Robert Baker (Peter) MONFRIES MM

MONFRIES, Robert Baker

Service Number: NG2002
Enlisted: 22 February 1941
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 'M' Special Unit
Born: Tunby Bay, South Australia, Australia, 24 April 1913
Home Town: Tumby Bay, Tumby Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Tumby Bay - Grange SA
Occupation: Wool classer and owner of coconut plantation
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 21 January 1988, aged 74 years
Cemetery: West Terrace Cemetery (General) Adelaide, South Australia
Memorials: Tumby Bay RSL Portrait Memorials
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World War 2 Service

22 Feb 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), NG2002
16 Aug 1941: Involvement NG2002, New Guinea Volunteer Rifles
27 May 1942: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lance Corporal, New Guinea Volunteer Rifles
15 Aug 1942: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, New Guinea Volunteer Rifles
16 Aug 1942: Transferred Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, Transferred to Kanga Force (combination of New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and 1st and 2nd/5th Independent Company)
7 May 1943: Transferred Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, 'M' Special Unit , Transferred from Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit to 'M' Special Unit
7 May 1943: Transferred Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), 'M' Special Unit
7 May 1943: Transferred Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, 'M' Special Unit
4 Jun 1944: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, 'M' Special Unit , Sergeant rank confirmed after promotion to Acting Sergeant 4th June 1943 'M' Special Unit
26 Oct 1944: Honoured Military Medal, New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns, For courage and devotion to duty Hopoi July 1944. Medal confirmed 2nd March 1945. Presented South Australia 1947. Recipients address 713 The Esplanade, Grange SA
3 Jan 1946: Discharged Sergeant, NG2002, 'M' Special Unit

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Biography contributed by Cornerstone College

The Life and Service of Sergeant Robert Baker Monfries

Robert Baker Monfries – World War II veteran – was born on the 24th of April 1913 in Tumby Bay, South Australia (601km from Adelaide). Robert, sometimes known to others as Peter, was the eldest of three children born to Fredrick Ernest and Lilian Monfries. He had a younger sister named Margaret Baker Rymill (born Monfries) and younger brother named James Baker Monfries. He began his schooling at Grange Primary followed by his secondary education at St Peters College, South Australia. In the time after school, he moved to Lae, Papua New Guinea to establish a coconut plantation in partnership with his mate Robert Eustace Emery. Monfries had previously served in the Australian Army as a signal engineer from 1933 to 1943.

Before the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea in 1942, Monfries and his comrade, Emery were the first two to apply for enlistment. He enlisted in the Citizen Military Force (CMF) in Lae, Papua New Guinea on the 22nd of February 1941. Monfries was appointed to the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) for two years. When he commenced full time duty on the 16th of August 1941, Robert was 28 years old and single.

The NGVR was the only Australian army militia unit that was trained and sent overseas to fight in the mandated territory of New Guinea between 1939 and 1943. It was ordered by the Australian Army Headquarters on the 4th of September 1939 that the NGVR should be raised. The volunteers were not paid unless they were called up for additional service. Men from Europe, New Zealand, Asia, Britain and Australia that lived in New Guinea at the time joined. This unit helped to fight the invading Japanese forces in New Guinea. The NGVR were very successful in 1942 in fighting off the invading Japanese forces, however by 1943 not many of the soldiers survived, deeming the unit ineffective. Although, the knowledge of the remaining NGVR soldiers was advantageous and many were then attached to the Australian New Guinea Administration Unit (ANGAU). After this, the NGVR lost their identity.

On the 21st of January 1942, Robert’s brother James passed away in a plane accident in Uranquinty, New South Wales at the age of 21. He enlisted in the Australian miliary forces during WWII in 1940, the year before Robert enlisted. James then enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a leading aircraftman. The date Robert found out is unknown.

Robert was appointed to the Lance Corporal on the 26th of June 1942 and was transferred to the Kanga Force on the 16th of August 1942 after just one year of his service with the NGVR. The Kanga Force was a composite force that was made up from members of the NGVR, 1st and 2/5th Independent Company. He was promoted to Corporal on the 15th of August 1942. He disembarked to Port Moresby from Cairns on the 28th of January 1943 from leave. He was then granted leave without pay from the 7th of February to the 7th of March. It was then extended. He was granted more leave without pay from the 10th  of March to 31st of March. The reason for his leave is unknown.

On the 7th of May 1943, Monfries was transferred into the ‘M’ Special Unit. The ‘M’ Special Unit was one of two special units in Australia during WWII and was formed in 1943. It was originally under the command of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) followed by the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB). The AIB was divided into four different sections that was in charge of different operations. The ‘M’ Special Unit fell under section C. The unit was formed as a successor to the ‘Coastwatchers’ to carry on their work from earlier in the war. This work involved working behind enemy lines from long periods of time to collect intelligence on Japanese operations. Small teams were landed behind enemy lines by the sea, air or land to do this. The consequences of being captured and taken prisoner were severe. This was shown after another member of the ‘M’ Special Unit – Sergeant Leonard Siffleet – was captured. A photo of him being beheaded by the Japanese was publicised after the war.

On the 4th of June 1943, Monfries was promoted to acting sergeant. Between the 18th of June 1943 and the 25th of January 1944, Robert returned to Australia and went back to New Guinea a couple of times. The reason for this is unknown. On the 4th of June 1944, his rank of sergeant was confirmed.

Monfries was nominated for a Military Medal on the 26th of October 1944 for his devotion and courage to an operation in Hopoi, New Guinea. This operation was part of the Huon Peninsula/Markham and Ramu Valley/Finisterre Ranges Campaigns to clear Japanese forces from the north coast of New Guinea. Robert oversaw a beach reconnaissance party of Hopoi and later led the landing barges onto the beach, fighting with the initial wave of soldiers. His knowledge of the local area benefitted the operation. His recommendation papers stated that, “[he] displayed courage and devotion to duty above the average during the operations.”

He returned to Australia in early January 1945. This was likely for his wedding. Robert married Miss Majorie Jean Sheppard of Warooka on the 12th of February 1945.

Monfries was awarded the Military Medal on the 2nd of March 1945.

Robert was discharged to South Australia after his service in WWII. He indicated that he wished to re-establish his plantation and asked for assistance in relation to vocational training, land settlement and housing. He was also interested in completing a training course in radio engineering. Robert was presented his Military Medal in 1947 for his contribution and duty at Hopoi in July, 1944. At his request, it was presented to his wife. Additionally, he applied for a defence medal, but was not eligible as he did not meet the criteria of the award. Robert had four children with his wife, Marjorie.

Robert passed away on the 21st of January 1988 in South Australia age 74 due to natural causes. He was buried at the West Terrace Cemetery (General) in South Australia and is remembered in the Tumby Bay RSL Memorial.




Robert Baker (Peter) MONFRIES MM 2023,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>

‌Genge 2014, DVA’s Nominal Rolls,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Item details 2023,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Abbreviations used in World War I and World War II service records | 2023,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Advanced Search | Australian War Memorial 2023,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Trove 2023,, Trove, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

Wikipedia Contributors 2023, M Special Unit, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Wikipedia Contributors 2022, New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Wikipedia Contributors 2022, Kanga Force, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌‘M’ Special Unit 2023,, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.

‌Family History Search with Historical Records - SuperSearch - MyHeritage 2019, MyHeritage, viewed 7 May 2023, <>.



Figure 1 –       Unknown, 1945, Warooka, The Pioneer, Yorketown SA

Figure 2 –       Unknown, unknown, Lae location on map, Mission Lae, unknown

Figure 3 –       Unknown, 1941, Attestation form for persons voluntarily enlisted in the volunteer forces, National Archives Australia, unknown

Figure 4 –       Unknown, 1939, New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, The Age, Melbourne Victoria

Figure 5 –       Unknown, 1942, SA Victim of Air Crash, News, Adelaide

Figure 6 –       Unknown, 1944, Group portrait of twelve Allied Intelligence Bureau personnel. Australian War Memorial, New Guinea

Figure 7 –       Unknown, 1943, Sgt Leonard Siffleet’s execution, unknown, New Guinea

Figure 8 –       Unknown, 1944, Robert’s nomination for Military Medal, National Archives Australia, unknown

Figure 9 –       Unknown, 1945, Warooka, The Pioneer, Yorketown SA

Figure 10 –     Unknown, unknown, Military Medal, My Heritage, unknown

Figure 11 –     Unknown, unknown, Robert Baker Monfries, Australian War Memorial, unknown

Figure 12 –     Unknown, 1962, Defence medal refusal, National Archives Australia, unknown