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NDL News article 17/02/2018 Tamworth RSL Sub Branch


Tamworth remembers the Sandakan Death Marches. Photo: Peter Hardin.


Tamworth remembers the Sandakan death marches at war memorial

By Jamieson Murphy - February 17, 2018

IN 1943, Corporal Jim Darlington, a Barraba boy and an army champion heavyweight boxer, was held captive at the infamous Sandakan prisoner of war camp. One fateful day, he leapt to the defence of a fellow POW, who was being assaulted by a guard.

For his efforts, guards beat Corporal Darlington with pick handles, breaking his arm and knocking him unconscious, and he was later shipped away to Kuching for trial – which may have saved his life.

While Corporal Darlington suffered horribly, he was one of the lucky ones to avoid the Sandakan death marches.

On Thursday, the Tamworth RSL sub-branch stopped to commemorate the fall of Singapore’s 76th anniversary and the terrible tragedy that befell the Australian soldiers captured during the battle.

RSL sub-branch president Bob Chapman said the Sandakan death march was one of the greatest atrocities every inflicted on Australian soldiers.Tamworth is one of 11 cities to have a memorial dedicated specifically to Sandakan death marches. “That’s why we make a concerted effort every year to honour the service and death of all those poor bloody soldiers,” Mr Chapman said.

The story of the Sandakan death marches is not as well known as the tales of the Kokoda Track or the Rats of Tobruk, they are no less horrifying. By late 1944, with Allied forces advancing toward Borneo, the Japanese decided to send about 2000 Australian and British prisoners westward to Ranau, in Borneo’s rugged interior.

Weak and sick prisoners staggered for about 260 kilometres along jungle tracks, with little to no rations. Many died on the way, their bodies never recovered. Those unable to continue were killed, while those too weak to march had been left behind in Sandakan, where all died or were killed.

Of all the soldiers who set out on the gruelling journey, only six Australians survived when they managed to escape into the jungle. But this was enough to bear witness to what had happened to their comrades, Tamworth RSL sub-branch junior vice president Anne Lane said. “They were alive to testify in court against their tormentors and to ensure that the world received eyewitness accounts of the crimes and atrocities committed both at Sandakan and on the death marches to Ranau,” Ms Lane said.



"Lest We Forget"