Young and old to remember sacrifice of Sandakan men

A YOUNG veteran will pay tribute to those who have served before him and made the ultimate sacrifice at today’s Sandakan memorial service.

The Sandakan death marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau, resulting in the deaths of 2345 Allied prisoners-of-war held captive by the Japanese during World War II. 

Only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped and were cared for by natives, and only four survived to testify of the brutality they suffered.

Tamworth is one of the few towns to have a memorial to Sandakan and the men who lost their lives.

The commemoration service is at 5pm today and the guest speaker is Corporal Ben Poulton from the 12th/16th Hunter River Lancers.

Corporal Poulton served in East Timor between 2006 and 2010. He will highlight how the modern army has based its values on examples of the older soldiers. 

“This is showing very well recently with Victoria Crosses that have been awarded and there have been deaths, but nowhere near the scale we’ve had in the past.”

Tamworth RSL Sub-branch president Bob Chapman said he wanted to involve young veterans in commemoration services.

“I want to highlight the importance of the service because our Sandakan memorial is only one of a few erected in Australia,” he said.

“Unlike most, if not all, memorials, many of the names on others are those who served, this memorial bears only the names of those who died at war.”

Mr Chapman said the stress and pain that their family and friends went through would have been enormous because they didn’t know they were prisoners-of-war or their fate.

“The soldiers also knew if they could not go on, they would be shot, beaten or bayoneted to death,” he said.

“This service pays tribute to them, their families and their memories.”

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