Senator David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, today announced that twenty servicemen who were killed while escaping from Japanese forces during World War II will be posthumously awarded the Commendation for Gallantry.
Senator Feeney accepted the unanimous recommendations of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal and called on the next of kin of those honoured to come forward and receive the Commendation for Gallantry.
The Tribunal inquired into recognition of Australian prisoners of war who were killed while escaping from Japanese forces during World War II. Among the twenty servicemen are the ‘Tavoy Eight’, members of the 4th Anti-Tank Regiment who were executed by firing squad in Burma on 6 June 1942.
“The Commendation for Gallantry recognises the bravery and courage of these World War II servicemen.
“Each has his own story. Some were killed while trying to escape, others executed after being recaptured. But what is common to all twenty men is the Australian spirit that they showed before their deaths.
“Gunner Cleary was one of approximately two thousand Allied prisoners of war held in the Sandakan POW camp. The retribution he experienced after an attempted escape was brutal. The ‘Tavoy Eight’ were refused last rites and final messages to their families before their execution in Burma,” Senator Feeney said.
“Today, we recognise and remember these heroic escape attempts.
“I am calling on the next-of-kin of these twenty men to come forward and register their details with the Government. They will be invited to accept the Commendation for Gallantry on behalf of the servicemen. We are keen to hear from family members who currently possess the campaign medals of these men,” Senator Feeney said.
The Tribunal recommended that the Commendation for Gallantry should be presented to the family member in possession of the deceased’s World War II medals.
The Directorate may be contacted by calling 1800 111 321 or writing to:
Directorate of Honours and Awards
Department of Defence
PO Box 7952
CANBERRA BUSINESS CENTRE ACT 2610
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,