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Cpl Max Bree
AMONG 80,000 Commonwealth
troops captured by the Japanese
as Singapore fell on February 15,
1942, was Pte Robert Saph, a for-
mer SP bookie from Beaufort in
country Victoria and future grand-
father of Maj-Gen Simone Wilkie,
the Commander of the Australian
“He ran a book while he was
on operations – the diggers would
bet on anything,” Maj-Gen Wilkie
Pte Saph served with 2/29
Australian Inf Bn, but his book-
making talents took a back seat to
smuggling food after Singapore fell
and he was forced to work on the
“They would sneak out, kill a
buffalo, cook it and bring it back
to the camp hospital,” Maj-Gen
Wilkie says. “He was in the cook-
ing party and was caught. He was
lucky to survive.”
Along with fall of Singapore
commemorations, a memorial in
the Garden of the Grieving Mother
was unveiled in Ballarat on
“Many people don’t think of the
impact on those back in Australia,”
Maj-Gen Wilkie says.
“A large proportion of the men
Surviving the fall
left and, in some families, all the
sons never came back.”
The garden sits on a block
where Maj-Gen Wilkie played as
a child, which was owned by her
mother’s best friend.
“She never had any intentions of
selling the block or building any-
thing on it, but when asked if she
would part with it for the purposes
of a memorial garden she said yes,”
Maj-Gen Wilkie says.
The garden complements
a number of memorials in
Ballarat, including the Australian
Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial.
Bookmaking experience would
have probably led Pte Saph to put
long odds on his survival, but he
returned to Australia after three-
and-a-half years in captivity.
“He used to wake up screaming
at night,” Maj-Gen Wilkie says.
“He was a very stoic man,
but he rarely talked about what
happened. Now there’s more con-
sciousness about the implications
of service during war, but in those
days many never spoke about it
until they had a reunion.”
Robert Saph died at Ballarat in
1971 aged 54 – his granddaughter
and future major general was only
“He survived, but he didn’t go
on to have a long and healthy life,”
T WAS a family affair at the
Australian War Memorial (AWM) on
February 23 when about 25 relatives
of WWI Victoria Cross (VC) recipi-
ent Pte Patrick Bugden visited the Hall
They were there to witness the loan of
three VCs – including their relative’s – to
the AWM by the Queensland Museum and
United Service Club Queensland.
The VCs awarded to Pte Robert
Beatham, Pte Bugden and Maj Blair Wark
will go on display at the Hall of Valour as
part of WWI centenary commemorations.
The loan takes the number of VCs on
display at the AWM to 81.
AWM Director Brendan Nelson says
the memorial is committed to displaying
as many VCs as possible in the Hall of
Valour during the centenary.
“It is impossible for us to fully com-
prehend the danger these men faced and
the terror they fought through in order to
defeat their adversaries,” Dr Nelson says.
Pte Robert Beatham
Born in England, Pte Beatham enlisted
in the AIF in 1915, aged 24, and fought in
France with 8 Bn.
The day after the Battle of Amiens, on
August 9, 1918, his battalion was involved
in the costly but successful attack at
Rosières near Villers-Bretonneux.
Pte Beatham attacked four machine-
gun posts, killing or capturing their
crews and allowing his fellow soldiers to
advance. He had already been wounded,
and was killed that day while attacking
another gun post.
Pte Patrick Bugden
Twenty-year-old Pte Bugden, a hotel
keeper from the north coast of NSW, was
posthumously awarded the VC for his
outstanding bravery at Polygon Wood on
September 26-28, 1917.
Serving with 31 Bn and held up by
intense machine-gun fire, he twice led
small parties to silence the enemy posts.
Five times he rescued wounded men
trapped by intense shelling and machine-
gun fire and, seeing that an Australian
corporal had been taken prisoner, he
rushed to the man’s aid, shooting and
bayoneting the enemy.
He kept fighting until he was killed.
Maj Blair Wark
Maj Wark had been a member of
the NSW Militia before enlisting as an
officer in the AIF in mid-1915, serving
with 32 Bn.
A year later he fought at Fromelles,
where he was highly commended.
In 1917 at Polygon Wood he was
awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Maj Wark’s finest feat took place dur-
ing the attack on the Hindenburg Line
while in command of the battalion at
Bellicourt in 1918.
He showed outstanding leadership,
often in advance of his troops, and was
responsible for seizing field artillery,
silencing machine guns and capturing
more than 50 German prisoners.
He survived the war and was active in
business and public affairs in Sydney.
He died suddenly, aged 46, while com-
manding a militia battalion during WWII.
The number of Victoria Crosses on display at
the Australian War Memorial now stands at 81,
Cpl Mark Doran reports.
Director of the Australian
War Memorial Brendan
Nelson and members
of Pte Patrick Bugden’s
family look at the new
Victoria Crosses on
loan to the memorial as
part of WWI centenary
Photo: Cpl Mark Doran
Maj-Gen Simone Wilkie and Kaye
Baird, mother of posthumous Victoria
Cross recipient Cpl Cameron Baird, lay
wreaths at the Garden of the Grieving
Mother in Ballarat.
Photo: Cpl Max Bree
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