Dorizzi brothers – Sandakan

Dorizzi Brothers
Dorizzi Brothers


Thomas Henry Dorizzi known as Tom (born 1914) Gordon (born 1916) and Herbert known as Bert (born 1918) were three of five sons born in Tooyay to Thomas John and Mary Ann Dorrizzi. The family remained living in Toodyay where their family home was the local gaol (heritage listed building and today, a museum). The boys were fortunate to reside in such spacious accommodation – each had their own gaol/bedroom!
The boys owned their own trucks and were part of the family trucking business “T.J. Dorrizi & Sons”.
Next door to their gaol residence the Dorrizi’s kept a large wood yard. A delivered load of split jarrah firewood cost clients10/-.
The remainder of the trucking work would have been with local farmers delivering hay, bags of oats, wheat, farming supplies, etc. During a return drive home to Toodyay, Bert was fortunate to survive an accident when his truck left the Greenmount road and rolled down the escarpment. Not only was Bert lucky, but so were his two passengers Tom and Gordon who had been seated on the back with a carton of beer! Tom (senior) came to tow them out of their predictament!
The Dorrizi family were active members of the community. They were part of the Toodyay Volunteer Firefighters, were keen sportsmen and members of the Toodyay Swimming Club, Cycling and Football Club.  For several years they shared ownership of a greyhound racing dog named “GoodTea”.


Bert who was unmarried but had a girlfriend was the first to enlist on 13 Au 1940. Gordon enlisted on 30 Oct 1940 and finally Tom on the 14 May 1941. Tom aged 27 years was married with a small daughter, Geraldine.
The Dorizzi boys were well able to look after themselves. Bert was also known as “Punch”. The  5 Dorizzi boys could rely on each other.
As a young boy, the 4th of the 5 sons, Robert Dorizzi was tragically injured during a climbing accident.  As a young man Robert whose injury had resulted in the use of a wooden leg, proved to be a ‘secret’ asset to the Dorrizi team.   Whenever they were caught in a ‘pub brawl’  Robert was able to detach his wooden leg to be used against opponents!
The lure of war probably seemed like an adventure to these young men.  What better way to see the world!
Gordon and Tom were to become Drivers in “A” Company whilst Bert was a Driver in ‘D’ Company Headquarters.
During the battle for Singapore Bert received a shrapnel wound to his head on 9th February 1942 however remained on duty. Tom received a shrapnel wound to his right leg during action at Buona Vista on 15 February and admitted 2/13th Australian General Hospital. He was discharged 23 February.
Following capitulation the 3 brothers were sent to Selarang Camp Changi.   Gordon and Tom remained here whilst Bert was assigned to Johore Bahru and Adam Park work parties.
Tom was selected as one of 36 men from 2/4th to depart Changi with “E” Force on 28 March 1943, travelling on a small tramp steamer “de Klerk”. “E” Force consisted of 500 AIF and 500 British POWs. Their first port of call was Kuching, capital of Sarawak. They rmained here for 8 days before moving on again.
Once ashore the Australians were moved out along Lintang Road to Batu Lintang Military Camp located about 1.5 miles south of Kuching. There were about 70 buildings built of swan timber with atap roofing each 100 feet long X 15 feet wide, raised 3 feet from the ground. Approximately 45 buildings were being used as barracks with the Australians being crammed into 3 of these.
Thereafter the Dorrizis would be using all their strength of body and mind to live through the daily horrors ahead of them.  They were amongst the 2,000 POWs who perished on the infamous Sandakan Death March. Except for 6 Australian men who managed to escape, all the POWs lived and died horrific deaths at the hands of the sadistic Japanese guards.
The First March (information from ‘Sandakan’ by Paul Ham)
Recently arrived at Sandakan, Capt. Yamamoto Shoichi, the man responsible for  First March confers with fellow officers chosen to command the march issues the following orders on 24 January 1945:
1)  The March to completed as quickly as possible,
  • 2)   within a schedule of 12 days to Ranau and 21 to Tuaran,
  • 3)  POWs to be treated with minimum attention considered necessary to keep them moving,
  • 4)  Officers and guards have no licence to kill the fit, but any prisoner ‘who could not keep up’ is to be disposed of’.
  • This is 44 year old Soichi’s first assignment dealing with the ‘white man’ – having arrived from Labuan, Jesslton and Kudat his is an accomplished soldier, and a veteran of Manchuria.  The only interest he has in the POWs is in their role as carriers of the battalion’s belongings.
Following Japanese capitulation, Tom and Mary Dorizzi were devastated to receive a telegram advising their 3 sons would never return to Toodyay, and worse they had perished under horrific circumstances.
The grieving Dorizzi family could no longer remain living in their family home filled with memories. The family left Toodyay.
When nephew Bernie Dorrizi (only son of youngest Dorizzi brother) and his wife Pam were invited in 2013 to attend a commemorative service in Sabah, they were told by locals the spirits of the 3 brothers had been waiting all these years for a family member to make a visit.
(The Dorizzis were one of two families in the 2/4th to lose three sons. Tragically the three Newling Brothers did not return to their family and Australia.  Read their story.)
Former Dorizzi home, now Toodyay Museum.
Originally Toodyay Gaol, former Dorizzi home, now Toodyay Museum.
Museum entry (door on right) from main building into courtyard.
Museum entry (door on right) from main building into courtyard.
Gaol Courtyard with cells on left
Gaol/Museum Courtyard with cells on left.
These cells were bedrooms for the 5 Dorizzi brothers.
The sign over one of the cells indicating the Dorrizi Memorial Cell.
Read the information about each of the Dorrizi boys