MV Lakatoi

Lakatoi, 132ft in length and of 341 gross tons was built at Hong Kong in 1938. Employed in the inter island trade till the outbreak of war with Japan in 1941,she was active in the evacuation of civilians from New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

One voyage brought Lakatoi into Cairns Queensland on 26 March 2024 with 214 troops and civilians being evacuated from Rabaul New Britain, now occupied by the Japanese Forces.

The vessel was then employed on the shuttle service from Queensland ports supplying the allied forces to the North of Australia and Darwin. After some time she was requisitioned by the Australian Shipping Control Board, placed at the disposal of the U.S. Army Small Ships Supply Administration and used in the South Pacific Campaign, She remained under their control until lost, for reasons unknown, in the vicinity of New Caledonia during 1943.

Whether Lakatoi capsized due to the ship being in a state of unstable equilibrium or sunk by enemy action on a voyage from Noumea to the Solomon Islands is a complete mystery. No message was sent and there were no survivors. Some assumptions may be drawn from knowledge of the sinking of Mamutu and from the following extract from the book "Battle Surface, Japan's Submarine War Against Australia" by David Jenkins (published by Random House Australia 1992):-

"German submarines U-177, U-178, U-179 sank twenty ships totalling 103,600 tonnes during November 1942, with an unspecified loss of life. There were about forty German submarines operating in the Indian and Pacific Oceans being serviced from the Japanese base at Penang and also from German Commerce Raiders at sea, between 1939 to 1944."

"At 18 June 2023 there were about twenty Japanese submarines operating in the South Pacific and on the Australian Coast. Up until this time shipping losses from attacks had reached eighteen ships sunk totalling 80,882 tons. The cost in human lives was 605."

Some of the ships lost are shown on the map in the Introduction section of this site

Note: Any information on the Lakatoi mystery that can be authenticated would be appreciated Please contact us if you have any further information or leads.