In 1941 Gunner Stanley Walter Elliott, VX57559 sailed to defend Singapore and wrote home to his mother at Upper Lurg in North-Eastern Victoria.
‘So far this war has been a gentlemen’s affair for us, but expect it to change any tick of the clock; just busting to have a go – may sound a bit bloodthirsty, that is the way the terrible slaughter of the innocent grips one.’
Stan believed in doing his duty and continued to write to his mother.
‘Although as far as Singapore is concerned, it would take more than all the Japs together to gain a point! Pity help anyone who tries, nobody’s business what will happen. I, for one, would rather be the defender.’
On the 8th February 1942, the Battle for Singapore began.
‘They are whizzing around all day – and what they can’t do with the latest fighters that are here is harmless. Suffering tomcats they can go – at present, there are half a dozen fighters playing hide and seek in the clouds – think there were many more by the powerful noise they make.’
Eight days later, Singapore fell, and the Japanese captured Stan.
Aged 26, Stan was taken to Sandakan Prisoner of War Camp on the island of Borneo along with 1500 other prisoners captured at Singapore.
At Sandakan, the prisoners became slave labour, forced to construct a military airstrip. The Japanese guards starved, tortured, and murdered the men in one of the greatest brutalities committed on Australian soldiers during the war. In the final months of the war, the Japanese marched the surviving prisoners out of Sandakan into the mountains in three separate death marches.
Of the 2434 prisoners sent to Sandakan during the war, only six survived. Stan died, apparently of malaria, at Sandakan on the 15th June 1945, the day the third death march commenced. The Japanese threw his body into a mass grave near the camp.
After the war, the bodies in the pit were exhumed and moved to Labuan War Cemetery. Gunner Stanley Walter Elliott, VX57559 lies alongside other POWs, identified only by the original Sandakan mass grave.He was my Great Uncle.
Lest We Forget.