As another ANZAC Day approaches I would like to share with you another piece of our families history. This year it is from my wife's family, the story of two brothers. Cecil Howard Toms VX37531 and Claude Hector Toms VX33107.
Born in the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, Howard and Hector as they were known to my wife's family immigrated to Australia with their family in 1925. They settled in the Kyabram district. They both lived and worked in the area with Howard marrying a local girl, Nellie Gartner and had two children. Hector never married and lived with family in the farming district of Ky Valley.
To be exact with their history I will quote from a plaque that was erected at the Kyabram cemetery in their honour.
"Both men enlisted with the AIF in mid 1940 with the 2/22 Battalion known as 'Lark Force'. Their initial training was at Trawool near Seymour in Victoria. On September 24th 1940 they joined with Gull Force on an historic march of 3000 troops to Bonegilla near Wodonga. This was the longest march ever undertaken by AIF units in Australia. As they approached each town en-route their salvation Army bandsmen would move to the head of the column to lead as they marched through the town.
They arrived in Bonegilla on October 4th 1940, where equipment was assembled and serious training was completed in the following five months.
On March 12th 1941, they boarded the HMAS KATOOMBA in Sydney heading for Rabaul, New Britian. They reached their destination on March 26th 1941, where the were occupied with setting up radio bases, observation posts, securing airfields and port facilities.They were posted there to monitor any enemy activity and also as a support for the local community. Art this time Rabaul was the capital of New Guinea, with a hospital, schools, a club, Government offices and a botanical gardens. Some soldiers wrote home describing Rabaul as "Paradise".
On January 23rd 1942 a large Japanese force of 20,000 invaded Rabaul and quickly defeated the small Australia Garrison 'Lark Force'. About 160 of the Australia soldier who surrendered were killed at Toll Plantation in February.
On June 22nd 1942 the Japanese ordered 825 Australian prisoners and 208 civilians to board the Japanese ship MONTEVIDEO MARU for transport to Japan. The ship bore no markings that it carried prisoners of war. The members of 2/22nd Battalion including Howard and Hector were among those on board.
In an unfortunate turn of events, on July 1st 1942 the MONTEVIDEO MARU was being stalked by the American submarine USS STURGEON in the South China Sea, unaware the ship was carrying prisoners of war, the STURGEON attacked and sunk the MONTEVIDEO MARU with more than 1000 prisoners locked away in the holds of the ship. There were no survivors.
The Japanese Government gave no indication of the tragic events, nor the tragic loss of life and took 3 years until the Australia Government informed families of the fate of their loved ones.
The sinking of the MONTEVIDEO MARU is Australia's largest maritime disaster".
War and conflict are things I cannot condone but on this ANZAC let us not forget the contribution and sacrifices these people made to give us the freedom to pursuit our dreams, we owe it to them, otherwise their sacrifice was in vain.
Rest in Peace Howard and Hector.
Lest we Forget