At the end of war and following revelations of the most horrific atrocities against all POWs undertaken by their Japanese and Formosan guards at Sandakan resulting in no survivor – only 6 prisoners had managed to successfully escape with brave assistance of the local population- the Australian Government decided the truth should not be revealed, probably to prevent the distress of families and the affects on Australian population at that time.
We know there was at least one journalist at Sandakan about this time. The Government ensured he would not have any information printed in Australia and from there no other revelations were released. T’hen of course there were the Grave Recovery Parties, and the 6 survivors themselves who gave the damning evidence to the War Trials. All but one were so ill they were unable to be present at the trials for any length of time.
The families could well have been informed details – the War trials were under way – but all they received were communications informing them their loved one had died, date and ‘no other details are known’. There would have been so many untrue stories and speculative theories about Sandakan because certainly there were numbers of Australians who were involved – the former POWs themselves, those involved in Recovery Parties, etc. Family members went to their graves always fearing what had happened to their sons, husbands, brothers – not knowing was worse than knowing the truth.
Families joined forces in Sydney, backed by 8th Division demanding they be informed of any details. But the Government did not relent.
The following are some of the few early newspaper reports, this information is all that families had to rely on.
The following story was also printed in Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ on same day.
6 December, 1945