Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering Private Kenneth George Wrigley POW Sandakan North Borneo

Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of QX21789 Private Kenneth George Wrigley 
Copyright expired - public domain 

From Australian War Memorial: The above photo is a Queensland Australia Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of QX21789 Private Kenneth George Wrigley, 2/10th Ordnance Field Workshop, Australian Army Ordnance Corps. He was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of E Force. The 500 Australian and 500 British POW's who made up E Force left Changi on 28 March 1943, on board the S.S. DeKlerk arriving at Berhala Island (adjacent to Sandakan Harbour) on 15 April 1943. The POW's were held there until 5 June, when they were taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were transferred to the 8 Mile Camp, which was about half a mile from the B Force compound. Private Wrigley, aged 24, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 26 February 1945. He was the son of Walter James Wrigley and Mable Elizabeth Mary Bullock Wrigley, of Murgon, Queensland. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 28. (Photograph copied from AWM232, items 4 and 5. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)

Kenneth was born March 23, 1920 in Murgon, Queensland, Australia. He was almost 25 when he died.

From Sandakan Death Marches Wikipedia: In 1942 and 1943, Australian and British POWs who had been captured at the Battle of Singapore in February 1942 were shipped to North Borneo to construct a military airstrip and prisoner-of-war camps at Sandakan, North Borneo (Sabah). The prisoners were forced to work at gunpoint, and were often beaten while also receiving very little food or medical attention. In August 1943, with the intention of controlling the enlisted men by removing any commanders, most officer prisoners were moved from Sandakan to the Batu Lintang camp at Kuching. Conditions for the remaining prisoners deteriorated sharply following the officers' removal. Any rations given were further reduced, and sick prisoners were also forced to work on the airstrip. After construction was completed the prisoners initially remained at the camp. In January 1945, with only 1,900 prisoners still alive, the advancing Allies managed to successfully bomb and destroy the airfield. It was at this time with Allied landings anticipated shortly that camp commandant Captain Hoshijima Susumu decided to move the remaining prisoners westward into the mountains to the town of Ranau, a distance of approximately 160 miles.

The first phase of marches across wide marshland, dense jungle, and then up the eastern slope of Mount Kinabalu occurred between January and March 1945. The Japanese had selected 470 prisoners who were thought to be fit enough to carry baggage and supplies for the accompanying Japanese battalions relocating to the western coast. In several groups the POWs, all of whom were either malnourished or suffering serious illness, started the journey originally under the intention of reaching Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu). Although the route took nine days, they were given enough rations for only four days. As on the Bataan Death March, any POWs who were not fit enough or collapsed from exhaustion were either killed or left to die en route. Upon reaching Ranau, the survivors were halted and ordered to construct a temporary camp. "Those who survived... were herded into insanitary and crowded huts to then die from dysentery. By 26 June, only five Australians and one British soldier were still alive."

Kenneth was my husband's second cousin, once removed. Rest in peace Kenneth.