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Every plan of campaign ought to have several branches and to have been so well thought out that one or other of the said branches cannot fail of success.

-- Bourchet

World War II I have read several articles written recently regarding Sandakan and Australian prisoners of war held by the Japanese, and also the Death Marches carried out. Never once have I come across any mention of the further Australian action concerning our landing on Sandakan in Sept/Oct 1945.

I was one of about 1000 Australian soldiers, together with a small group of British Borneo Civil Administrative Unit (BBCAU), placed aboard two Australian corvettes, HMAS Deloraine and HMAS Latrobe, in Labuan, Borneo, and landed in Sandakan several days later. Our job was to round up the Japanese soldiers and place them in the compound, which had been specially built.

Each day, Australian troops would leave the ships around 4-5am, after a meal, and would march to a certain destination, where a number of Japanese troops would be waiting to surrender, and be taken to the compound.

One of my jobs was to attend the compound each morning and arrange to pick up Japs and march them to work. So many had been captured that when I asked for 15 or so, I would be forced to accept double the number, whom I would march back to the ships, and put to work cleaning. I can assure you that these people were not gently handled.

A most surprising thing happened to me, in that one of my prisoners approached me every day a number of times, speaking in Japanese, but all I could understand was "tomorrow, tomorrow". After I had procured an interpreter, I learned that this man wanted me to pick him up every day. Several days later we had a visit from a person who I was informed was a doctor, who had originally lived in Sandakan, and had been taken prisoner by the Japs. He had come aboard the Deloraine to identify Japanese soldiers. When he came to my "tomorrow, tomorrow" man, he called out to me to "Arrest that Jap!" When I asked him to explain I was informed that my prisoner was responsible for killing Australian prisoners of war. The doctor was one of several persons who were able to identify Japanese who were connected to the Sandakan PoW camp.

I immediately tied up "tomorrow, tomorrow", placed a noose around his neck, and stood him against a stanchion with certain intentions which we were unable to carry out. Later, during one of my searches, I came across a Japanese soldier who was a member of a marine Kamikaze unit, recently arrived from the Philippines. This person was the coxswain of a timber vessel, which had the bow loaded up with explosives, and was to attempt to collide with one of our vessels. One of these vessels was brought back to Australia, and is at present in the National Museum in Canberra. I relieved the coxswain of his flag, which is at present in the Victoria Barracks Museum, Sydney.

A number of Japs were charged at Labuan between the 3rd and 5th of January 1946.

There were over 5000 charged with crimes against humanity, and tried by courts established in Singapore, Moratai, Rabaul, Darwin and Hong Kong.

A Jap force several hundreds strong showed no sign of surrendering. An Australian force unofficially organised the Dyak natives, who were known for their chopping off of heads, to follow the Nips along the Trusan River area, from Brunei Bay. A force of 346 led by their Captain Fujino surrendered several days later.

In November 1945, I was flown back to Labuan by a Catalina plane, and remained at the aerodrome whilst awaiting a ship to Australia. I eventually arrived in Brisbane in December 1945, and finally arrived in Sydney on Christmas Eve.

Note: by Tom Turner


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Re: Mopping up at Sandakan
by Anonymous
on Oct 23, 2002

Interesting! What little I know aboout this came from a film staring Bryan Brown. The camp commander went free while a young Japanese Naval Officer was executed .Fictionalized I am fairly certain but like most Australian films , excellent .


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