Remembering OW service

In November 2022, Philip Powell (OW1973) and Rod Thorpe (OW1973) visited the graves and memorials of OWs at Port Moresby (Bomana), Lae (pictured above) and Rabual, who died on active military service in Papua New Guinea.
Port Moresby (Bomana) cemetery PNG

During WWII, OWs served in a wide range of roles on the land, air and sea of PNG.  A small number also served in ANGAU, the civil administration service.

The men who died were coast-watchers, air force pilots and soldiers on the ground, including two who died in Bougainville operations in 1944-45.  Of course, many OWs survived their war service, although many would suffer from tropical diseases and injuries.

Some OWs were with Lark Force on Rabual, which was the first Australian territory to fall to the Japanese in January 1942. One OW was killed on the first day’s conflict and two subsequently died as prisoners of war when the Montevideo Maru was sunk on 1 July 1942 on transit to Japan. At least four OW Lark Force officers survived PoW camps in Japan.

Our two senior military men who served in this region were Major-General George Vasey (OW1907) who led the 7th Division, October 1942 to July 1944, and Major-General Edward Milford (OW1908) who lead the 5th Division in 1943 and replaced Vasey in command of the 7th Division, after Vasey fell ill.

Ross Bastiaan (OW1968) plaques at Bita Paka cemetery Rabaul PNG 2022

In addition to visiting the cemeteries, Philip and Rod were in Kokoda for the 80th anniversary of its retaking by the AIF and spent three days at the northern beachheads – scene of significant battles in late 1942 and early 1943.

The names of the 19 OWs whose graves and memorials were visited are listed below. While images have already been provided to some known relatives, please email Philip if you would like an image. He would also be pleased to hear from anyone related to an OW who served in any capacity during WWII.

Contributed by Philip Powell (OW1973), author, historian, former Vice President of Council, honorary Fellow of Wesley College and regular contributor to Lion magazine

Philip Powell and Rod Thorpe OWs 1973 in PNG
NameYear* CWGC Cemetery
Fairfax, R. L. 1925 Lae Memorial
Bruford, A. P. R. 1936 Lae War Cemetery
Fenton, G. K. 1937 Lae War Cemetery
Forster, J. 1933 Lae War Cemetery
Gibson, J. D. 1933 Lae War Cemetery
Grainger, C H. 1928 Lae War Cemetery
Henshaw, D. L. 1933 Lae War Cemetery
Vial, L. G. 1919 Lae War Cemetery
Cox, C. M. 1914 Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Davies, W. J. 1934 Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Ekins, F. R. 1932 Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
McCarthy, L. N. 1929 Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Smith, K. H. 1934 Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Vial, E.G.1928Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Gordon, W. J.1937Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery
Lumby, G. C.1923Rabaul Memorial
Newton, E. J.1926Rabaul Memorial
Vary, D. L.1934Rabaul Memorial
Vincent, G. H.1933Bita Paka War Cemetery, Rabaul

*Year of commencement at Wesley

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