Dorizzi brothers & Reg Ferguson – From Toodyay to 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 Dorizzi family leased the gaol premises from 1929 to 1942.
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”.
During the 1940’s the family had to expand and the three sons with father and mother moved to Nungarin where their father drove the local school bus and the boys employed by Nungarin Road Board carting gravel.  They enlisted from Nungarin.
Edgar the eldest remained in Toodyay running the family business and Robert unable to work with trucks because he had a wooden leg.


Bert who was unmarried but had a girlfriend was the first to enlist on 13 Aug 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 their memories. The family left Toodyay.
When nephew Bernie Dorrizi (only son of youngest Dorizzi brother Edgar) 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.
WX7999 Reginald Paul ‘Reg’ FERGUSON, b Toodyay 1913 with ‘B’ Force Borneo to Sandakan died at Ranau 23 March 1945.  Reg was 32 years old.
 Right:  Reg Ferguson

Reg Ferguson & family with ‘Gunner’ the mascot dog for 2/4th


Below:  Parents of Bert, Gordon & Tom are residing Nungarin in 1948.

2013 SANDAKAN ANZAC TOUR REVIEW – Written by Nephew Bernie Dorizzi
In April 2013, Pam and I were given the greatest opportunity to travel to Borneo/Sandakan for the Anzac Day Service. Also privileged to be part of and travel with the W.A. Premier’s Student Tour 2013. Students and teachers such a delight and so rewarding.
We had to part company due to the unrest and the Aust. Govt. warnings. The student group could only travel as far as Ranau; we however were able to continue on despite the Govt. warnings. We were very safe and protected at all times.
Arriving in Kota Kinabalou we then changed planes and continued on to Sandakan. Spent a few days in around Sandakan, visiting the 8-mile camp, War Memorial and St Michael’s Church.
The Anzac Day Service was organised by the people of Sabah and had only approx. 10 days or so to prepare the service due to the Aust Govt. pulling out. An excellent job well done.
It was very memorable and moving. I was asked to speak and lay the Aust. Govt. wreath on behalf of Australia.
Next day we continued on to Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary/Labuk Bay/Sandakan Heritage Museum/Agnes Keith’s House and a boat cruise around Berhala Island.
All very interesting places as they featured quite prominently during WW2, especially Berhala Island where the POW’S, women and children were interned. Some for the duration of the war.
We were guests at the President’s Residence for a large formal dinner function – a very extravagant affair indeed.
After leaving Sandakan, we had a long overland trip by coach and guide. We were able to visit the places along the way to see where my three uncles (The Dorizzi Boys) died – Sandakan/Sagindia and Ranau. The tracks and route through the jungle would not have been an easy task or pleasant one. One cannot comprehend the horrendous conditions the POW’S had to deal with, and the memory of this will stay with me always. Very moving indeed.
Finally arrived at Sabah Tea Plantation and the Sabah Lofty Tea Cottages where we spent a few days.
Catching up with the Student group and a concert by the children from the Plantation. Visited Quailey Hill/Cleary Memorial and an interesting tour of the Tea Plantation. A visit to the Fish Spa and then onto the Last Camp and Ranau POW camp.
From the Sabah Tea Gardens, went onto Kundasang War Memorial. Such a special and beautiful place and well presented and maintained by Mr. Sevi Charukas. Sevi said that the Dorizzi boy’s spirits were very restless and upon a family member finally being there at long last their spirits are now free and I must be free as well. Very emotional and moving experience!! Such an amazing adventure for sure.
Onto Kinabalu Park & Botanic Gardens, with lots of stops and shopping along the way. Even a mudslide on the mountain road kept us detained a little while.
Once we arrived in KK, settled in and it was more sight seeing. One of the many highlights was meeting up with Mr. Russ Ewan for a meal – A Changi POW.
A boat trip out to Gaya Island and Eco Resort built out over the water. Good work being done there.
We boated out to Labuan Island to visit the war cemetery. A very beautiful place with many memories.
Then a visit to Surrender Point and then a small flight back to KK.
We feel very privileged to have been along on this trip, a time that I will remember for the rest of my life.
The Tour was remarkable, thanks to Gwenda Zappala – Sabah Tourism Board and Robyn Cleaver who helped us immensely, especially during the unplanned final week, when I was in hospital in KK – but that’s another story!!