Sandakan Memorial Boyup Brook
The combined effort of 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion and the Ex-POWs Assoc. established a working Committee under the leadership of Bernie O’Sullivan from 2/4th to firstly ask Ted O’Loughlin would he be agreeable to having the names of every West Australian included on a larger Memorial.
And so it was that talks began sometime about 1992. Following the 1992 Boyup Brook Sandakan Memorial Service, hosted by Ted and his wife, the Committee began a very efficient campaign to raise monies from former POWs, and from families of those who died at Sandakan – there were several very generous individual donations. One which comes to mind was from Norm Ablett WX7622 2/4th MGB.
The Committee sought permisision from Boyup Brook Shire, Australian Government for Memorials and Corporations for financial donations and other support.
The driven Committee had new plans drawn up for the Memorial, ensured all the names were correct and included, and organised a splendid Commemorative Service in 1993.
Below: Ted O’Laughlin and Bernie O’Sullivan, 2/4th MGB 1993 Boyup Brook
Of the 130 West Australians who died at Sandakan 71 were from 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. Their ages ranged from 21 to 44 years.
Charlie Dunn WX8092
was the oldest – he died 21 March 1945 at Sandakan No. 1 Camp aged 44 years.
Charlie arrived in WA in 1925 from England. He worked as a farm labourer.
His tragic death left his young English-born wife Doris a widow, with three young daughters to care for.
WX15386 Ron Moran
turned 21 years old three days before he died 26 June 1945 Sandakan.
The Japanese had burned down all the POW huts after the 2nd March to Ranau was announced, 29 May 1945. The remaining 288 sick POWs, including Ron Moran, at Sandakan were mostly carried by their mates, some crawled out of their huts, their home for the past three years (there was little time to gather momentos) – to a wired section of the camp and left out in the open on the ground. Some had groundsheets, some did not. They were dressed in few rags. Some POWs later made humpies to shelter in.
The Japanese were deliberately and systematically starving the POWs. The sick men were living off the last of the dwindling rice storage which they, the POWS had stockpiled. They had been forbidden to trade with all locals for food since January 1945 – punishment for the locals and POWs was quick and brutal.
There was hardly a man fit to form the 2nd March Party to Ranau – so many could barely walk and were aided by sticks and their mates. The Japanese had ordered 536 POWs to leave their Sandakan huts ‘marching’ out in groups of about 50 men with their guards, leaving sufficient time between each group so they were isolated. It distressed them to leave behind their mates behind to slowly die during the last months of June, July and August 1945. Of course some must have hung on to the hope their camp would soon be invaded by the Allies and be saved. The burning huts had attracted attention from the Allies who by now were invading parts of North British Borneo – several spotter plans flew over. There were bombing raids with those on the march having to scatter for cover.
How the memorial of today, evolved.
This information has been copied from Borehole Bulletins commencing 1991 – the first year of the Sandakan Memorial Service organised by Ted O’Laughlin and held on his farming property. The event was a staggering success with people attending from many parts of WA and some interstate.
The 2/4th MGB established a working Committee of the Sandakan Memorial Trust was headed up by Bernie O’Sullivan with a plan to create a Memorial in Boyup Brook townsite. Donations were sought from several companies and from 2/4th members and other former POWs of Japan as well as family members of the deceased.
There were updates every newsletter and included 2/4th donations. Not all are donations are included here.
Borehole July 1993
Borehole October 1991
Above: Bernie O’Sullivan Boyup Brook.