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Army March 1, 2012
IT WAS an emotional return for six veterans of the
Malayan campaign who travelled to the Changi
Chapel to remember those who died during their
internment as POWs.
For veteran George Smith, who spent more than
three years as a POW at the Changi camp, the cer-
emony was a reminder of the suffering he endured.
"Usually I try not to think about it -- you get too
upset otherwise," he said.
"But this service is great. It's very moving to
Australia's Federation Guard mounted a cata-
falque party as wreaths were laid to honour the suf-
fering of the POWs. More than 22,000 Australians
were captured after the fall of Singapore on
February 15, 1942.
More than 100,000 allied POWs were crammed
into Changi camp, which was originally a British
Army barracks, after the fall of Singapore. Many
work forces were assembled in Changi before being
sent to the Thai-Burma Railway and other work
camps throughout Asia.
POWs suffered from hunger, food deficiency
diseases, malaria, dysentery, ulcers and extreme
exhaustion while imprisoned at the various camps.
More than a third of Australian POWs died as pris-
oners. For those who survived, many returned home
with chronic illnesses and injuries.
BACK TO GEMAS
AUSTRALIA'S Federation Guard marked the 70th
anniversary of the Battle of Gemas at the exact time
and place the battle began in Malaysia 70 years
ago.Eighty one Australians from the 2/30th Battalion
were killed in the battle, the first real contact
between Australian and Japanese troops.
The guard mounted a catafalque party at the
2/30th Battalion Memorial as the six visiting veter-
ans of the campaign watched.
On the morning of January 14, 1942, a company
from the 2/30th Battalion mounted a success-
ful ambush against the Japanese 5th Division at
a wooden bridge west of Gemas. The Japanese
troops were riding bicycles through a cutting and
over the bridge when the ambush commenced.
Following their success and as the ambush party
withdrew, the diggers found themselves encircled
by a fast-moving Japanese force. Though the situ-
ation looked dire, most Australians managed to get
through and continue on to Gemas, where the battle
raged on into the night and for the next day.
On the afternoon of January 15, having with-
stood continued Japanese attacks, the Australians
retreated to avoid suffering further casualties.
More than 1000 Japanese servicemen were
killed during the battle.
A DARK DAY
A CONTINGENT from Australia's Federation Guard
sounded the last post on January 22 as a mark of
respect for the 107 Australian servicemen killed
in 1943 after the battle of the Muar River against
Veteran George Smith, who was taken as a POW
and held by the Japanese for three years and eight
months, laid a wreath during the service.
"It has been very humbling to come back and pay
tribute to those who fought and died here," Mr Smith
"To see the current generation of servicemen and
women honour their sacrifices has made the occa-
sion even more memorable."
Members from the 2/29th Battalion, 2/19th
Battalion and allied Indian forces fought in the Battle
of Muar River on January 22, 1943, and retreated
when it became clear that their position was unten-
More than 150 Australian and Indian servicemen
who were wounded during the battle were captured
by the Japanese and kicked and beaten with rifle
butts and bayonets. They were then crammed into
a small shed and starved of medical attention, food
At sunset, the wounded prisoners were roped
together in groups and led away. A survivor reported
that they were machine gunned, doused in petrol
and incinerated. Of the 110 Australian men taken
prisoner, only three were known to have survived the
massacre, which has since been called one of the
worst atrocities of the campaign.
A memorial stands in the community park at Parit
Sulong near the site of the massacre.
mates: Veterans (front
row from left) Gordon
Butler, Roy Cornford,
(back row from left)
Derek Holoake, George
Smith and William Ennis
rest in the shade after
an emotional service
at Changi Chapel to
remember those who
died as POWs of the
Japanese during WWII.
Photo by Cpl Melina Mancuso
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