Discussing the trip to Malaysia are Murwillumbah High School head teacher Peter Wilcox Head, Renee Buikstra, Harley Barnfield, Murwillumbah RSL President Derek Sims, National Service Association Australia secretary Col Hulmead NSAA treasurer Ray Brims.
Discussing the trip to Malaysia are Murwillumbah High School head teacher Peter Wilcox Head, Renee Buikstra, Harley Barnfield, Murwillumbah RSL President Derek Sims, National Service Association Australia secretary Col Hulmead NSAA treasurer Ray Brims. Crystal Spencer/ Tweed Daily News

Retracing path of PoWs

FIFTEEN Murwillumbah High School students are today jetting off to Malaysia to retrace the footsteps of Australian World War II prisoners of war forced to take part in the infamous Sandakan Death marches.

With the support of the Murwillumbah RSL sub-branch they hope to bring back samples of soil to be used as part of a commemoration ceremony for a special memorial to the POW's planned to be installed near the Murwillumbah cenotaph.

The sub-branch and the National Servicemen's Association each provided cheques of $250 “to help the students on their way” and take part in walking one of the final sections of the death marches.

“One of the reasons we did it was because we are at the beginning of creating a Sandakan war memorial where the cenotaph is,” said president of the Murwillumbah RSL sub-branch Derek Sims.

“We hope to have it finished around Anzac Day next year.

“Five blokes from the Tweed Valley went on that death march. It wiped out the lot of them.

“Out of 2700 allied prisoners there were only six survivors.”

Mr Sims said the students had been lucky to strike a sympathetic Australian Government official when applying to bring back samples of soil, and although the soil would need to be quarantined it would used in the opening of the memorial.

Murwillumbah High School teacher Peter Wilcox said the 15 students would leave today, returning on October 17 as part of a cultural exchange tour of Borneo and the Malaysian peninsular.

“One significant section of the tour will be to visit the Sandakan death march camp to witness the hardships suffered by many of our POW's who were forced into what became known as the death marches from Sandakan to Renau, a distance of 276kms,” he said.

“We are working with the Murwillumbah RSL to bring back samples of soil from both Sandakan and Renau to be used as a symbolic commemoration for the five Tweed residents who died on the march. This soil would be used as part of the commemoration ceremony.”



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