Donald George Cedric MARSHALL
I never met my Uncle Don. He died in a Japanese Prison Cell three years before I was born. Don’s POW story and his escape attempts with his mates, Ted Keating and Carl ‘Snowy’ Jensen, have been told previously. I will attempt now to add some insight into his death and discuss the impact it had on my family. I will also detail some personal information that I now know about Uncle Don.
Donald George Cedric Marshall was born on 17 th November 1906 at Coolgardie Western Australia, the fourth son to John Arthur Marshall and Mary Agnes (nee Giblett). He had three sisters and another two brothers were born after Don. The family was into mining and his father was an Insurance Agent and at one stage he was the publican of the Denver City Hotel. Later the family moved to Kalgoorlie. Don’s big brother Frank went off to the First World War and was shot in the eye. He wore a patch when he came home. He served with the ‘C’ Company, 11 th Battalion, 3 rd Brigade, A.I.F. and took part in the famous landing at Gallipoli.
Don worked at various mining leases including a Gold Mining Syndicate formed by the Marshall family and others in 1932. They were operating in the Eastern Goldfields near Gindalbie. Don also invented the ‘Marshall Power Head’ that replaced the orthodox type of cylinder head and went into partnership with Lindsay Hummerston to construct and commercially exploit the invention. He submitted a patent application to the Commonwealth Government in 1930 and formed the Marshall Power Head Company Ltd with a nominal capital of two thousand pounds. It was depression days and the wrong time to venture into the world of inventions and capital investment for a new project like this.
Later in the 1930’s his family moved to Perth but Don remained in the Goldfields as he continued working in the mining industry. He resided at the Cremorne Hostel in Coolgardie during 1938/39 then the Denver City Hotel in 1940/41 leading up to his enlistment. His trade was Electric Welder although he was competent at all facets of gold mining exploration and extraction. Don was also a bit of a ladies man and very likeable chap, according to his nephews. He was so loved by his family.
Don wrote to his family from Coolgardie regularly and later when he enlisted and was sent to Singapore with the 2/6 Field Park Coy RAE he continued to write to all his family. I have many of his letters in my possession. He thought the war would be very short and that the Japanese would be easily repelled on their march down the Malay Peninsular. How wrong he was!
I remember as achild always going to the Anzac Day Marches and afterwards the family would gather at Don’s Plaque in Kings Park. Most of his brothers saw active service and all wanted to forget the bad days so the circumstances of Uncle Don’s death was relayed to me as only; that he had tried to escape five times, was betrayed and he died. Nothing else was ever discussed. Uncle Ben was also a POW at Changi but he never talked about those times. Later I was to learn that Uncle Ben even viewed Don’s body at the hospital.
In 1966 my husband and I visited my Aunty Win, who was Don’s eldest sister, to take her for a drive in Allan’s pride and joy, his fully imported Toyota Crown. She was looking forward to the drive but when she saw the Toyota name on the back of the car she exclaimed, “I’m not going in a Japanese car!” There was anger in her statement and she stormed off!
It was 1983 when I visited Don’s plaque with my husband, Allan. He asked, “Whatever happened to your Uncle Don?” I didn’t really know. All the family had passed on and I knew nothing of the circumstances of his death. I thought then that we would never really find out. It was not until 1989 when we accidentally found Don’s name in Don Wall’s book, ‘ Sandakan – The Last March’ that the story started to unfold. He had been to Borneo! He had been tried in a Japanese Military Court and sentenced to Outram Road Prison! Allan located Carl Jensen and ‘Snowy’ came around to tell more on how Don died. Carl had been to see Don’s family back in 1945 to tell them what had happened but his story was never passed by the family onto the next generation, well not to me at least.
Then we located records at the National Archives including all the Post Mortem papers relating to Don’s death, which described the terrible condition he was in when he died. His mate, ‘Snowy,’ was with him when he died in that hell hole called Outram Road. Other books were located about Sandakan, The Underground Movement, Kuching and Outram Road Prison. We now knew more than we ever felt possible to know about Uncle Don and how he died. We then had the privilege to meet both Ted Keating’s family and Carl Jensen’s family and to join the Borneo POW Relatives Group. A trip to Borneo in 2002 helped to build on the knowledge we had gained. Now a trip to Singapore in December this year to visit Kranji War Cemetery will complete the journey. We also now know why Aunty Win was so angry back in 1966.
Rest in Peace Uncle Don
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