Arthur “Toss” Parker. 1923-1942.


“Lost on the Montevideo Maru”


Researched by Margaret Hope 2012.

Arthur “Toss” Parker was eighteen years and one month old on 4th April 1941 when he enlisted in WWII.

He was too young to join the A.I.F., so he volunteered for the Anti Aircraft Anti MilitaryLanding Craft Defence Force, Rabaul. After his compulsory training and pre-embarkation leave, he embarked on HMAT Neptuna on 7 August 1941 and disembarked Rabaul on 16 September 1941along with two officers and fifty-two other comrades of his unit later known as A.A. Battery,

Rabaul. These boys had been too young to be sent beyond the bounds of Australia with the regular army but had been sent to the supposed safety of an Australian territory.

Once in Rabaul, they took their gun position, with two 3-inch guns and obsolete ring-sight telescope,

at Frisbee Ridge, silhouetted as it was against both north and southern skylines. For Rabaul lay in what was virtually a gigantic crater; only from this ridge could the guns command anything like the requisite 360 degrees angle of traverse. This position was also conspicuous from land, sea, and air.

After the outbreak of war in the Pacific began on 7th December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, Malaya, and the Philippines with the Japanese already having bases in their Micronesian colonies, there was nothing between the Japanese and New Guinea. By January 1942, the Japanese had over 20,000 troops to the north of Australia – from Malaya and Singapore through Java, Ambon and Timor to New Guinea. With most trained units in the war against Germany, the Australians could do little to support the men in New Guinea facing the advancing Japanese.

On 4th January 1942, the Japanese dropped their first bombs on Rabaul and other raids followed.

On 22nd January 120 Japanese aircraft attacked Rabaul. Both the bravery and the ineffectiveness of the Australian pilots in their Wirraway’s (normally used as trainers), against modern fighters were obvious. Heavy pre-invasion bombing continued on 23rd January. That night at 11.40pm the Japanese landed barges of 5,000 forces. As dawn broke, the Australians could see the harbour and the channel dense with Japanese shipping. Any sign of Australian resistance or movement attracted low-flying Japanese aircraft and naval fire. The Australians were told there would be no retreat.

However, overwhelmed by numbers and firepower, the group’s cut-off and communications breaking down, the order changed to ‘every man for himself’.

The Japanese gathered over 1,000 prisoners of war and civilian internees in Rabaul. Apart from knowing that Rabaul had ‘fallen’, the Australian public knew almost nothing of what happened in Rabaul. Then in April, newspapers began publishing reports from the men who had escaped.

These were alarming as they made public the killing of over 150 Australian prisoners of war at Tol Plantation, south of Rabaul. Then the Australians were surprised when Japanese aircraft over Port Moresby dropped bundles of letters from prisoners in Rabaul. Most of the prisoners – including nurses and civilians – said ‘they were being treated reasonably’. The Australians now had contradictory information; some men were killed and because of a strange act of enemy chivalry, others were known to be alive. That was all most Australians were to know for another three years.

War reports state that on 22 June 1942, the civilian and military prisoners in Rabaul, except the officers and nurses, were loaded on the Montevideo Maru. Just before they left, they were able to tell the officers that they were on their way to Hainan Island. Off the Filipino coast near Luzon, early on the morning of 1 July, she encountered the torpedoes of the American submarine “SS Sturgeon”. Not one of the 845 prisoners of war or the 208 civilians survived. Most of the crew and guards reached the shore in the Philippines where Filipino guerrillas killed many. Only 3 Japanese guards and 17 crew had survived.

Japanese authorities received confirmation of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru early in 1943 but never advised Australian authorities. It was October 1945 when the translated nominal roll was received by the authorities in Canberra. Telegrams were sent to the families confirming the deaths of the men and boys from the 2/22nd Battalion, 1st Independent Company, the Fortress Artillery, Signals Units, Number 17 Anti-tank Battery, the Anti Aircraft Artillery, Number 19 Special Dental Unit, detachments from New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, 2/10 Field Ambulance, Ordnance Corps units, the 8th Division Supply Column, the Canteen Services Headquarters New Guinea Area, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Australian Navy and Australian civilians.

By the end of October, 1945 families of those named on the Montevideo Maru nominal roll received correspondence stating; “It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that the transmission of the nominal roll of the Japanese vessel Montevideo Maru which was lost with all personnel after leaving Rabaul in June 1942 shows that [name] was aboard the vessel and I desire to convey to you the profound sympathy of the Commonwealth Government for External Territories.”

It is unknown how Toss lost his life, whether he was one of those massacred at Tol Plantation, perished in the jungle of New Britain whilst trying to escape, or drowned due to the sinking of the Montevideo Maru. The nominal roll retrieved from Japan cannot be confirmed, as there are many discrepancies. Some families of civilians were told that their loved one was on the nominal roll but after returning to Rabaul and talking to their native friends they were told of his execution.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru is the greatest single disaster suffered by Australian’s in World War II. However, until recently, it was rarely referred to on Anzac Day or other days of national remembering.

In at least two ABC TV presentations, it was stated that the tragic loss of HMAS Sydney, with the deaths of 635 Australian, was ‘the greatest single loss’ of the war. Family members who lost someone among the 1035 Australians who died when the Montevideo Maru sank feel, when they hear this, that their sense that no one has heard of this event has been confirmed yet again.

There is a disappointment, frustration, and even anger that a situation that has had such a profound impact on their own families, and the families of more than one thousand other Australians should be unrecognised, forgotten, or ignored by most of their compatriots. They feel that they have not been included in Australian history and wonder why this should be so.

For those who have links with that community which was lost from the islands of New Guinea in 1942, there is a common desire to have the story made known to the wider public. In a speech in 1992, at a service of remembrance in New Britain to mark the 50th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, it was stated, ‘The history of those months deserves to be far better known.’

The majority of the ‘A A Battery, Rabual’ was young boys under the age of 20 years old. Their lives cut short! They never had the privilege of marrying and having a family of their own or to be reunited with their loved ones.

There was no confirmation of the names of those who lost their life.

After the events in Rabaul, it would more than 3 years before the family of those killed were to find out their fate. How tragic this must have been for all concerned. Not knowing whether their son, brother, father, uncle or grandchild was alive or dead!

During 2011 the “Rabaul and MVM Society” in Australia, were pro-active in seeking recognition for all those who lost their lives and constructed a Memorial in Canberra. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neal contributed $100,000 towards a work, that will be constructed at the Memorial next year.

My role, as our family historian, is to preserve Toss’ existence in our family history.

Arthur “Toss” PARKER’S parents were Arthur John PARKER and Rhoda Prudence ‘Winifred’ GREEN.

To my knowledge, Arthur and Winifred never married although through the Electoral Rolls I have found them living together 1930 and 1933 at 44 Selwyn Street, Paddington. After this date, they separated. Arthur was then living at 30 Bellevue Street Arncliffe with Alice’ Eva’ PARKER and

Winifred is living at 32A Burton Street, Surry Hills. Although Winifred married Vladimir Faddeyeff in 1943, she continued to live at the same address until, according to the electoral roll, 1963. Toss had stated this address as his residence on his enlistment papers. Perhaps Winifred could not bear to leave her address in case Toss came home looking for her!

My mother, Joan Thomas, remembers the boys visiting their father and Eva at Arncliffe. She also recalls visiting Winifred. My grandmother, Margaret Thomas, Arthur’s sister, often visited Winifred who worked in a cake shop or cafeteria in Sydney.

Toss also had a brother Eric Parker who joined the forces on 5 January 1942, he was discharged 19 December 1945. Eric married Kathleen Little on 22 September 1945 at Auburn. I believe they had two daughters, Janette and Aileen. Eric and Kathleen divorced in October 1958.

Toss’ father died on 12th April 1946 aged 50 years, and I wonder if it was the stress and or the news of hearing that his son was never to return, caused his death!

Lest we forget!


Selby, David. Hell And High Fever. 1956 Currawong Publishing Co. P/L. Sydney.

Alpin, Douglas. Rabaul 1942. 1994 Pacific Press. ISBN 1 875150 02 01

Reeson, Margaret. Whereabouts Unknown. 1993 Albatross Books. Sutherland ISBN 0 7324 1033 7

Reeson, Margaret. A Very Long War. 2000 Melbourne University Press ISBN 0 522 84909 1

Remembering The War In New Guinea

Lost Lives-The Second World War and the islands of New Guinea

The Montevideo Maru. Lost at Sea, Lost from Australian History.


Statement by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel, the Hon Alan

Griffin, MP. Statement on the loss of the Montevideo Maru 21 June 2010

Click to access maru.pdf



Arthur John PARKER. 1896-1946.

Arthur John PARKER. Regimental Number: 1687A- WW1.

UTAS Families at War Assignment HAA 007 April 2017. Marg Hope.



Arthur Parker Centre c1918

This photo was taken overseas about 1917. Arthur Parker centre.

 Arthur John Parker was born in March 1896 at Carcoar, New South Wales. He went to war as a young adventurous boy. He seized the opportunity to see the world and gain a lifetime experience he would never be able to afford. 

Just hours after Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 The Sydney Morning Herald told their readers that Australia would support the British. The headlines read; “Australia’s Offer. 20,000 Men. An Expeditionary Force.”i     Arthur knew where his future was to unfold. He was just eighteen years old, and his parents were prepared to sign his enlistment papers, but he was too short to enlist. He was a country boy born in Carcoar, New South Wales. Arthur craved adventure and yearned excitement of the unknown. He had a mission, but he did not meet the height regulations, yet. 

Finally, during June 1916 height restrictions came within his limits. Aged nineteen years and nine months he had reached five feet two inches. Arthur’s dream had come true; he lost no time with enlisting on December 16, 1915, at Lithgow, New South Wales. ii 

Arthur’s enlistment papers were signed by both parents, giving him permission to join the Army. He marched off to Bathurst, New South Wales for training and was later assigned to 45th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement unit. 

After six weeks of training, the excitement was aroused in Arthur when news came of his embarkation for active service abroad. He was on board the HMAT A40 Ceramic when it sailed from Sydney on 14 April 1916 with 2,096 comrades iii. As per his records, Arthur disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt to join the British Expeditionary Forces on 6 June 1916. It is here he would have trained in preparation of active service. 

It appears that Arthur had a setback when he reported sick from the 12th Training Battalion to Codford Hospital, suffering from scabies. For the next eight months, Arthur was in and out of hospital fighting his infectious disease. iv. 

He celebrated Christmas 1917 in England and two days later Arthur proceeded overseas to France. The next day he marched into Havre, France. 

“Australian soldiers arriving in France, whether reinforcements or “casuals” (those returning from hospitals), went to Base Depots before deployment to the front. All drafts, although they had already passed in England as fully trained, were subjected to further tests, a strict medical check, and at least ten days of additional training.”v 

On New Year’s Eve Arthur was taken on strength with 56th Battalion and marched into camp at Panehem, Tigry, France. Here the troops were trained and lectured while entertaining themselves with games of football and other competitive sports until they received their move orders on 28 January 1918. They proceeded to Hollebeke Sector, Belgium where they relieved the 3rd Battalion on 31 January. Here, they stayed in the trenches until they were relieved on 20 February by the 53rd Battalion. Two days later Arthur was admitted to an Australian Dermatological Hospital Station with Trench Fever. 

He re-joined his battalion on 8th May at Villers-Bretonneux Sector. On 20 May, his Battalion relieved 54th Battalion in the trenches at the Hamel Sector. On 26 June 1918 Arthur was appointed to Water Point Duty. 

On 10 July Arthur’s Battalion was involved in the successful action against the enemy around the Somme as per the 56th Battalion war diaries. The next entry in his dossier states he re-joined the 56th Battalion on 17 July at Bray Sector where there was enemy action taking place. By the end of July, the Battalion was on the move again and on 1 August they were at Poulainville where the men were being allowed to rest as much as possible when; “During the evening warning order was received to the effect that the brigade would move forward on the 4/5 August. On 6 August, they arrived at their destination in dug-outs and shelters in a bank along the east of the river Somme near Daours at 1.30 a.m.” vi 

On the morning of September 1, they were at Peronne. The order came to attack. They gained ground on the Germans until 7 a.m. the next morning, September 2, when machine-gun fire barraged the advance. They suffered heavy casualties. Arthur was ‘WOUNDED IN ACTION’. vii. 

He suffered shrapnel wounds to his arms, legs, head and right foot. The following day he was transferred to the 6th General Hospital, Rouen in France. From here, he was transported to England via the hospital ship H.M. Grantully Castle. The next day he was admitted to the War Hospital, Exeter, England where he stayed for approximately three months recuperating. 

It is while he was in the hospital he sent a postcard, viii, to his youngest sister, my grandmother, showing a photo of ‘Knightshayes Court’, Tiverton, a stately home taken over by the Military to accommodate the wounded. In part, his correspondence read; 

“the photo on the front of this card is the house I am in the hospital and it is a lovely house too, I have been enjoying myself since I came here, the town is about a mile and a half away but I walk it nearly every day. I am getting quite well now, those bad Germans wounded me, but I will go back and give them some more.” 

Mid-December 1918, he was ready for discharge and transferred to the Third Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford. Here, he was granted furlough on 17 December 1918 and was to report to No. 1 Command Depot, Sutton Veny on 2 January 1919. 

It is apparent that he overstayed his leave and was listed AWL, in Bristol. 

He forfeited three days pay.

i. ‘Australia’s Offer’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 August 1914, p. 9. 

ii.  Service Record of Arthur John Parker, p. 1, B2455, National Archives of Australia. 

iii.  Australian War Memorial, ‘WW1 Embarkation Rolls’., Accessed 26 April 2017. 

iv.  Service Record of Arthur John Parker, p. 25. 

v.  Springfield College Digital Collections, ‘Australian General Base Depot in Havre, France’, Accessed 29 April 2017. 

vi. Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries, 1914-18 War, 56th Infantry Battalion August 1918, Item number: 23/73/31, p. 2. 

vii. Service Record of Arthur Parker, p. 14. 

viii. Arthur J Parker to Margaret J Parker, postcard, October 1918, Margaret Hope, Private Collection, Tasmania. 

Arthur left England to return to Melbourne, Australia per H.M.T. Delta on 24 January 1919. On 9 May 1919 Arthur was discharged from the A.I.F., medically unfit. 

There is no paper trail, like his war records, that traces his life from then on, but it appears he becomes restless. He married Ruth Williams in October 1920. They later separated, but evidence has not been found indicating they divorced. He then lived with Rhoda Green, who was a local girl from his childhood town in Leadville, New South Wales. Arthur adopted two boys who lived in this relationship. One of these boys was also named Arthur. He enlisted in World War 2 aged 18 years old. He did his service in New Guinea, and when the Montevideo Maru sunk, he was listed on board and drowned. 

Arthur found out about his death in September 1945. The family believe he died of a broken heart on 12 April 1946. 

Lest We Forget!


AIF Project, ‘Australian ANZACS in the Great War 1914-18’, 

Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries, 1914-18 War, Infantry, Item No: 23/73/25 Title: 56th Battalion. 

Fitzsimons, Peter, Fromelles & Pozieres, North Sydney, Random House Australia Pty. Ltd, 2015. 

Service Record, B2455, National Archives of Australia.

Springfield College Digital Collections, ‘Australian General Base Depot in Havre, France’, Accessed 29 April 2017. 

The Sydney Morning Herald. 

Times Books, Atlas of the World, London, Times Books, 2001.