Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, Eric Wilson OAM APM, attended the Memorial Service for ex Prisoners of War conducted by Mount Lawley Senior High School at Kings Park on 4th May 2018. A wreath was laid on behalf of the BTRMA.

The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association and the Mount Lawley Senior High School have been associated with this function for two decades,commencing in 1998. Mount Lawley Senior High School has been regularly represented on the Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand for Anzac Day by students of the School.

At the 2018 Memorial Service, Mount Lawley S.H.S. Chaplain Mr Andrew Paul referred to the first two students to attend the tour in 1998, Erin St Duke and Katherine Cooper, and he quoted sections of Erin’s address to a school assembly on her return. The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association value the relationship between the Association and the Mount Lawley Senior High School.

On a beautiful, sunny day, a large contingent of people that included veterans Arthur Leggett (President) along with Syd Shaw, John Gilmour, Norm Eaton (who traveled with family up from Bunbury) and Professor Alex Kerr assembled at the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Kings Park on 4th May, 2018. The service (the 21st year) was coordinated and supported admirably by the Principal, Staff and Students from Mount Lawley Senior High School.

The Commanding Officer of 11/28 Battalion LT COL R. Colligan and RSM, Warrant Officer Class One Guy Kesby plus MAJ J Kurtz, (standing in for the Commanding Officer of 16th Battalion RWAR, LTCOL C Watennan) and RSM, Warrant Officer Class One Carl Hemberg, represented the Australian Defence Forces.

The ceremony included a wonderful choir, concert band and bugler, Gemma Sabbadini.
NCOs and Soldiers from 11/28 RWAR mounted the catafalque party and were resplendent in their new Service Dress.

School Principal, Lesley Street, addressed the assembled guests with an excellent presentation opening the proceedings by stating, “It is a privilege to be part of this important ceremony here today. We come together to pay tribute to the almost 40,000 Australians who have been held as prisoners of war over the years from the Boer War to Korea. Here in the peaceful surroundings of Kings Park reflect and commemorate our exPOWs whose members, through time are fading. We especially welcome those POWs who I know are here with us this afternoon – our own Arthur Leggett, Norm Eaton, John Gilmour, Syd Shaw and Professor Alex Kerr”.

“This ceremony is dedicated to all who became prisoners of war while fighting for our freedom whether at Gallipoli, on the Western front, Crete, Italy, North Africa, Singapore, New Guinea, Borneo, Japan, on the Thai – Burma Railway and Hellfire Pass, or Korea to name just some of the 58 countries where Australians have been held over the years.

Today we reflect and honour not only on their courage but also the other attributes displayed by these fine Australians their heroism, sacrifice and mateship which were the defining characteristics of the prisoners of war. John Howard when Prime Minster said of the POW’s – “These men turned the reality of  atrocity and suffering into an affirmation of Australian courage and resilience”. “They are ANZACS who in captivity triumphed over adversity, displaying humour, resourcefulness and mateship in profoundly difficult circumstances”.

Peter Cosgrove said of every POW – “You hold a special place in the heart of this nation. And that is true of all of us here today who gather to honour our Prisoners of War -they do hold a special place in our hearts”.

“To the POWs, both those present today and those who are not well enough to attend the ceremony, I say to you that I am confident that in the years to come the Australian people will remember and honour you as will the youth of Australia but I know without a doubt that today’s students and staff from MLSHS and future students and staff will remember and honour all those who have been held prisoner. We will remember the sacrifices you made, the things that you endured and the mates that you lost. Rest assured we will never forget you”

The service concluded with Tea, Coffee and light refreshments supplied by the catering students at MLSHS – including a packet of Anzac Cookies.