VALE – Milton (Snow) Thomas Fairclough

Milton (Snow) Thomas Fairclough OAM 28.08.1920 – 01.10.2016, died aged 96 years at Murdoch Hospital.

His funeral service was held at Karrakatta on 10.10.2016.

Snow was born at Perth on 28 August 1920, grew up on a farm in Moora and he was a “jack of all trades” working in rural areas of Western Australia prior to World War Two.

He was with a group of country boys who were members of the Militia in the 10th Light Horse and enlisted in the AIF on June 19, 1940, joining the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion which was mainly raised in Western Australian. In 1940 the battalion sailed from Fremantle on the Isle de France in a convoy with the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth 11, Aquitania, Mauritania, Isle de France and the Andes.

The convoy called at Colombo and the battalion disembarked at Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal and later trained at Palestine and in Tel Aviv. The battalion saw action in Syria and later at Mrouj, near Beirut in Lebanon. In February 1942 the battalion traveled on the troop ship RMS Orcades via Durban, South Africa, to Oosthaven in South Sumatra. They disembarked at Batavia (Jakarta) before traveling by road to Bandung. On 9th March 1942 the Dutch surrendered, which inevitably included the Australians.

After nearly a year in Bandung, the battalion went to Makasura before being shipped to Changi Prison on Singapore with Dunlop Force under Lt Colonel Edward Dunlop. In January 1943 Dunlop Force went by train on a five-day journey in cramped steel rice wagons from Singapore to Non Pladuk in Thailand and then to the Konyu River Camp, the Hintok River Camp and the Hintok Road Camp. Dunlop Force worked on the section of the Burma Thailand Railway between Konyu (Hellfire Pass) and Compressor Cuttings.

Members of Dunlop Force suffered similarly to all prisoners on the Burma Thailand Railway with diseases, inhumane and brutal treatment, starvation, overwork, lack of basic needs and terrible conditions. By the completion of the railway Milton Fairclough’s health was bad and when his group went to Tamuang where men were selected for virtual “slave” work in Japan he was unfit and was admitted to the Nakon Pathom Hospital. He was then on maintenance work and remained in Thailand until the Victory in the Pacific.

Snow Fairclough returned to Thailand on twelve occasions as a mentor to students sourced from High Schools and sponsored by the Burma Thailand Burma Railway Memorial Association, the Extremely Disabled War Veterans Association, various Community Service Clubs and the Retired Prisoners of War Association of Western Australia on Quiet Lion Tours.

Snow was the focus of the outstanding documentary titled “War, Hate and The Lizard” produced by the Town of Victoria Park to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific Day in 1945. The ‘Lizard’ was the name given to the most brutal of all the prison-guards who received a 20-year gaol sentence by the War Crimes Tribunal that ironically was ultimately reduced to five years.

A significant occasion for Snow was being invested with the Order of Australia Medal (OAM). The presentation took place in April this year recognising his service to veterans and the community. This was a proud moment for Snow, his family and the Battalion. Another very significant event in Snow’s life was his visit to Japan with his son, Dennis, in October 2014.

Snow and three other POWs participated in the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Program aimed to: “deepen mutual understanding between the peoples of Japan and Australia by inviting former Australian POWs to Japan to foster reconciliation”.

Snow’s memoir written in 2002, “My Soldiering Days 13.11.39 – 14.1.46” shows classic Aussie defiance encompassing views of British and Dutch military attitudes.

The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association reveres the memory of “Snow” Fairclough.