KOTA KINABALU: A British Royal Artillery veteran has written and presented to Sabah a Roll of Honour immortalizing 2,479 British and Australian soldiers who perished in Sabah during the Second World War (WWII).
The book, one of ten limited copies sponsored by the British Royal Artillery Memorial Society (RAMS), was handed over to Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun by its writer, John Tulloch in a special ceremony at the State Museum yesterday.
The roll lists the names, service numbers and ranks of 691 British and 1,787 Australian prisoners of war (POW).
It also records the hat badge, sub unit, home location, date of death, age at death and memorial or burial with individual location.
These details were gathered and compiled through years of indepth researches and cross-referencing of information from various sources, namely the Canberra Australian War Memorial, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The Java Index and the Far East Roll of Honour Archives.
The writer also used several books as reference, including those written by Lynette Silver, Don Wall, Kevin Smith, Rachael Cunningham as well as the diaries of Peter Lee and Ian Peterson.
Masidi when speaking to reporters later, expressed the highest gratitude to the writer and said the Roll of Honour would be added to the list of priceless artefacts preserved in the State Museum.
“We take it as a symbol of continuing friendship between the British and Sabah people. We will take very good care of the book, put it in glass so that 300 years from now, people can still see the names of the fallen soldiers.
“We also hope that this will be a basis to stronger ties and friendship between Sabah and Britain as well as Australia,” he said, adding that it was hoped that Tulloch would continue conducting research and sharing his findings with Sabah, particularly on the involvement of the British army in Sabah during WWII.
Tulloch in his speech said the making of the Roll of Honour began unintentionally after a family vacation in Sandakan in 1999 brought him to the then newly opened War Memorial Park, the location of WWII prisoners of war camp in the district.
“I study history both personally and professionally and I was appalled and embarrassed by my ignorance of what had happened in Sandakan, Ranau and the Death Marches in Sabah, the former British North Borneo.
“It took me three attempts to walk round the Memorial Hall. I had to go outside and sit on a bench and think and compose myself,” he said.
When he got back to the UK, Tulloch asked people there whether they knew about Sandakan POW camp and the death marches which killed thousands of soldiers. They did not.
He started reading, researching and recording data about British POW who died in Sabah, and even decided to revisit the state in 2000.
“I found I was left with a database. Unintentionally or subconsciously I had created the basis of a Roll of Honour. I then set about creating it.
“I wanted to present this Roll of Honour to the Church of Royal Artillery (RA), St Albans and St Barbara, in Larkhill. I wanted it to reside under the Sandakan Memorial Plaque in the Church of the RA.
“I approached the Royal Artillery Memorial Society (RAMS) and they agreed to fund the Roll of Honour. I had to find out how much a Roll of Honour, bound by a specialist book binding firm, would cost.
“It was over 1,000 sterling for a single, one off copy. However, they would only bind three copies as minimum order. So, RAMS asked me who else should be presented with the Roll of Honour. The answer was simple – Sabah.
“RAMS then ordered 10 limited copies bound by a specialist book binder in London,” said Tulloch.
A copy of the roll will be presented to the Senior Chaplain of the British Army on Remembrance Day at the Royal Artillery Service of Remembrance at the Gunner Memorial at Hyde Park, London.
The copy will then reside in the Church of the RA, in a specially built, glass fronted wooden display cabinet made by a master craftsmen from Larkhill, where it will then reside under the Sandakan Memorial plaque.
The Roll of Honour will lie open, nestled in a rich red velvet.
“Every day, the Garrison Chaplain or Verger will turn a page so that new names are visible to the public. This is a tradition that is enacted every day in cathedrals, churches and museums throughout the UK and indeed in many other countries.
“On a shelf beneath the Roll of Honour is a lesser quality copy, which will enable visitors to thumb through the names looking for relatives etc.,” Tulloch explained.
The Roll of Honour has taken him eight years of research. The book is the third pillar of the Royal Artillery Act of Remembrance triangle, which also includes a march to Ranau and a RA memorial at the Kundasang War Memorial (KWM).
A march from Telupid to Ranau involving 27 cadets from the Sutton Valence School from Kent, is planned for July, followed by a laying of wreaths at the English Garden at KWM.
“Both our nations, Britain and Sabah, are joined by our common history and the ultimate bonding of nations by blood and lost lives during those terrible years of 1941-45.
“The Roll of Honour acknowledges within its introductory pages the extraordinary courage and kindness of the Sabah people who at great personal risks to themselves; some who paid the ultimate sacrifice, in assisting the POW,” said Tulloch.