WX8818 Edward James (Teddy) KEATING 2/6th Field Park RAE (Sappers/engineers)
This story was included in the address by Cheryl Mellor at Boyup Brook Sandakan Service, 2019.
Ted Keating father to the late Steffoni Brackenbury, an active, charming and respected member of Ex-POW Association, enlisted from the Goldfields as did Mr Ron Badock from 2/4th MGB who passed away December 2016, just short of his 98th birthday.
Ron was a marvellous source of battalion history. He visited Boyup Brook every year, his children continue the family tradition and we have his daughter Cheryl Johnson and her husband Graeme here today.
Talented footballers, Ron and Ted were part of a large contingent of men boarding the train from their hometown of Norseman to Perth after receiving their ‘Notice to Attend for Enlistment’ advising them to report to Norseman Railway Station 10.00am 8th October 1940.
The train was filling with new enlistments, previously employed in the mines. They knew each other, or knew their families, played footy together, drank together, etc.
The train may well have come from as far away as Esperance, through Salmon Gums to Norseman, stopped at Widgiemooltha through to Kalgoorlie and onto Perth.
By the time the train reached Coolgardie, the very thirsty mob had drunk the bar dry.
Of course there was no air-conditioning in 1940 – October weather can be pretty warm and dry in the Goldfields and certainly those small carriages with their hand-push-up small windows were hot when filled to capacity.
As the stream driven train began to pull out of Coolgardie station, Ted Keating, 6’6” tall, a strongly built young man of 16 stone came running down the platform, carrying a 5 gallon keg on his shoulder – his contribution to satisfy the boys on board suffering from dry throats.
Great applause greeted the gregarious and talented footballer from Norseman. The men of the Goldfields showed their appreciation with whistling and loud shouting to honour his amazing effort to keep them supplied in liquid amber.
With a huge smile on his face, Ted was quickly assisted on board the carriage.
Keating went to Sandakan with ‘E’ Force from Singapore. On the ship ‘de Klerk‘ there was a large number of POWs plannng- to -escape. There was even talk of taking over the ship until senior officers quashed the idea.
Ted Keating father of two children, aged 36 years died 11 Feb 1944 from excessive beatings and torture received at Kutching Prison whilst waiting for his trial over his involvement in an escape plan at Sandakan.
Keating had originally planned to escape with Lt Charlie Wagner and three of Keating’s friends (believed to include Don Marshall and ‘Snowy’ Jensen) Wagner changed his mind and left with Lt Rex Blow in an earlier escape leaving Keating and his mates fuming.
Keating had delayed his escape until Blow’s party was able to notify Sandakan of their success in reaching the Philippines. There were numerous parties planning escapes and waiting to depart.
Keating had a dreadful tropical ulcer and had developed dysentery on the ship’s journey to Kuching. His condition deteriorated.
(information from “Bastard behind the Lines’ the Story of Jock McLaren’s escape from Sandakan by Tom Gilling)
Jock McLaren was one of the those in the successful 8-man escape party which arrived in the Philippines. He remained fighting as a guerrilla throughout the war.
Charlie Wagner was a former Sydney bookmaker who had served in the Militia before his posting to Malaya with AIF Feb 1941. As an intelligence sergeant who spoke fluent Malay and played a crucial part in an ambush of Japanese and penetrated enemy lines to gather information about Japanese positions. Wagner later returned to the area, managing to help bring out survivors – for which he awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Five days before surrender he was commissioned Lieutenant.