Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Malaysian Ceremony an Emotional Tribute; in the Lead-Up to Remembrance Day, Nicholas Falconer Remembers a Poignant Anzac Day Service in Malaysia Earlier This Year

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Sunday (Maroochydore, Australia)

Malaysian Ceremony an Emotional Tribute; in the Lead-Up to Remembrance Day, Nicholas Falconer Remembers a Poignant Anzac Day Service in Malaysia Earlier This Year

Article excerpt

IT WAS always going to be a time of mixed emotions for Bribie Island's Dixie Lee Stuckey and her son Matt Adams.

Dawn services at previous Anzac days in Australia and Gallipoli had always bought a tear to their eyes as they honoured Dixie Lee's uncle, Terence "Sonny" Waller, as well as Matt's father's great uncle. But this one was extra-special.

They were in Sandakan Memorial Park, standing on the very ground where "Sonny" had lived and died under captivity by the Japanese.

Dixie Lee's mum Carol, Sonny's older sister, had always said she had no wish to go to a place where she knew her younger brother had suffered so much - a sentiment that Dixie Lee understood fully, but one she had different feelings about.

"I feel we owe it to Sonny as he had such a short life and made an incredible sacrifice for his family and country," she said, glancing over towards where the barracks of Australian POWs once stood.

"His long period of captivity, like so many of his comrades and mates, is truly a tragic and courageous true story of a will to survive 'at all costs' in such a brutal and cruel environment."

Matt, who grew up with his great uncle's photograph taking pride of place in his grandmother's home and now lives in Grafton, agrees.

"Walking into the memorial park at Sandakan in the dark before sunrise to the sound of the Muslim call to prayer echoing from local towers through the trees of the old camp provided a sense of being a long way from home," he said.

"It was a very humbling experience."

His great uncle Sonny was in his last year of high school in Armidale when he signed up on June 1, 1941.

Like many others, he was a 17-year-old fudging his age for a bit of an adventure.

He was despatched to Europe but diverted to the Malay Peninsular and captured in Singapore.

Reports indicate Sonny died on June 5, 1945, at the Sandakan POW camp after more than three years of imprisonment, aged just 21.

His POW tags were found in a mass slit trench, indicating that he was not well enough to have taken the march to Ranau.

"Seeing the sunrise from behind the memorial obelisk as the bugle notes of the Last Post drifted through the jungle canopy makes you pause to reflect on what life must have been like for those men imprisoned at the Sandakan camp, looking after their mates and sharing thoughts of home until their last moments," Matt said.

Dixie Lee and Matt also visited the memorial park the afternoon before the dawn service and came away moved by the experience, walking around the park where Sonny no doubt wandered about, learning more about the role the local people played in assisting allied POWs during the war. Many died after helping the prisoners.

"It's amazing. I now hold a deep respect for the people of Sabah and their welcoming of us into their community," Matt said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.