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Hell Ships

Montevideo Maru

Lark Force


Lark Force was formed in March 1941 for service in New Guinea and New Ireland.

 The force was raised in Australia under the command of Colonel John Scanlon.


It was deployed in 1941 to Rabaul in in the SS Katoomba to defend Rabaul’s two airfields, port and seaplane anchorage.

Lark Force was used as a forward defence line to observe and hold the 15 mile long line as long as possible against an attack.

After the attack on Malaya and Pearl Harbour, four Royal Australian Air Force Lockhead Hudson Light bombers and 10 Wirraway fighters were dispatched to Rabaul.

Japanese bombing raids on Rabaul began January 4th 1942, and by the 20th January Japanese Zero fighters had gained the initiative, being much faster and more manoeuvrable than the Wirraways.

In the early hours of the 23rd January about 5,000 Japanese troops landed on New Britain, being totally undermanned Colonel John Scanlon gave the order to retreat and disperse. Roughly 400 of Lark Force managed to march the full length of New Britain and escaped to Australia. The rest of the force were not so lucky, either killed or captured. At Tol Plantation on the Southern Coast the Japanese massacred 160 Lark Force personnel who had surrendered.

The officers were removed to Japan in the Officers Special Parties, leaving the ordinary ranks to be transported in the Montevideo Maru to the Chinese Island of Hainan.

It is estimated by the Japanese that 850 Lark Force PoW’s were on the ship.

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