By Ilya Gridneff of AAP
June 28, 2009 - 2:59PM
The hardest thing for families who lost relatives in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru (pictured) during World War II was not knowing the fate of their loved ones.
But for those families, closure may finally come on Wednesday when a plaque is unveiled at an official ceremony marking
Ailsa Nisbet, 82, along with her daughter Marg Curtis and cousin Ron Hayes, will represent one of 15 Australian families at the July 1 memorial at Subic Bay, on the
The troops had been taken prisoner after
The unmarked Japanese ship left occupied Rabaul on June 22, 1942 but nine days later an American submarine, unaware it was carrying allied prisoners, torpedoed it off the
The sinking of the ship was not reported back to
Nisbet said for years it was a mystery as to what happened to her brother.
"The family was first told he was missing," she told AAP.
"Then they said `missing presumed dead', then we got a message he was a prisoner of war, then we got a letter from Jack saying he was being looked after by the Japanese.
"But that's all. Mum didn't hear what happened until late 1945.
"And there is still doubt about it," she said.
In 1997, Nisbet visited Rabaul to see where her brother was stationed and earlier this year for Anzac Day, Curtis and Hayes completed a three-day trek retracing the escape many Larkforce men had to make during Japanese occupation.
"It's a very emotional trip," Nisbet said.
"It's been many, many years and nothing has been heard of the Montevideo Maru and it's just all coming out now.
"I'm the last member of the family and it will be a closure for me to go up there."
Former federal Labor leader Kim Beazley, whose uncle Reverend Sydney Beazley was lost on the ship, is the patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee.
Phil Ainsworth, in the
"This memorial will give the families some comfort because even now 67 years later they still feel discomforted and in grief," he said.
Another attendee is Andrea Williams whose grandfather and great uncle were on board. She wants a government response similar to that for the recently-found HMAS Sydney, another World War II sea tragedy that claimed 645 lives.
"There is a fair amount of literature on the
"It is still a secret as to why these men were left to their fate."
Australian archives had several passenger lists but they were inconsistent and there was no passenger manifest, she said.
"What has happened to the nominal roll of the men apparently on board?"
Veteran Affairs Minister Alan Griffin marked the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru by giving a speech to parliament last Friday.
"I've spoken to individuals who lost family members as part of the Montevideo Maru and I know these things remain with people forever," he said.
"I express my heartfelt sympathy for their loss.
"I told parliament it was shrouded in mystery and that must have added to their loss."