The eighth annual Battle for Australia Oration was delivered at the Royal Automobile Club, Sydney. The Oration is held each year to mark the occasion in the Second World War when Prime Minister John Curtin coined the phrase "Battle for Australia" communicating to all Australians the dangers that lay ahead, following the Fall of Singapore.
The 2024 Battle for Australia Oration was presented by Commodore Timothy Brown AM RANR @02:49. His Oration, "Discovery of the Montevideo Maru", was held at 10h00 on Tuesday 20 February 2024.
On 22nd June 1942 the Montevideo Maru, a Japanese merchant ship, left Rabaul, New Britain bound for Japan with civilian and military Prisoners of War.
An American submarine, the USS Sturgeon, intercepted the ship en route to Hainan Island and torpedoed the Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942.
The ship sank off the northern coast of Luzon within 11 minutes. Of a total Japanese crew of 122 (88 crew, 27 POW guards, and 7 Ship's guards), 26 survived to Manila although one died in hospital afterwards, leaving a total of 25 survivors (17 crew, 6 POW guards and 2 ship's guards). None of the 1,060 prisoners of war civil (from 16 countries, mostly Australian) or military (all Australian) survived.
The sinking of the Montevideo Maru and subsequent loss of Australian lives became the largest maritime disaster in Australian history. Controversy still surrounds the way in which the sinking was officially reported. Japan had only recently entered the war and was anxious to ensure that its internees were treated well by Australia. Japan did not notify the International Red Cross of the attack and subsequent sinking of the vessel and it was not until three and a half years later that official notification was given to families in Australia as to the fate of the POWs and civilians. With confusion and hearsay surrounding the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, many relatives did not believe the official story. Some believed that the POWs had been executed in Rabaul. However, there was supporting documentation and evidence to confirm that soldiers and civilians marched to the port to embark on Montevideo Maru.
The wreck of the Montevideo Maru was discovered on 18 April 2023. In his Oration, Tim Brown tells the story of the expedition he led that found the shipwreck sitting on the ocean floor.