"The last time I saw [my nephew] Dickie, he would have only been, I don't know, eight or nine. The word we got in the end was [the family] had all been … assassinated."

Graham Manson, Australian civilian survivor of the invasion of Rabaul. Read more of his story

The south-eastern quarter of the island of New Guinea was colonised by Britain in the late 1800s. It came under Australian rule in 1905. The Territory of New Guinea was a German colony until 1919. It became Australian territory under a League of Nations mandate after Germany's defeat in the First World War.

As a result, there were many Australians living in towns such as Port Moresby, Rabaul, Lae, Salamaua and Madang. After Japan entered the war in 1941, the Australian government evacuated women and children. But Australian soldiers and civilian men were not given the option to leave. On 23 January 1942, Japanese forces invaded Rabaul, in northern New Guinea. Within six months of the invasion, at least 1,200 Australian soldiers and civilians were dead. Some were killed in battles and 160 were killed in the Tol Plantation massacre.

On 3 February, Japan began bombing Port Moresby in preparation for a seaborne invasion. On 15 February, the Australian civilian government was replaced with military rule. The military government was known as the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU).

ANGAU continued to exercise its authority in areas the Japanese did not occupy. But its main responsibilities were organising land and labour for the war effort. It recruited, organised and supervised local labour for the Allied forces. ANGAU also had administrative responsibility for the Pacific Islands Regiment.

Major General Basil M. Morris helped establish ANGAU and later became its commanding officer. He was a career army officer who had also served in the First World War. He oversaw ANGAU for the rest of the war, retiring from the army in 1946.

Image caption
Portrait of Major General Basil M. Morris DSO, General Officer Commanding, Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), sitting at his desk, Port Moresby, 8 July 1944.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 100525. Photo by R.A. MacDonnell.

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