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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Tuesday, 9 June 2015
VA056

VETERANS HONOUR LOST MATES IN BORNEO 70 YEARS ON

Eight Australian Second World War veterans today honoured their fellow servicemen who helped liberate Borneo from Japanese occupation 70 years ago at a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Labuan, Malaysia.

Joining the veterans, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson said the Oboe landings on Borneo took place from May to July in 1945 and were the last Australian campaigns of the Second World War.

“It is an enormous privilege to be here with these eight remarkable men to honour the service and sacrifice of those involved in the Oboe landings,” Senator Ronaldson said.

“Seventy years ago this vast and beautiful island was the scene of some of Australia’s most successful operations, but also the scene of great tragedy. Today we honour the contribution of the 75,000 who served here and reflect on the devastating loss of the 590 who died in Borneo and are commemorated at Labuan. We promise to remember them today and every day.”

Labuan is the site of one of the landings around Brunei Bay as part of the Oboe 6 operations. Men of the 9th Division landed at Labuan and elsewhere around Brunei with orders to secure the Brunei Bay area to use as a naval base and to capture oilfields, rubber plantations and production plants that were vital resources for the Japanese.

Naval bombardments and air attacks preceded the landings. Most of the objectives were secured against little resistance, but there were some areas of heavy fighting where the Japanese were well dug in. On Labuan the fiercest fighting took place inland in an area known as ‘The Pocket’.

Sporadic fighting continued in this area until the War’s end, by which time more than 100 Australians had been killed. They are buried at the Labuan Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, which is the resting place for more than 1700 Australians who lost their lives in Borneo during the Second World War and where the missing are also commemorated.

Senator Ronaldson said the eight Australian veterans in Borneo to participate in 70th anniversary commemorative ceremonies, aged between 89 and 96, come from across Australia and represent all three services involved in the Oboe landings.

“The group represents the thousands of men and women who bravely served in Borneo during the Second World War. For most, it is their first time returning to Borneo since 1945 and it is an honour and a privilege to share this emotional journey,” he said.

Tomorrow the veterans will participate in a commemorative ceremony at the Brunei-Australia Memorial and attend the opening of a photographic exhibition depicting the shared wartime experiences of the people of Australia and Borneo, before retuning to Australia on 12 June.

Editor’s note: A list of veterans travelling to Borneo is attached. Veteran biographies, images, historical background and other resources are available at www.dva.gov.au/media. Follow the veterans on Facebook at DVA Aus, Twitter at @dvaaus and Flickr at DVA Aus.

Veterans travelling to Borneo
Name Age Service Location
Mr Patrick (Pat) Curtis 90 Navy QLD
Mr Bryan Wearne 90 Navy VIC
Mr Geoffrey (Geoff) Chapman 91 Army TAS
Mr Keith Hearne 89 Army VIC
Mr Kenneth (Brian) Winchcombe 89 Army WA
Mr Jack Olsson OAM 96 Army ACT
Mr Thomas (Tom) Tyne 94 Army NSW
Mr Frederick (Fred) Sharon 89 Air Force SA

Media inquiries:
Minister Ronaldson: Mark Lee 02 6277 7820 or 0408 547 381
Veteran interviews: Emma Collien emma.collien@dva.gov.au +61 (0) 429 129 661 – travelling with the veterans

 

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

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