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New memorial honours fallen diggers of costly Malayan campaign.

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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Monday 27 August 2007 VA127


Seven survivors of the Malayan campaign in World War II, and two war widows, will travel to Malaysia for the dedication of a memorial to their mates who fought, died and risked their lives at Bakri, Muar and Parit Sulong in January 1942.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Bruce Billson said the Malayan campaign of December 1941 to February 1942 had been overshadowed by the subsequent Fall of Singapore and the suffering of prisoners of war that followed.

"Malaya was one of Australia’s most costly campaigns in World War II. As the Japanese advanced towards Singapore, the Australians fought heroic delaying actions at Gemas and at Muar. The Battle of Muar ended in the massacre of wounded prisoners at Parit Sulong," he said.

"The Australian Government is taking representatives of those who survived the battle back to Parit Sulong where it all happened more than 65 years ago."

During the Battle of Muar, Australian and British Empire forces, without air support, and suffering heavy casualties, delayed the advancing Japanese forces for a week. They arrived at Parit Sulong to find that the bridge there - their only hope of escape - had been captured by the Japanese.

The force’s attempts to take the bridge failed, and relief never materialised. On 22 January 1942, facing annihilation, they were ordered by their leader, Australian Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anderson, to break out as best they could and attempt to reach allied lines.

"Unfortunately, most of the wounded had to be left behind. For his courageous leadership during this period, Anderson was later awarded the Victoria Cross, the first to an Australian during the war in the Pacific," Mr Billson said.

"At Parit Sulong, the Japanese herded the wounded, 110 Australians and 35 soldiers from other British Empire units, into buildings not far from the bridge. They were denied medical attention and mistreated. Later that day, they were taken outside and machine-gunned. Afterwards their bodies were doused with petrol and burnt. Only three men are known to have survived."

A memorial, constructed by the Australian Government, at Parit Sulong, Johor, Malaysia, will be dedicated at 11am on Tuesday, 4 September.

The nine members of the veteran party were invited by Mr Billson to represent all Australians who served and died in the Battle of Muar at the dedication ceremony. They will also visit significant wartime locations in Singapore and lay wreaths and poppies at Kranji War Cemetery and Changi Chapel.

"It will be an emotional journey for the veterans, most of whom have never returned to the battle site or to the site of the prisoner of war camps where they were held by the Japanese during World War II," Mr Billson said.

"I am delighted that the memorial and commemorative mission have been funded under the Australian Government’s commemorations program.

"We must ensure that the courageous men who fought at Muar, and Parit Sulong, and throughout the Malayan campaign, will not be forgotten," he said.

The commemorative mission party will depart from Melbourne airport on Friday 31 August.

Media inquiries: Cameron Hill 0408 239 521

Editors note: a list of veteran representatives follows.

Veteran representatives

Name Unit State

Mrs Rita DEAN 2/19th Battalion (Widow) West Gosford, NSW

Mr Charles EDWARDS 2/19th Battalion Donvale, Vic

Mr Cyril GILBERT OAM 27 Brigade Australian Army Service Corps Norman Park, Qld

Mr Augustine (Gus) HALLORAN 2/19th Battalion Port Macquarie, NSW

Mr James (Jim) KERR 4th Anti Tank Regiment Seaford, Vic

Mrs Mavis KIRLEY 2/15th Field Regiment (Widow) Cootamundra, NSW

Dr Charles (Rowley) RICHARDS MBE OAM ED 2/15th Field Regiment Beacon Hill, NSW Mr John (Jack) VARLEY MC 2/19th Battalion Kureelpa, Qld

Mr Verdun WALSH 2/12th Field Company Ryde, NSW