'Snowy' receiving his award from Governor of Western Australia Lieutenant General John Sanderson AC at Sandakan Day Kings Park Sunday August 25th 2002
Carl Edgar Jensen was born to Danish parents at Fremantle WA on 25 th March 1911. His father was a seaman from the port town of Sonderborg on the island of Als in Denmark, who had jumped ship in Fremantle. After a period of prospecting he sent home a gold nugget requesting his family arrange and pay passage to Australia for a young woman that he and the Jensen family in Denmark knew. She arrived in Western Australia and they wed.
The union produced three sons followed by three daughters and Carl was the youngest of the boys. The family resided in North Fremantle and his father was manager of the German Club in High Street Fremantle. He spoke fluent German. After the outbreak of the 1 st World War anti German sentiments were running high. The local police suggested the family leave Fremantle until the war was resolved. The club was later vandalised.
During World War One, Carl, as a schoolboy, spent time in both York and Nannup and he developed a great love of the country life. At school he developed his skills at Aussie Rules Football and played with the North Fremantle ex Scholars. In the early 1930’s he played three seasons with East Fremantle League team, resulting in playing for the premiership team in 1933. He then left them to go mining in Kalgoorlie as football players were unpaid and work was hard to find.
Carl ended up in Geraldton where he drove a provisions truck from Geraldton out through to the station country and up to Carnarvon. In between he captained the Fire Brigade ‘A’ Grade Football Team to an undefeated premiership in 1937. At Geraldton he was living at the Esplanade Hostel and he started courting the owner’s daughter, “Elsie”.
When Carl returned to Perth, “Elsie” followed him and resided with Carl’s mother. Elsie had just turned 21 years and the wedding arrangements were on the agenda when Carl arrived home and advised that he had been successful in his application for a position at the Shell Oil Company depot in North Fremantle. But they only took married men! A wedding between Carl and Elsie was hastily arranged. Then ten months later in 1939 Patricia Maria Jensen was born.
In 1941 Carl signed up to serve for his country and after a few weeks of basic training, left on the troopship Zealandia bound for Singapore. Needless to say the “Snowy” nickname came from his mane of blonde hair. He formed a bond with two other West Australians, Ted Keating and Don Marshall, and they were inseparable. Ted, like Carl, was married and had a daughter and a son, whereas Don was still unmarried. It was a true Aussie mateship that had its strength in times of adversary, which they were later to experience. All had spent time on the West Australian Goldfields.
Singapore fell to the Japanese and the trio became POW’s, vowing to look after one another and determined to escape and return to their families.
The three mates were sent to an island, Pulau Bukum, on a working party at the damaged refinery of the former Asiatic Petroleum Company. The Japanese wanted the refinery back in working order, especially the blending plant for aviation fuels. Whilst pretending to repair the diesel engines they made sure they would never work again by removing vital parts. Sabotage, yet the Japanese suspected nothing, just such incompetence by Australians!
They also serviced the two motorboats that carried stores from the mainland. Here was an opportunity to escape. They collected food, fishing handlines and fuel over a few days then set off in one of the thirty-foot boats. They soon found the engine running hot, as they had forgotten to open the water-cooling valve. Once open the motor cooled and they were heading for open sea. An approaching sandbar became their obstacle as the boat was steered to starboard instead of port. They became stuck on the sandbar with a tide running out. Their efforts to push the boat off the bar were to no avail. They then arranged the boat so that it appeared that it had drifted from moorings. They then crept back into camp. The Japanese later considered that the boat had drifted off from the jetty and no punishment was necessary. From then on the trio titled themselves, “The Three Musketeers”.
They were transferred with “E” Force to British North Borneo in March 1943. Enroute to Sandakan they stayed for a period of time at Kuching. One night they went under the wire and made contact with British civilian internees who were formerly from Sandakan. There they were provided with maps from Harry Keith, the former conservator of Forests, and supplied names of trusted contacts by the former Commissioner of Police, Major Rice-Oxley. A note was supplied by G Brown recommending that assistance be given by their contacts in Sandakan and he also suggested the best escape routes from there.
At Sandakan “E” Force was placed initially on Berhala Island and the trio went about making their contacts to arrange for an escape. The camp intelligence officer heard of the escape plans and offered to lead the escape and he took possession of all material the group had gathered. The plan was to steal canoes from the nearby leper colony and meet up with Allied Forces by island hopping, hiding in the day and paddling at night.
On the night of the planned escape the intelligence officer advised the group they were not going because of weather conditions and the escape plans would work better if commenced from the mainland, where they were about to be transferred to. Next morning at roll call six soldiers were missing including the intelligence officer and two other lieutenants. The “Three Musketeers” were called to the hut of the senior officer, Captain Richardson, who advised that it was decided that the three lieutenants would go in their place instead. “Snowy” later wrote, “We said nothing, turned on our heels and never spoke to the officer again”. This escape group successfully returned back to Australia although the intelligence officer died in the Philippine Islands.
Later at the main Sandakan Camp and the three were still making plans for escape using local police and civilian help. In the meanwhile the underground movement collapsed and resulted in many arrests. The Japanese became aware of the “Three Musketeers” contact with civilians and various notes being exchanged between them. They were arrested by the Japanese Military Police, the Kempei Tai. For many months they were severely bashed and tortured at Sandakan before being sent to Kuching to undergo a military trial. Many Australian Soldiers and civilians were discovered to be part of various escape plans and involved in the use of radio receivers and the smuggling of food, medical supplies and money.
At Kuching they were again bashed for months and Ted Keating died as a result of the shocking treatment he received. A Japanese Tribunal found Don and Carl guilty of planning to escape and Don received a four year sentence whilst Carl received two years. They were transported back to Singapore and interned in the infamous Outram Road Gaol. Both were in solitary confinement and later Don died from disease and malnutrition. ‘Snowy’ demanded that he be allowed to be in Don’s cell when he heard that Don was gravely ill but he could not help him any further. A true mate to the end! During the closing months of the war Carl was transferred to Changi where limited medical supplies were available.
The move to Outram Road in a way did save “Snowy’s” life, as those who remained behind were to perish at Sandakan, on the shocking Ranau marches or were murdered at Ranau. Only six escaped from the marches to tell the horrors of the events there.
“Snowy” never discussed his POW days with his family or friends, possibly as a way of blocking out the memory of losing two of the best mates a man could have.
Carl returned to Elsie and another two girls; Kerry Ann and Carolyn Joy, were born. They lived in a War Service home he built in Applecross. “Snowy” stayed in the Army for another 15 years and ended his career as a Warrant Officer 1 st Class. In civvy life he became the ‘live in’ building caretaker of Millar’s Timber & Trading, supervising the cleaners and attending to the building tenants requests for him to fix “everything”. When Millers closed down their St Georges Terrace office, “Snow” went with them to the new operations in Kewdale and stayed there until he retired.
Elsie passed away three years ago and the tight knit family, his girls, saw that he was looked after. His ability to care for himself after Elsie’s passing became a problem, and he was prised by his doctor out of the Applecross house and into Lodge care. Every week ‘his girls’ and their partners visited him. He was never short on visitors.
Each year a Sandakan Day is held at the Sandakan Tree in Kings Park and at the last service the Governor presented Carl with a certificate acknowledging ‘his service to our country’ during World War Two.
He passed away on April 9 th 2003 with ‘his girls’ and grandchildren around him.
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