The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Sydney Albert
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘D’ Company, No. 14 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- London, England
- Father's Name:
- Not Known
- Mothers's Name:
- Not Known
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Truck Driver
- Labuan War Cemetery, Plot 20, Row C, Grave 13, Age 31.
- Selarang Camp Changi
- ‘B’ Force Borneo
- Cause of Death:
- Place of Death:
- Sandakan No. 2 Camp
- Date of Death:
Syd Osborne enlisted AIF 10 Aug 1940 later joining 2/4th MGB’s ‘D’ Company No. 14 Platoon with Commanding Officer Lt Tom Tompkins. Other 2/4th ‘boys’ in this platoon included Percy Westlake.
Osborne was wounded in action at Ulu Pandan. Admitted to 2/13th Australian General Hospital on 16.2.1942 with shrapnel wounds to his back, shoulder and left buttock. Discharged to unit on 7.3.1942.
There were many 2/4th KIA or wounded at Ulu Pandan.
As a POW at Singapore Syd was selected with a Work Party to sail to Sandakan, North Borneo with ‘B’ Force Borneo. Bob Chipperfield was the only other Fairbridgian to be sent to North Borneo. In total there were about 70 ‘boys’ from 2/4th who sailed to Sandakan and perished.
Soldier was a Kingsley Fairbridge Farm Schoolboy arriving in Australia on 11/2/1924 on ‘Randall’ aged about 5 years. Osborne was housed at Jenner Cottage. It appears there may have been an older brother John Thomas Osborne, who arrived on same ship, he was 10 years old. Unfortunately this cannot be confirmed.
As was the policy, once 14 years of age, Fairbridge schoolchildren were sent to work in rural Western Australia – sometimes in remote locations, with accomodation for boys ranging from tin-sheds with no running water, sleeping in the loft above the shed housing horses/cows to farmers who offered a home/family. The latter being quite rare!
During 1935 and 1936 Osborne was working at ‘Woolgorong’ Station, Mullewa.
Sydney Albert Osborne married in 1937 to Irene Daphne Randall. Irene was a Fairbridge girl, arriving in WA November 1929 and housed in Wolfe cottage. At 14 Irene would have been sent to work as a domestic in rural WA.
The couple resided at Morrison Road, Swanview with Syd working as a truck driver. When the ‘Aquitania’ sailed for Singapore 16 February 1942 Syd left behind his wife and 2 young sons, Ross and Brian. Brian was not then 12 months old.
Sydney Osborne had extraordinary strength of mind to remain alive in the horrendous and unimaginable circumstances existing at Sandakan until 21 June 1945 when he died of malaria (according to Japanese records).
The first and second Sandakan – Ranau marches had left by the end of May 1945. The remaining sick and incapacitated POWs were, without any earlier warning, ordered out of their huts (their homes since arriving Borneo). Some were carried out – assisted by those POWs leaving with No. 2 March – others crawled to lay in the open dressed in a few rags, the fortunate with ground sheets, within the wired area without shelter. The Japanese then proceeded to burn every hut (and all records). We believe Syd was one of the last few 2/4th POWs remaining alive. He was 6’4″ and well built.
This brave young man fought hard to remain alive wanting to return to his wife and young family.
We today, can not begin to imagine how Syd and his mates kept going day after day. They had been starved since end of December when the Japanese ceased issuing food rations and forbidden locals trading with the POWs. They existed on their own stockpile of rice, which had dwindled. What did they have that kept them going?
After the war Syd’s body was recovered and identified with relic’s in a grave near Sandakan No. 2 Camp and reburied at Labuan War Cemetery. His Japanese death certificate records indicate he died of Malaria.
Following the end of the war, Irene Osborne remarried.
Brian remembers thereafter he and his brother were forbidden to talk about their father. Photos and any memorabilia disappeared – it was as if their father Sydney Albert Osborne never existed.
A delightfully smiling and happy Syd Osborne – this photo was for his WA Pay Book
WA. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of WX7634 Private Sydney Albert Osborne, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Australian Infantry. He was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of B Force. The 1494 POW’s that made up B Force, were transported from Changi on 7 July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru, arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18 July 1942. Private Osborne, aged 31, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 21 June 1945. He was the husband of Irene Daphne Osborne, of Swan View, WA. He is buried in the Labuan Cemetery Section 20, Row C, Plot 13. (Photograph supplied by the Army’s Soldier Career Management Agency. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Sandakan - Borneo ***