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Army October 11, 2012
SOLDIERS from Rifle Company
Butterworth travelled to Sandakan on
the island of Borneo for a moving
ceremony at the memorial to the infa-
mous World War II Sandakan Death
Marches in August.
Eight members of 2/30 Trg Gp and
one Air Force member from 324CSS,
based at RMAF Base Butterworth, joined
about 450 people who travelled from New
Zealand, Australia and England to pay
Between January and August 1945
the Sandakan Death Marches resulted in
the deaths of more than 3600 Indonesian
slave labourers and 2428 Allied prisoners
Catafalque commander Cpl Werner
Schenk said he considered his duties dur-
ing the ceremony to be not only extremely
important, but an honour which words
could not describe.
"Despite being in the Army for 16
years I was ignorant of the sheer number
of Allied soldiers who were tortured and
died here," he said.
"The more information I received on
the death marches the more appalled I
"These men walked until they could
not walk anymore -- they died protecting
the weak from the strong.
"Their courage and sacrifice I will
now remember -- I wish I could have met
men of such calibre and spirit."
Of the 450 Allied servicemen in the
first death march between Sandakan
and Ranau, only one British and five
Australian soldiers survived.
By the end of the war, of all the
prisoners who had been incarcerated at
Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians
On the evening before the Sandakan
Day service, the soldiers where invited
to the mayor of Sandakan's mountainside
home for dinner.
Pte Lachlan Mitchell said hearing of
the atrocities first hand was a moving
"I sat next to a Malaysian veteran who
was introduced as 'Mr Phillip'," he said.
"In his broken English he recounted
his service as he aided the lucky few
Australian soldiers to escape from the
"His respect for Australians confirmed
to me the commitment and sacrifices our
troops provided then so we may live free-
Today the fallen prisoners of war are
buried in the war cemetery at Labuan.
Those who could not be identified, or
have no known grave, are commemorated
on memorials to the missing at Labuan
Pte Jeremy Martin said he was privi-
leged and honoured to be chosen to par-
ticipate in the memorial.
"Not only did I learn about Australia's
past war history, I was able to pay my
respects to those soldiers who made the
ultimate sacrifice and who never got to
return home," he said.
"Walking through the beautiful memo-
rial park, it was hard to believe it was the
starting point for a series of marches in
which only six men would survive."
Memorial service is an eye-opening experience for Butterworth soldiers
A moment's silence: Pte Lachlan Mitchell, of 2/30 Trg Gp, mans the Sandakan cenotaph for a memorial
service in August.
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