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Honored lost Norwegian war sailors

Thursday evening His Majesty King Harald attended an event commemorating a tragedy from World War II that has indelibly linked Australia and Norway for more than eight decades.


In April 2023, the wreck of the Japanese transport ship Montevideo Maru was discovered at a depth of 4200 meters in the South China Sea. Norwegian sailors taken as prisoners of war were on board when the ship was sunk on 1 July 1942. Last night descendants and relatives gathered to commemorate the lost war sailors at the Oslo Seamen's Association.

King Harald attended the memorial event for the lost Norwegian war sailors. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB

The 24 Norwegian war sailors were from the M/S Herstein - a ship serving the Australian government in the lead-up to the Japanese invasion of New Guinea in 1942. They were captured and later perished along with nearly 1000 Australians when Montevideo Maru was sunk off The Philippines.

Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Sturgeon, which was unaware that there were prisoners of war on board. The attack is considered Australia’s greatest maritime disaster. There were at least 14 Allied nationalities among those who perished. After Australia, Norway had the highest number of casualties.

Aase Charlotte Weel Stiansen from Sandnes had her uncle, Olaf Hansen, on board the ship that went down in 1942. Photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB

Around 50 relatives of the deceased war sailors attended the commemorative dinner. The organizer of the search expedition, Australia’s Silentworld Foundation, organized the event in Oslo in collaboration with Norway’s Centre for the History of Seafarers at War at ARKIVET Peace and Human Rights Centre in Kristiansand.

During the dinner, there were speeches by Silentworld founder and expedition leader John Mullen, Norway’s Minister of Defense Bjørn Arild Gram, and Bjørn Tore Rosendahl, leader of Norway’s Centre for the History of Seafarers at War. John Møller spoke on behalf of the families of the Norwegians who perished.

The families of the war sailors received a memorial medal. Photo: Liv Anette Luane, The Royal Court


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