Sandakan brutality remembered
Relatives of soldiers who perished on the Sandakan Death March, veterans and the Boyup Brook community came together on September 9 to remember those who died.
The service has been held at the Boyup Brook Memorial since 1991 and is Australia’s first and longest running ceremony commemorating Sandakan.
The Boyup Brook Sandakan Memorial was established in 1991 by Ted McLoughlin, whose son Joe McLoughlin spoke at the service.
“It was basically built so people would remember his mates and that was the thing that motivated him,” Mr McLoughlin said.
“Back then in the late 80s there was virtually no knowledge at all about the Sandakan tragedy in Australia.
“He just wanted people to know how his mates died up there and bring that whole story, the tragedy, to the general public.”
“I can still remember the vehemence in his voice and the hairs almost stand up on my arms when I remember him saying people must know how my mates died and he was very emphatic about that.”
Alex Hack, whose namesake uncle died on the death march also spoke at the service.
“No one could imagine the suffering of my uncle who died there,” he said.
“Dying from evil brutality over three years is something that is hard to understand.”
The service was organised by the Boyup Brook RSL and president Colin Hales said the service was well attended, estimating that 180 people were there, including 60 students from local schools.
Students from Boyup Brook District High School participated in the service, with addresses made by the school’s Sandakan Scholarship winners for 2019 and 2020, Brooke Nield and Hannah Ivey, as well as performances from the school’s vocal ensemble and choir.
“It was a great privilege to be able to speak to everyone and give my opinion on what happened over there,” Brook said.
“It was a terrible time and the people who survived were very lucky and everyone else was treated very badly.”
“It was a great opportunity and privilege because there were people from all over WA,” Hannah said.
Principal Bernard Beatty said he was proud of the girls and the way that they spoke at the service.
“Their speeches were very moving and in particular for Brooke, who didn’t have the opportunity to go, she drew out from that the relationship to the current COVID-19 situation and how while we’ve suffered, these guys suffered so much more over there,” he said.
“It’s a little told story in the history of Australia, but 1700 Australians lost their lives on those marches that were just before the war ended.”
Before COVID-19, Sandakan Scholarship winners would tour Borneo and visit Sandakan, an experience sponsored by the Boyup Brook Lions Club.
Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman laid a wreath at the memorial and said it was was humbling to hear the stories of Sandakan veterans through the voices of their extended families.
“No one wants to dwell on the scale of the Sandakan tragedy nor the massive suffering endured by Allied soldiers, but we do need to stand strong in our respect ... of those who lost their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today,” he said.
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