Thursday, May 09, 2013

Nephew visits Sandakan death march trail on Anzac Day to pay respects to his uncles

KOTA KINABALU: When he was 14, Bernie Dorizzie was given a box by his father containing photos of three brave men in army uniforms and a set of medals presented to them for their heroic deeds in World War II.

The pictures were that of Bernie's uncles - Tom, Gordon and Herbert - who were among the more than 2,400 prisoners of war (POWs) who died in the infamous Sandakan-Ranau death march in 1945.

(The POWs were among a 2,700-strong allied contingent transferred to Sandakan by the Japanese in 1942 and 1943 following Singapore's fall, to construct a military airfield.)

Bernie is here 53 years later, to visit the place where his three uncles died, despite warnings issued by the Australian government to its citizens about the security risks following the Lahad Datu intrusions.

“When my father gave me the pictures and medals, I got down to work and started reading about the death march and trying to find ways to visit the place where my uncles died,” said Bernie, who is accompanied on this nostalgic trip by his wife, Pamela Dorizzie, 64.

“Coming from a family with half of them gone in the war, there was always a nagging question at the back of my head,” he said when met here.

“When I was a child, my parents and grandparents never wanted to talk about the past even though I asked numerous times, especially about my three uncles who were known to us children as “the boys who died in WWII.”

“There used to be five of them - including my father and another of his brothers, Robert before the war took three of them away,” he said.

Bernie, who is here as part of an Anzac Day observation here, in collaboration with the Sabah Tourism Board, flew with his wife from Perth and then proceeded to Sandakan, Ranau and back to the state capital.