The 2/22nd Australian Infantry Battalion was raised in July 1940 for service in the Second World War. In 1941 they deployed to Rabaul, New Britain, where they combined with several other units to form Lark Force. They were responsible for protecting the vulnerable airbases at Lakunai and Vunakanau, New Britain.
Already under-equipped, Japanese bombings in January 1942 destroyed most of Lark Force's assets. They withdrew from Rabaul and awaited the inevitable Japanese landings. The superior numbers of the Japanese soon overwhelmed their defences, and the order was given to retreat. Lark Force disintegrated and tried to escape.
A small number of men would escape via boats they found in the New Guinea area. Approximately 160 Australians were captured and then massacred at Tol Plantation. 836 men - the majority of Lark Force - were either captured or surrendered to the Japanese.
Many of these men would go on to die in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru transport ship. Unmarked, there was no way to know it was carrying 1,053 prisoners and civilian internees to Hainan Island. On 1 July 1942, the Montevideo Maru was sighted and torpedoed by the submarine USS Sturgeon. It sank in 11 minutes, killing all prisoners on board.
- Shrine Governor Colonel John Coulson OAM RFD ED
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Reviewed 07 January 2021