Two students to go on death march trip

Lia Bannister lays flowers at the Prisoner of War No. 1 Camp at Ranau in Borneo after completing the trek along the death march route.
Lia Bannister lays flowers at the Prisoner of War No. 1 Camp at Ranau in Borneo after completing the trek along the death march route.

The RSL has been providing one scholarship for one student to make the historic excursion for the past five years.

The Sandakan death marches were a series of forced marches from Sandakan to Ranau, in Borneo. They resulted in the deaths of 2345 Allied prisoners of war held captive by Japan during World War II.

By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, just six Australians survived.

From Toodyay’s small population, four men died in Borneo, including three Dorizzi brothers.

The four died on the first marches in early 1945.

By June of that year, just six of the 470 prisoners who had left on the first march from Sandakan were still alive at Ranau.

Lia Bannister (16), winner of this year’s scholarship, travelled to Borneo with her father from April 19 to May 4.

The Year 10 student said the trip was amazing and she was very grateful for the experience. ‘I learnt so much and the people there were brilliant,’ she said.

‘I applied for the scholarship because I thought it was very important ” the more people who know about what happened means it is less likely to happen again.’

John Adams, from the Toodyay RSL, said every student who had been on the scholarship had come back with a unique experience.

‘We need to make sure the marches are not forgotten,’ Mr Adams said. ‘It promotes a friendship with the local schoolkids and the RSL.’

Lia said her advice to the next scholarship recipients would be to keep learning and to ask as many questions as they could.

‘I’m so glad I went and wasn’t put off by thinking I didn’t know enough,’ she said.

To send two students on the scholarship, the funding for the two guardians who accompany them may have to be reduced.