gutted and burnt-out craft of every kind. Some were half on the beach, others submerged| with only a few masts and tops of funnels showing. Everywhere were concrete gun emplacements, blocks, tents, trucks, jeeps, ammunition dumps, great craters and vast native-like vegetable gardens. The wharves built by the Bay Loo construction company under Nobby Clark's management, seemed to have vanished.
The harbour itself was crazy with dead craft. One ship had sunk quite upright, the funnels and masts just above the sea giving the appearance of a ship sailing under water. Others had their bows or sterns high in the air, others rolled about on their sides, helpless shapes of steel.
Stan had last seen Rabaul late afternoon of 22 January 1942, some nine hours before the Japs invaded. Over four years later he stood once more on Rabaul soil. But this 1946 Rabaul was a grinning, twisting mockery of its once bright and beauteous self.
Rabaul had been terribly mauled. Nothing was left of the pre-war town. All the elegant German bungalows with their Bavarian carvings and cool wide verandahs, had been destroyed. The gardens with hibiscus and bougainvillea, pure sweet-scented frangipani, dainty Bird of Paradise, rare orchids and ferns had disappeared.
Chinatown and its oriental luxury had vanished too into the agony of war. No more silk or camphor wood, ivory, jade or mother-of-pearl graced shelves in curious shops filled with strange perfumes.
The Botanical Gardens, those famous gardens of the South Pacific, had been blasted in many places into nothingness. In other areas kunai grass and lawyer vines choked delicate plants and shrubs.
No great mango trees or rain trees leant their shade over wide avenues of fascinating movement. The casuarina trees no longer sighed nor did their leaves murmur in nights of full moon. In all Rabaul, only a few unmaimed trees and shrubs stood above the guns, twisted metal, and muck of war to remind one that this place had once been Rabaul, the garden city of the Pacific, a town of Eden."
Extract from MASKED EDEN Chapter 12, pages 248 - 9
"'Seventy Thousand to One' was published in 1947. The well known American writer Quentin Reynolds wrote the book based on his conversations with Gordon Manuel, whom Rombin had protected. Rombin at last had a little recognition.
Stan McCosker too was given a few sentences of recognition.
'Robin [Rombin] told me [Manuel] more about himself when the women left. He had worked for Stanley McKosker (sic) who owned Matala Plantation the one where I had been in hiding. Robin had charge of the kitchen and all the outside help. He had been a sort of over seer for McKosker. McKosker had once been a sergeant (sic) in the Australia Imperial Forces, and according to Robin, a wonderful man'."
Extract from MASKED EDEN Chapter 13, page 278
See Masked Eden pp 223- 232, for a detailed account of Gordon Manuel's adventures and escape from the Japanese in New Britain 1943, with the help of Rombin.
Masked Eden is the only book since Seventy Thousand to One to connect Rombin and Stan McCosker. This relationship should be recognised by anyone wanting to give a balanced historical account of the Mandated Territory. Books written about the Coastwatchers and AIB (Allied Intelligence Bureau) have ignored Rombin. One book while mentioning Rombin, ignores McCosker.
"New Guinea Zone
I am pleased to hear that the Menzies Government intends forming a battalion of fighting men in New Guinea, and as a soldier of two wars including service with the N.G.V.R., and a resident of this country for a quarter of a century, I'd like to make a few suggestions.
Major health matters can be left to the doctors, but troops should not be allowed to work out in the open minus hats and shirts. This sun-worship is crass stupidity, and I saw what it did to men in the Rabaul area and later on at Moresby, Buna, Lae and other places.
Some parade-ground drill is necessary, but make it a sideline. Saluting by numbers, rifle-drill, marching, aiming with dummy rifles and all those other soul-and-interest-destroying training tactics should be cut to the bone. Emphasis should be placed on training in the scrub and forest (jungle to the fiction writers). Arm the lads with light automatic weapons - Owen or U.S.A. carbine type, as bush fighting is done at close quarters and distance shooting obstructed by trees and vines.
Teach what native foods look like in the garden; don't confine this important item to the classroom at night where limp leaves and sad-looking vegetables are passed around for inspection. Take the men into kanaka gardens where they can meet bananas, pineapples, pawpaws, taro, yam, corn, peanuts, galip nut, kaukau (sweet potatoes), lbeka and other edibles indigenous and otherwise.
I have vivid memories of the trek from Rabaul when more lives could have been saved had men been taught to recognise friendly foods. There are instances where men weak from hunger walked through patches of kaukau and didn't know its food value, below and above ground, and splashed through creeks of succulent kangon. Show them how to catch eels, prawns and fish which abound in almost every stream. Teach the art of making a fire with wet fuel - it's always wet - and how to induce the initial spark, kanaka fashion.
Pidgin and Motuan must be taught - not hard to learn if interest and enthusiasm are not killed by hours and hours of rifle-drill and the like.
"Get a fierce killer look on yer dial when you point that Owen, soldier,'' still rings in my ears. A fierce look doesn't help you to aim straight. Give plenty of practice at shooting, but not confined to range-firing and that senseless gallop smothered in a respirator. Take parties into the bush for weeks at a time, give them plenty of ammo and let them shoot to kill for the pot. There are plenty of targets in the air and on the ground. The small wallaby sprinting to safety calls for quick and accurate shooting. The muruk (cassowary) moves fast enough to try the skill of any marksman, as does the startled pig as he scuttles away.
Maps should be made of these treks for future use. Small-ship work should not be neglected, and men should be made conversant with passages, anchorages. etc. Give all a good working knowledge of radio and the use of Morse. - OOMALAS (N.G.)" [Stan McCosker].
The Bulletin, 22nd February 1950
Extract from MASKED EDEN, chapter 13, pp 287 - 8
With acknowledgements to Col Parry
Patrol into Yesterday by J. K. McCarthy. Published F.W. Cheshire, 1963.
'I admired, Keith McCarthy wrote, the guts of the Hoerlers, who had already given food and shelter to other men and who stood to gain nothing from their acts of mercy except perhaps the executioner’s sword if Japs caught them at it.
One [war tale] told by John Stokie involved the Hoerlers during the time northern New Britain was dominated by the Japanese.
‘Sometimes a village would be apparently completely loyal to the allies, but would have a few of their number who were prepared to betray anyone they could, of the Services or Coastwatchers to the Japs....….
John Stokie …sometimes was forced by sheer exhaustion or illness to seek a few days rest in a supposedly friendly village.....
Stokie and several native helpers from another district, had come to a particular village whose people were supposed to be friendly, and were resting there for a day or so in an ordinary sak-sak roofed and walled house made available to them by the headman....…
On the second day John was resting in the house when a watcher came racing up to say a Japanese patrol was right up close to the village.
When Stokie looked out through parted sak-sak in the wall, he saw they were already in the village clearing and were heading straight towards his house. There was a Japanese officer leading with another man who looked vaguely familiar at that distance with him…....
Between his house and the next, was a big patch of taro growing with plenty of large leaves, so he hastily crawled around and got well into the patch and took up a position where he could look through the gaps between the leaves. The patrol was only a few yards away by now, stopped in front of the house.
The betrayer was talking excitedly to the Jap officer in Pidgin and pointing up to the house but the Jap didn’t understand the language and turned to the other man who John has seen with him in the distance. He got a shock when he recognised him as young Harry Hoerler, a half caste German/native he had known for many years and got on well with.
Like a number of others of full or part German blood, he had evidently been pressed into service by the Japs to act as interpreter……
The betrayer was saying again, to Harry, that Masta Stokie was in that house there. Harry turned to the officer and John quietly aimed his.303 double pressure trigger, and it would only take a little extra pressure to fire the rifle and end Harry’s life.
That young man had no intention of handing his one-time friend to certain torture and death , so after some lightening fast thinking he told the Japs something that would tie in with the betrayers actions and gestures, and yet give Stokie a chance of survival - little knowing that by so doing he had just saved his own life! (He found that out later from John himself).
He told the officer that Stokie had been in that house but had left it and gone bush! …….The officer shouted to his troops and they all dashed off into the bush with Harry Hoerler going along with them.
The expression on the betrayer’s face would have been laughable in a less serious situation John thought, as he saw the Japs go streaming off into the jungle instead of surrounding the house he had pointed out to them. The hopes of collecting the substantial rewards the Japs offered, for the capture of a Coast Watcher, disappeared.’
As regards the Hoerlers, Keith McCarthy later wrote, ‘People like these were never to be adequately rewarded after the war’.
Extract from Masked Eden Chapter 12 pp 254 - 6, and related notes.
Return to date list
Sweetness of home,
Green harbour of Rabaul
Ripe with fruit of Eden in hibiscus of black hair.
Volcano in the mountains,
Bougainvillea on fire
Old Mother bursts hot lava all about her sons.
Here, the lusty coasters
In seas of coral song,
And a moon delighting in the shadows' dance.
Little bewitched town
Where skins of every colour sleep in the mango shade.
Butterflies of blood-red
Guard the graves of men
Crucified by Japanese for their Emperor's sun.
The Bird of Paradise
Feathers to a fan
And frogs go thumping, wumping in the rain.
Every daughter's scent,
The pungent copra air
Throbs through the night in a diseasing slumber.
In an elegance of dream,
Rabaul, bright harbour in the stars, my home.
Published in POTTER'S CLAY by Anne McCosker, 1973
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Territory of Papua New Guinea
Printed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Maidenhead, [England]
Published with permission.
|The above list can still not be considered completely accurate; see examples below. But it does show that more information was known to the CWGC than was given by the then Australian Government, and is still apparently being given, to members of the families involved.
(a) Albert Evenson. His wife, Lil, did not accept that Albert was killed on the date given here. McKechnie, one of the four survivors of Rabaul, told her that he had seen Albert two months before the war ended. See MASKED EDEN p 268.
(b) P. G. Good, a civilian, was executed March 1942 in Bougainville, Solomon Islands. His name is not recorded here, possibly because he was wrongly included among the coast-watchers.
(c) The Harveys' son, aged 12, was executed with his parents.
Some 25 of these names have been regularly placed on lists of those said to have been drowned on the Montevideo Maru. It is only now, 2004, that these names have been omitted from a published list. However, it is possible that some family members are not yet aware of this. Certainly, one family in particular believed until very recently that their loved one perished on the ship.
Sunshine Coast Daily, Thursday 23rd July 1992
FIFTY years ago today, on January 23, 1942, Rabaul, the capital of the Territory of New Guinea, mandated to Australia, was invaded by the Japanese. The town and surrounding area held well over 1000 Euro-pean rnen, mostly over military age, a few European women, and an army garrison.
At least three-quarters of this number were captured by the Japanese and killed. The actual manner of many murders still remains a mystery. Men and women of other races were tortured and killed during the war.
My father, Stan McCosker, was one of the few men who escaped to Australia. He and those few others could bear witness to the gross act of incompetence, or deliberate betrayal, that had led to this situation. Widows of the European men are still living in Australia. Throughout the war and
in the following years little or no care was given to these women and their families by the Australian Government. Not many ordinary Australians knew of their often desperate situation. I will be laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey on January 23. It will be in memory of all my parents' friends - the men of Rabaul - whose lives were considered ex-pendable by those they trusted.
Anne McCosker, Fordingbridge, Hampshire, Britain.
Brisbane Courier Mail 21/22 January 1992
Victims of war
FIFTY years ago this Thursday Rabaul, the Capital of the Territory of New Guinea and mandated to Australia, was invaded by the Japanese. The town and surrounding area held more than a thousand European men mostly over military age, a few European women and an army garrison. At least three-quarters of them were captured by the Japanese and killed. The actual manner of many murders still remains a mystery. Men and women of other races were also tortured and killed during the war. My father, Stan McCosker, was one of the few men who, having seen the Japanese land during the early morning of January 23, escaped to Australia. He and those few others could bear witness to the gross act of incompetence, or deliberate betrayal that led to the invasion.
Widows of the European men are still living in Australia. Throughout the war and in the following years little or no care was given to them and their families by the Australian Government. Not many Australians knew of their often desperate situation. I will be laying flowers at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey, London, on Thursday in memory
of all my parents' friends - the men of Rabaul whose lives were considered "expendable" by those they trusted.
Men of Rabaul
On the 23rd January 1942, Rabaul was invaded by the Japanese. The town, surrounding areas and Islands held more than fifteen hundred European men — army garrisons and several hundred civilians mostly over military age — and a few European women. At least three-quarters were captured and killed by the Japanese. The actual manner of many murders still remains a mystery.
On the fiftieth anniversary of this invasion, the poet placed flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey, London.
Fifty years fade into stone
That crafted arch by arch
Lead to an altar.
Time is silenced, distance inched,
Spheres meet in vaulted order.
Rabaul so loved
Men run like ants
As ants are killed,
A sea of blue is red
I kneel now beside poppies
That guard a grave.
Yet my parents knew those men betrayed.
Published in WITCH DOCTOR by Anne McCosker, 2003
McCosker went from Matala.
He, my father, walked away
Long years of work undone.
His honour though untarnished
His spirit strong and free.
In Queensland he recorded facts,
And passionately told
The anguish of that day.
I – a small child – heard.
All my life I’ve walked that track, the track to Matala
My spirit roaming round that day
‘Hostages to fortune’ 5 strove
To flee behind their flag.
So very few with so much power –
One tiny elite group –
Crippled families forever.
Their ethos still in action
As always they have heirs.
And I, heir to my father.
Being his own master
He tried with integrity to tell
What he had seen
All round him as he walked that day through pouring rain.
Officialdom was not impressed.
Facts were ignored, denied
And a lollipop court-martial
Blocked his wish to tell Australia.
Still does this nation turn away,
Terrified it seems
To face those ghostly faces
Walking along that track, the track to Matala
The dead men and the living all ignored,
Decade after decade.
I hear the silence of those men
Bear the burden of their voices
Shouting in a void.
Rabaul to Bita Paka, Kokopo between,
Shadows moving up and down
Men are walking fast.
Through Ralabang and Londip
Silhouettes are seen
Faces hurry past.
Footsteps must not falter
The enemies all round.
How long will this last?
5 In cablegram, 12th December 1941, from Prime Minister’s Department, Australia, to the Australian Minister, Washington.
Extract from The Track to Matala, published in Witch Doctor by Anne McCosker, 2003
(1) Kavieng, New Ireland, PNG
In July, 2002, at Kavieng, New Ireland, a Memorial to the Europeans of New Ireland and surrounding islands lost during WWII, was dedicated.
Family members of those lost travelled from Australia and New Zealand to attend the dedication. A copy of Masked Eden signed by many of those present, was presented to Jim Ridges of Kavieng, the key organizer of this Memorial. "We wanted to thank Jim for all his hard work", Erice Pizer (nee Ashby) told Anne McCosker.
(2) What about Rabaul?
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
In February, 2004, at Ballarat, a Memorial was dedicated to 'those who died on the Montevideo Maru'. Les Drew arranged this memorial in memory of his older brother, lost during WWII - a Salvation Army bandsman of the Rabaul garrison. The massacre at Tol was also mentioned.
A few days before the event, at the instigation of Anne McCosker, with the help of Cynthia Schmidt, it was arranged that John Leeuwin Clark attend and speak as a representive of the 'Beforers', the people who suffered most by the Fall of Rabaul. John wrote the Foreword of Masked Eden. There is also in this book much valuable information concerning John's father 'Nobby' Clark, MLC, Chief Civil Warden, in the days surrounding the Fall of Rabaul.
Unfortunately by so stipulating this Memorial was for those who died on the 'Montevideo Maru' it excluded an unknown number of Europeans, both civilian and military, lost during WW II in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
See Aftermath 1978
In that C.W.G.C. list from 1978 are names of men originally said to have been on the Montevideo Maru - and are still shown as such in the books NGVR by Ian Downs and Fall of Rabaul by Douglas Aplin.
No one knows for certain exactly how many European men - if any - were actually on this ship when it was torpedoed. See Montevideo Maru for fuller details of the controversy.
However even this officially acceptable history of the 'Montevideo Maru' was ignored by officialdom at the Ballarat service.
Maxwell Hayes writes,
--it was almost impossible to achieve any publicity for the 'Montevideo Maru' commemoration on Saturday 7th February. I personally contacted ABC Radio, ABC TV and Melbourne newspapers - none sought fit to refer to this event, save by obscure oblique references relating to the ship, and none advised of the Saturday commemoration, making this event virtually a secret rivalling some of the best Second World War secrets. Why??
Anne McCosker writes,
In Masked Eden, personal correspondence, articles, published and unpublished, I have over many years given probable reasons why the Fall of Rabaul and the subsequent loss of so many lives has been, and still is being treated, as top secret. All have been ignored by most purporting to be concerned. Again why??
It seems to observers of the post WWII New Guinea scene, personal jealousies, guilt feeling, individual egos, easy acceptance of slander, inherited animosity to my father by New Guinea officialdom, are more important to many than facts, truth. Is this honouring the dead?
I personally believe that Australia will only face the facts of the Fall of Rabaul , the 'Montevideo Maru' story and so much else, when it understands what actually happened in those January days of 1942.