Dick Braithwaite addressing yesterday’s service.
Dick Braithwaite addressing yesterday’s service. Blainey Woodham

Lost spirits laid to rest in walk

HUNDREDS of residents and the family members of fallen servicemen attended the official opening of Murwillumbah's Sandakan Memorial Walk yesterday.

A welcome to country from Aboriginal elder Auntie Kath Lena, a eucalyptus leaf-burning ceremony, wreath-laying and The Last Post were all part of the moving ceremony.

Family members were involved in a poppy-laying ceremony, Reverend Colin Tett led the prayer and dedication and Professor Dick Braithwaite, son of one of the six survivors of Sandakan, declared the walk officially open.

The guard for the ceremony was provided by the 225 Australian Cadet Unit and the national anthem was sung by the Tweed Valley College Choir.

The walk will commemorate the sacrifice of more than 2000 prisoners of war, most of them Australians, who died in the Sandakan and Ranau camps, and on horrific forced marches between them.

At the conclusion, Murwillumbah RSL Sub-Branch president Derek Sims said “to a small degree I think we have brought the spirit of those boys home”.

The walk itself carries information boards about the Sandakan camp and marches. Mr Sims said the walk was a similar length in feet as the death marches were in kilometres.

There will be a time capsule buried at each end of the walk. Each will contain memorabilia and soil from the death camps at Sandakan and Ranau.

The soil was brought to Australia by students from Murwillumbah High School and cleared by quarantine officials for use in the time capsules.

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