Prisoners in Rabaul: Civilians in captivity 1942-1945

Gordon Thomas

Within hours of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul in 1942, Gordon Thomas and a party of civilians surrendered themselves and became prisoners.

Thomas and several others were put to work for the enemy, operating Rabaul’s commercial freezer and ice plant. Most of the other civilian and army men imprisoned in the town were doomed when they were put aboard the Japanese ship, Montevideo Maru, to be sent to Japan. On 1 July the ship was torpedoed by a US submarine off the Philippines with the loss of 1,186 lives.

The four men at the freezer were left behind and spent the next three years under Japanese rule – but not in a camp. They were under ‘open arrest’ in a building near their work but were not free to roam too far.

This book is a window into Rabaul during the bomb blasted years of 1942-1945 and a rare view of the Japanese soldiers in their own backyard, stripped of ceremonial veneer and artificial smiles. Here is a very interesting study of the Japanese and of civilian prisoner experience during the Second World War.

Soft cover, photographs, 266 pages.