Locals who died as prisoners of the Japanese during WWII

VX21234 Neil Douglass was born in Preston on April 2, 1919. His family became farmers at Fulham and after the death of his father worked the farm. He enlisted in the 2nd AIF on June 3, 1940 and was assigned to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion. After service in the Middle East, he and the other members of his battalion arrived in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He was captured by the Japanese and ended up in Thailand where he died of disease on September 12, 1945. He was one of eight sick prisoners left to die without food or water by the Japanese. Neil Douglass was 24 years old.

Local people who died as prisoners of the Japanese during World War II

VX29172 Robert Holmes was born in North Melbourne on October 28, 1919. His family came from Mount Taylor near Bairnsdale. He enlisted in the 2nd AIF on November 29, 1940 and was assigned to the 2/29th battalion. After the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Robert along with the rest of the 8th Division was captured by the Japanese. He was sent to Borneo along with other POWs to work on airfields. Robert died on June 12, 1945 during the infamous Sandakan Death March. During the infamous death march, only six POWs survived from a total of 2400. His body was never recovered and he lies in an unknown grave. Robert Holmes was 25 years old.

VX30686 Clarrie Hawkins was born in Korumburra on December 6, 1901 and moved to Sale with his family when he was eight years old. In 1929 he was involved in a serious road accident which resulted in him losing the sight in one eye and a metal plate being inserted into his head. Despite these disabilities he was able to enlist in the 2nd AIF on June 6, 1940 and was assigned to the 8th Division Signals. After the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Clarrie along with the rest of the 8th Division was captured by the Japanese. Clarrie died on June 4, 1945 as a result of malaria and ill-treatment, by his captors during the infamous Sandakan Death March. Clarrie Hawkins was 43 years old.

VX129411 George Davidson was born in Sale on December 25, 1916. He enlisted in the 2nd AIF on January 31, 1941 and was assigned to the Fortress Signals Unit at Rabaul in New Guinea. He was captured along with the entire Rabaul Garrison by the Japanese in January 1942. George died on July 1, 1942 when the Japanese ship transporting him and other POWs to Japan was sunk. He was one of the 1,000 people on board who died. George Davidson was 25 years old.

VX44281 Albert ‘Blue’ Dewsbury was born in Sale on December 3, 1919 and enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on July 4, 1940. He was assigned to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and served in the Middle East. After Japan entered the war, his unit was sent to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). He was reported as missing in action on April 30, 1942 and word was eventually received that he had become a Prisoner of War (POW) of the Japanese. Blue Dewsbury died on September 12, 1944 when the Japanese ship carrying him and other POWs between Singapore and Japan was sunk. He was one of the over 600 people who died. Blue Dewsbury was 24 years old.

VX37649 James Brodribb was born in Bairnsdale on March 11, 1918. His family moved to Sale and he enlisted in the 2nd AIF on July 16, 1940. He was assigned to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion. During the Syrian Campaign in June 1941, James was captured by the Vichy French. At the end of the campaign in July 1941, he was released and rejoined his unit. Like several other local men in the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, he was captured by the Japanese and ended up working on the infamous Burma-Thailand railway. James died on August 12, 1943 after complications following an operation to amputate his leg. He had the dubious honour of being a POW twice and didn’t survive his second capture. James Brodribb was 25 years old.