The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Ronald Keith
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘A’ Company
- Place of Birth:
- Father's Name:
- William Moran, Stepfather - Charles Noel Cleale
- Mothers's Name:
- Charlotte 'Lottie' Olive Moran (nee Smith)
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Tractor Driver
- Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 21.
- Selarang Camp and Barracks Changi
- ‘E’ Force Borneo
- 3/8755 & 1827
- Cause of Death:
- Place of Death:
- Sandakan No. 2 Camp
- Date of Death:
This soldier may have been as young as 16 years of age on enlistment.
As seen below Ron was born June 1924.
He was the youngest of 2/4th men who died at Sandakan aged 21 years. He in fact died 3 days after his 21st birthday.
Below: In 1943 his mother receives happy news her son is a POW.
Above: the notice of Ronald Keith’s birth 25 June 1924 proves he was 17 years of age when he enlisted in July 1941.
MORAN, Private, RONALD KEITH, WX15386, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 28 June 1945. Age 21. Son of William and Charlotte Olive Moran; stepson of Charles Noel Cleale, of Subiaco, Western Australia. Panel 18.
Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.
Private Ronald Keith Moran was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held at the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred by ship from Singapore as a part of ‘E’ Force. The 500 Australian and 500 British POW’s who made up E Force, left Changi on 28 March 1943, on board the S.S. ‘DeKlerk’ arriving at Berhala Island (adjacent to Sandakan Harbour) on 15 April 1943. The POW’s were held there until 5 June, when they were taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were transferred to 8 Mile Camp, which was about half a mile from B Force compound. Private Moran, aged 21, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 28 June 1945. He was the son of William and Charlotte Olive Moran and stepson of Charles Noel Cleale, of Subiaco, WA. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 18.
The fact Ron survived until the end of June 1945 shows his resilience and sheer will to live. He died 28 June 1945 at No. 2 Sandakan Compound and his body found No. 3 Sandakan after the war.
War Recovery Units discovered Ron’s Paybook as one of many, under groundsheets at No. 2 Compound.
From the above facts we know Ron was not sufficiently well to leave with Sandakan-Ranau Groups One and Two.
Group 1 departures began 28 January 1945 and the POW selection was made by Japanese. The Party was split into groups of about 50 POWs with their guards, with departures timed so there was sufficient distance between each party that POWs could not communicate and remain isolated.
Before the departure of Group 2, the Japanese ordered all sick POWs out of their huts – their homes for the past 2-3 years. There was no time to prepare, and too many had to crawl out or be aided by mates. They were ordered to the wired off section of the compound, into the open ground where there was no protection. Some had managed to take their groundsheets, but they were poorly dressed only wearing Jap-happies, with little in the way of personal items.
The Japanese then set fire to all the huts. It was an attempt to also burn any evidence of Japanese records.
The Japanese had provided no rice since January and POWs were eating from their very meagre stockpiles which were now minimal. They were forbidden to purchase food and medicines from locals who had been threatened with terrible deaths if they dared to break the rules.
Group 2 Sandakan to Ranau began their departures 29 May 1945 he same way as above, only this time the POWs themselves decided if they were sufficiently fit. 536 POWs departed leaving behind 288 sick POWs. Many of those leaving were seriously ill and others did so with the aid of bush crafted walking sticks to assist them. The POWs began dying soon after leaving Sandakan, dying beside the track to Ranau.
Japanese records of Ron’s death include Malaria – but really the POWs died of starvation. That was the original plan of their Japanese guards – to not feed POWs and let them die.
Ron’s name is one of three AIF WW2 deaths on the Narembeen War Memorial.
His parents William Moran and Charlotte Olive Smith married Perth 1921.
His father William was a WW1 soldier, enlisting in 1915 aged 22 years. He became Driver with 10th Field Artillery Brigade, and possibly 4th F.A. Brigade. On 5 September 1918 he was awarded a Military Medal for bravery.
He was discharged in 1919.
Ron’s mother Charlotte Olive Moran remarried 1938 to Charles Noel Cleale. They had son Malcolm Ernst in 1939.
Ron had a sister June and another brother Alwyn.
Charlotte Cleale died 1982 aged 84 years at Gosnells. She was cremated Karrakatta as was her then husband Charles Cleale who died in 1977.
Ron’s family were never informed details of his death. This was the same for every family of those who died Sandakan. The Australian Government took the decision that the horrors of Sandakan were just too terrible. The Australian families and Australians generally should not know of the true history of Sandakan. Anybody involved with recovery parties, the Sandakan survivors and especially the media were placed under a blanket of silence with severe repercussions.
(The British Government adopted the same policy).
Australia did not learn the truth about Sandakan and how our young soldiers died until late 1980s onwards.
The families were never informed details of the men’s deaths – many they did not know, but for most the authorities knew. The War Trials had been and gone. The press were not allowed to report.
Parents, and in particular fathers, went to their early graves imagining the worst for their sons. This lack of silence tore the heart out of families.
In Borehole Bulletin January 1990 a letter received by 2/4th is printed from Rod Moran of Yanchep.
His uncle was Ron Moran WX15386.
He wrote the War Grave Commission in London nor the Army were able to provide Ron’s mother, who had since died, with any information concerning the circumstances of her son’s death or the whereabouts of his remains.
Nephew Ron Moran had written his letter to 2/4th requesting information – hoping somebody from 2/4th may know of his Uncle.
A note included by 2/4th says if anybody can assist to contact nephew Rod Moran as his included address and phone number – and the words:
‘Rod’s uncle apparently died at sea as his records show that his name is on the Labuan Memorial Panel 18.’
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Sandakan - Borneo ***
- Lintang Officers Camp, Kuching - Sarawak