‘Fellows who gave their all’

Tol Cemetery, 1945: My grandfather's cousin, Ronald Cantwell, was among 130 Australian PoWs massacred by the Japanese who were buried here in 1945.

Today, 25 April, is Anzac Day, the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for  all  who’ve served and died in military operations for their countries.

Originally, it marked the anniversary of the Allied landings at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, when Australians and New Zealanders, alongside other Commonwealth and Allied troops, fought their first major action of World War.

The landings started a campaign that was, ultimately, a failure but the comradeship, sacrifice, pluck and daring shown by the Anzacs marked a key point in forging the spirit of the two new nations.

Seventy years ago, and 27 years after the Gallipoli landings, Australians and New Zealanders were at war much nearer to home, in the jungles of Malaysia, Burma, Borneo, New Guinea, Timor and the Solomons. Today’s Anzac Day post is dedicated to those men and women who served and died fighting the Japanese in the Pacific and Burma campaigns.


  • Private Ronald Maurice Cantwell, NX46687, 2/10 Field Ambulance AIF, executed at Tol Plantation, Rabaul, 4 February 1942.
  • Private William Duncan McKillop, NX54802, 2/19 Battalion AIF, killed in action at Singapore, 15 February 1942.
  • Private William Kitchener Criddle, WX17577, 2/28 Battalion AIF, died of illness at Columbo, 29 September 1942.
  • Private James Johnston Midgley, NX25816, 2/3 Motor Ambulance Convoy, captured at Singapore 1942, died on the Sandakan Death March 16 March 1945.


  • Private Robert Clement, VX26158, 2/40 Battalion AIF, captured on Timor 13 June 1942, freed 5 September 1945, died 1995.

And the numerous other members of my family who served in Burma and the Pacific between 1941 and 1946, plus all those who’ve served their countries before and since.

An Australian soldier wrote this poem late in the Pacific Campaign:

Mopping Up

We’ve nineteen dead on the Buin road,
Ten more on the jungle track,
And all day ling there’s a broken line
Of our wounded streaming back;
We’ve fought all night by the Hongori,
With ne’er a bite nor sup,
And tomorrow’s back page news will quote
Our forces are “mopping up”.

As dawn awakes with a jaded eye,
Discarding its misty pall,
White crosses mount on the Numa trail
For fellows who gave their all;
In Isimbai ridges, Sorakin’s groves,
They drained to the dregs hell’s cup;
But the blood they gave was a trifling thing-
They were only “mopping up”.

The screaming silence of ambushed swamps,
The horrors of obscene bog,
The villainous foe in filthy league
With blanketing rain and fog
Are trifling things the critics know
Should never hold heroes up;
Good God! Why? This isn’t war at all-
We are merely “mopping up”.

We make no claim to the heroic mould,
But this little boon we ask-
Those arm chair critics just sent up to here
To share in our simple task,
When they’ve been on speaking terms with death
And they’ve tallied the blood cost up,
Perhaps they’ll coin a more adequate phrase
Than casual “mopping up”.

—Author “A South Australian member of the 3rd Division AIF in the Solomons”,
published in the Adelaide Advertiser, 31 July 1945.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.



6 Responses to “‘Fellows who gave their all’”

  1. Nicely done mate. A thought like this goes a long way for this old soldier and I am sure also for many others who have walked the road of service to ones country in times of need.

  2. A few Diggers in my family too, including one who didn’t make it. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. I was fortunate enough to be in Australia on Anzac day several years ago, and accompanied my Great Uncle to what we would term a service of rememberance.
    It was incredibly moving, and totally different to our own Rememberance day. The atmosphere was respectful but not sombre or maudlin. Children marched, voluntary groups marched, Old people marched, people sat on the grass and heard speeches that were filled with pride – the are so incredibly proud of their contribution, as they should be. They are certainly not afraid to show that pride and to celebrate their great country and its contribution, and this is a truely multi-generational emotion.

    I learned that day that although you cannot celebrate loss, you can celebrate pride.

    • Anzac Day has a very different feel to Remembrance Day in the UK. There’s much wider community involvement, much more understanding, sympathy and pride for those who’ve “done their bit”, and there’s a real of mix of formal and informal remembrance. There’s a real feeling that people today owe a debt to those whose values of freedom, courage, mateship and sacrifice made Australia what it is today.

  4. Loved this post. My grandfather was captured and worked on the Burma railway, he had some fascinating and more often than not hilarious stories (kept the horrors to himself) and was never boastful. He was a man amongst men and only died a little over a year ago… Thanks for a wonderful post.

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