Series 584 - Papers of Gordon Thomas

Identity area

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Papers of Gordon Thomas


  • 1910s - 2004 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

0.3 m (1 type 1 box, 3 albums and 2 posters)

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Name of creator

(1890 - 1966)

Biographical history

Edward Llewellyn Gordon Thomas, known as Gordon Thomas, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1890 and died in Sydney in 1966. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1917 but was discharged as medically unfit in 1919. After schooling abroad and working in newspapers in Canada, he moved to New Guinea in 1911, taking on a variety of jobs, including editor of the Rabaul Times from 1925-27 and 1933-42. He was living in Rabaul in 1942, the capital of the Australian United Nations Mandated Territory, when it was invaded by the Japanese and all civilians and military personnel were interned as POW's (Prisoners of War). Some soldiers and civilians managed to escape, but 106 Australians were executed in horrific circumstances in the Tol and Waitavalo plantations. Arrangements were made to ship the remaining POW's to Hainan, but Thomas and three others were retained to run Rabaul's commercial freezer and ice plant. Most of the remaining civilians and military personnel imprisoned in the town were doomed when they were put on board the Japanese ship Montevideo Maru, a freighter requisitioned by the Japanese navy. They were on their way to Hainan when the unmarked POW ship was torpedoed by an American submarine off the coast of the Philippines with the loss of 1054 lives. Thomas Gordon and the other men spent the next three years as POW's in Rabaul. Thomas' skills as a journalist became very useful to the Japanese, writing news stories and propaganda to assuage the locals into accepting Japanese rule.

The massacres that took place at the Tol and Waitavalo plantations have been described as the "one of the most callous atrocities of the Pacific War". (Max Uechtritz,, 5 February 2017). The remains of some of the executed Australians were recovered post-war and buried in Rabaul's Bita Paka war cemetery.

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Scope and content

This collection of documents and images relating to Gordon Thomas's time in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea includes correspondence with the Department of External Territories regarding persons lost on the Montevideo Maru and proclamations from the Chief of the Japanese Army during the Japanese occuptaion of Rabaul. Photographs from the 1910s and 1930s are of people and places in German New Guinea.


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Researchers must sign an access agreement

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Copied by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau:
PMB MS 36 Rabaul 1942 - 1945
PMB MS 600 Correspondence, diaries, notes, articles, speeches

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Prepared by Stacey Herder on 30 September 2016 ; updated by Christine Bryan on 16 January 2017 and 24 January 2016




1. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau
2. Webpage - Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude - - post by Max Uechtritz, '75 years on, shocking Tol Massacre forgotten in Australia & PNG', 5 February 2017

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