Address for three Dorizzi Brothers & their nephew, Bernie Dorizzi – the late President, 2/4th MGB ex-Members Assoc (Est 1946), – BOYUP BROOK SANDAKAN MEMORIAL SERVICE 12 SEPT, 2023

 Boyup Brook RSL Sub-Branch hosted the Annual Sandakan Memorial Service 11 am, 12 September 2023



by Cheryl Mellor


I am honoured to have been invited to speak about Bernie Dorizzi 2/4th MGB’s late President and his three uncles who died North Borneo during 1945.  They were three of 71 men from 2/4th who died.
Our late President Bernie Dorizzi died unexpectedly 17 Oct 2022 aged 76 years following ill-health.  Bernie and Pam had been married 54 years and made a formidable team.  They had two daughters.
Born 1946 at Toodyay Bernie was the second born child and only son the eldest Dorizzi brother, Edgar.    His birth should have been a joy – shared by parents, grandparents and family, particularly in light of the three Dorizzi deaths in WW2.  He was he only Dorizzi grandson with two granddaughters.
Sadly, his mother spent long periods of time hospitalised following his birth, more than likely suffering from post-natal depression. His was a very lonely childhood. Bernie was the only boy in a classroom of girls throughout his primary school years at the local Catholic School.
As well as seeing the Nuns at school during the day, Bernie often had his evening meals at the convent when his father was late home from driving.  Edgar wouldn’t accept family offers to look after Bernie. Sadly there was not a great deal of communication between Edgar and Bernie.  When Bernie got to Toodyay High School – he didn’t know any local boys and it quickly became apparent he had learned very little at the Catholic School.  The nuns at that time were not trained teachers.  At 14 years of age, his father took him out of school to work for him, shovelling gravel, etc.
Bernie was pleased to leave school, he knew he was not an academic – but he worked hard for Edgar and soon tired of shovelling gravel.  At about this age, Bernie’s father gave him a rusting old tin containing the medals of his two uncles about whom he knew very little.
At 15 years Bernie’s jobs included cleaning the school buses every night (part of his father’s contract), driving the Dorizzi very old truck daily to pickup mail for his father’s mail deliveries.  His father mentioned the local policeman wanted to speak with Bernie.
A hesitant Bernie fronted up at the Police Station where the Sgt confirmed he was underage at 15 years.  The Sgt said he was impressed with Bernie’s truck driving driving skills and proceeded to write out a special licence.   He became a fourth generation Dorizzi truckdriver.
He later joined the local Toodyay Fire Brigade as has had his three Uncles.  Bernie excelled in all areas of competition and held every position within the Toodyay Brigade.
Fed up with his job and Dad’s gravel he hitched a ride to Northam where he asked for and was given a job at the local Beaurepaire Tyre Service.
At Northam he met Pam Christmass who would become the love of his life. They married October 1969.  His new father-in-law arranged an interview at the local BP Depot.  Bernie was a skilled and valued truckdriver often driving long haulage with three tanks.  During this time Bernie continued his long membership with Toodyay Fire Brigade.   He was now Fire Captain and he and Pam would frequently drive back for competitions.
In 1978 BP closed down the Northam Depot.  The entire staff were made redundant except Bernie who was offered a position in Perth.  His driving skills were quite unique and meticulously maintained his truck one could see their face in every part.  He was so valued by BP they funded the packing/moving of their Northam house contents and moved the family to Thornlie close to the BP depot and Bernie’s new driving route.   For the next 16 years Bernie drove the night shift leaving Pam to raise their two daughters, pay the bills and run the family home.
Living in Thornlie provided an opportunity for Bernie to march on Anzac Days with 2/4th.
It was at this time Bernie began to learn about his 3 uncles from the 2/4th old boys from and from Dick Braithwaite.
At age 14 Bernie’s father Edgar Joseph Dorrizi, eldest of the five brothers gave him a rusty old tin containing two sets of war medals.   His grandparents in their grief had burned all the belongings of their three sons who died at Sandakan or on the track.
Several decades later whilst Bernie was working driving trucks, he heard on a late night radio program (probably 6PR) a woman phoned into the program – she had found a set of WW2 medals in a children’s sandpit belonging to Thomas Dorizzi.  Bernie quickly made enquiries and retrieved them.
He now had all three sets. He was a very proud man.  How he loved to wear the three Dorizzi medals!
Thomas Henry Dorizzi known as Tom (born 1914) was named after his father and grandfather, Gordon (born 1916) and Herbert known as Bert (born 1918) were three of five sons born to Thomas John and Mary Ann Dorrizzi.
Thomas Dorizzi Snr’s father came to the Bendigo Goldfields before 1870 from the Italian part of Switzerland.  He married a Victorian born wife, had a family of 8 children most of whom were born at Kangaroo Flat 3 miles south of Bendigo, where he worked as a water-carrier   – an essential service providing water from newly constructed Crusoe Reservoir.
Bernie’s grandfather Tom came to WA with his widowed mother and several siblings.  Tom married Mary Ann Gordon.
With their five sons Thomas and Mary Ann resided in Toodyay.   Their family home for much of the time was the local gaol which today is heritage listed and now a museum with one of the gaol cells featuring the Dorizzi brothers.  This home provided spacious accommodation – each had their own gaol/bedroom!
Tom was last to enlist in May 1941.  He was father to a young daughter Geraldine. Tragically Tom & Nellie’s two month old daughter Daphne died Sept 1941.
The boys owned their own trucks and were part of the family trucking business ‘T.J. Dorrizi & Sons’.  Next door the Dorrizi’s kept a large wood yard. A delivered load of split jarrah firewood cost clients 10/-.  They had a school bus run and the sanitary collection.  It became financially necessary to expand the family business to Nungarin where Bernie’s grandfather had the school bus run and the boys with their trucks were contracted to Nungarin shire to deliver gravel for roads.  We believe Edgar, Bernie’s father remained at Toodyay running the business.
Bert was fortunate to survive an accident when his truck left the Greenmount Hill Road, rolling 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 predicament!
The Dorrizis were active members in the community, part of the Volunteer Firefighters, 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 ‘Good Tea’.  There is no doubt the ‘D’ Boys could be a wild bunch.   The first to enlist was Herbert ‘Bert’ was known as ‘Punch’.
Who would be mad enough to take on pretty tough five brothers?  The Dorizzis would fight as a team and protect each other.
The family needed to expand and sought work at Nunagarin carting for the local council and their father took up a school bus run when they enlisted.   It is believed Edgar the eldest remained behind at Toodyay to keep the family business ticking over.
As a young boy, the 4th of 5 sons, Robert Dorizzi was seriously injured during a climbing accident resulting in amputation of his leg.  His wooden leg proved to be a ‘secret’ asset to the Dorrizi team – Robert was able to detach and use as a weapon.
Gordon and Bert departed Singapore 8 July 1942 with ‘B’ Force Borneo to Sandakan (as did Reg Ferguson from Toodyay) where they would toil for 2 ½   years on the Sandakan airfields for the Japanese army.  Tom later went to Sandkan with ‘E’ Force.
Bert and Tom left Sandakan 28 January 1945 on the First March leaving Gordon behind at Sandakan No. 1 Camp too ill with Malaria.  The brothers would have said their farewells.
Gordon died at Sandakan on 11 Feb 1945 –  older brother Bert died on the same day at Sagidal, about 60 miles before reaching Ranau.  After Segindai the track which had been rising and falling since leaving Paginatan now climbed very steeply for next 7 km.  2/4th mate Bob Chipperfield died 8 km from Segindai on 11 February 1945.   Herb died on the same day 11 February 1945 1.5km further on the track and about 20 miles away from Ranau.   Tom Dorizzi was on same march.  He could do nothing for his brother taking Herb’s tags, intending to take them home to Australia.  Of course he did not know Gordon who had remained behind at Sandakan had also died on 11 February 1945.
Tom died about a month after the death of his 2 younger brothers at Ranau No. 1 Camp, on 11 March 1945 of beri beri aged 31 years.  Paul Ferguson from Toodyay also died Ranau d23 March 1945.
Eldest of the Dorrizi boys, Tom was last to enlist AIF 14 May 1941 joining 2/4th’s ‘A’ Coy, No. 6 Platoon with Gordon and his mate and brother-in-law Jack Baker.
Tom was married to Harriett Ellen Maude (Nellie) Smith, his brother in-law and close mate Jack Baker WX9367 married to Nellie’s sister. Jack who survived the war was one of Tom’s good mates.
The three Dorizzi  brothers were Drivers in 2/4th.
During December the Sandakan airfields which the POWs had been constructing for the past 2 ½ years were frequently bombed by the Allies then repaired by the POWS.    However the final bombing raid left the airfield in ruins.
During the first week of January 1945 their Japanese captors announced they would no longer provide rice rations to POWs.   They were forbidden to purchase food outside the wire.  They were preparing groups of men to march and carry goods.  The POWs were now eating into their own emergency stockpile of rice.
Bert and Tom left Sandakan on 28 January 1945 on the First March – both in different groups of 50 POWs.
There were few POW deaths at Sandakan until 1945.  Punishment was horrific with men being placed in small cages where prisoners were unable to stand for as long as weeks.  The guards brutal and sadistic. With the last Allied bombing of Sandakan airfields, IJA feared an invasion.  Plans were quickly decided to leave for the west coast and take with them all their supplies.  Of course it was the POWs who would act as carriers.  But the POWs were in poor health following nearly 3 years of captivity.  The Japanese plan included having all POWs die.  The Japanese provided no further rice rations from 10 January 45 and forbid men trading with locals.  POWs at Sandakan lived off rice that they had stockpiled.
The Sandakan POWs were starved to death.
Weak and sick prisoners staggered for about 260 kilometres along jungle tracks. Those who reached Ranau were then ordered part of rice carrying parties………….Many died on the way, their bodies never recovered.  Those who lagged behind were killed by the ‘Bash’ gang, some POWs were tortured before being killed and guards often stole their rations and whatever few keepsakes they had.
All but a small handful of POWs survived – 6 men whose evidence would hang the Japanese longest servin Commanding Officer of Sandakan, Hoshijima.     Sandakan became one of Australia’s darkest tragedies.
2013 was a highlight for Bernie and Pam.  They were invited guests to travel to Sabah and attend the Anzac Day Commemorative Service at Kundasang War Memorial, Sandakan to which Bernie proudly wore the Dorizzi medals. They travelled with the Premier’s School Group. It was here Bernie learnt from Mr. Sevee Charuks the Dorizzi spirits which had been so unsettled until this point in time, would now be freed by the visit of a family member.
When Bernie retired from working and with more free time he became a 2/4th Committee member.  In 2014 to 2018 Bernie was elected as Vice President and in 2019 was voted President.
He was clever with his hands, inventive and able to make things. Bernie who was the bloke who sensibly arranged construction of stands for our 2/4th banners arranged bags for flags – who would arrive prior to every service to set up for our convenience.  It was his wife Pam who did all the emails and communicating!
He loved to share a story, particular about the Dorizzi family and their trucking days.  He remained committed to the memories of the Dorizzi Boys.
 2428 POWs died throughout 1943-1945  (including all 641 British POWs). 
The Australian death toll of 1787 equals 99.75%.
Dorizzi Brothers

Above:  Pam and Bernie – Sabah



Below:  Harry Tysoe, President 2/4th MG Battalion, 2023 Sandakan Service, Boyup Brook (his grandfather WX9226 Harry Tysoe, died illness Kobe, Japan 1943).



Above:  Cheryl Mellor, daughter of WX17000 Frederick Noel  ‘Cowboy’ Matthews.

Above:  Sandakan Service 2023 – Boyup Brook –  Cheryl Mellor, 2/4th Historian (guest speaker) with Brian Osborne – youngest son of WX7634 Sydney Osborne, died Sandakan of illness 22 June 1945 aged 32 years.

Above:  In memory and with sincere gratitude to the 71 men from 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion who lost their lives during 1945 Sandakan, North Borneo.