Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bario forever in our hearts

MIRI: Bario, in the famed Kelabit Highlands, is deeply etched in the hearts of many foreigners whose fathers had served the special allied forces there during the Second World War (WWII).

One who has fond memories of Bario is Australian Judi Wigzell. She recently shared with Society of English Writers Northern Sarawak (Soswe) members here about her father, the late Sergeant FA Wigzell, a New Zealander, attached to the Special Operations Australia ‘Z’ Special Unit.

The Special Unit, which is also known as the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Special Operations Australia (SOA) and the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD), was an allied special force formed to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia during the WWII.

Comprising Australians, British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, the ‘Z’ Special Unit operated as a specialist reconnaissance and sabotage body. They largely operated in Borneo and in the islands of the former Netherlands East Indies.

“My father was so emotional even after so many years away from the battlegrounds,” said Judi at the Gymkhana Club here.

Judi flew to Bario with three other Australians on March 25, 2013, to hand over memorial tablets of eight Australians and 23 New Zealanders to a school library there.

They went there on March 25 as it was the day these fallen heroes parachuted into the jungles of Bario back then.

Judi was accompanied by 93-year-old Jack Tredrea, the sole survivor from the Australian ‘Z’ Special Unit, Linda Sanderson Burr (daughter of the late QX11361 Sergeant C.L. Sanderson) and Bob Pinkerton (son of the late NX43707 Lieutenant R.J.D. Pinkerton).

Not wanting to miss this rare occasion, Soswe secretary Jennie Soh flew to Bario to witness the handing over of the tablets.

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