Leonard Harold DOYLE
Sergeant NX 66892
Albert George DOYLE
Driver NX 53898
Both of 22 Aust Coy A.A.S. Corps
Written by Len Doyle - With additional information from Bob Doyle
My father, Leonard Harold Doyle, was born Essex England in 1908 to parents Frederick and Lillie Doyle. There were thirteen children in the family with the first nine born in England and the last four in Sydney NSW. Twelve children survived to adulthood, with the youngest son being Albert George Doyle born in Kogarah NSW. Both my Dad and his youngest brother, Albert, were to die in Ranau after surviving the Second Death March from Sandakan.
Dad went to Griffith NSW as a young man with other members of the Doyle family and there met Grace ‘Tot’ Ellesmere who he married at Griffith in 1929. Mum was born in Griffith and her family lived there. I was born in Griffith Hospital in 1934 and was an only child.
When I was aged six weeks we moved to Sydney, travelling there from Griffith in an ‘Indian’ motorcycle equipped with a sidecar for Mum and I. Dad went to work for General Motors in Sydney as a motor mechanic. Dad was very good with his hands. When I was about four years of age he made a wooden yacht for me and named it ‘Lennie’. It was a proud possession. I can recall that Dad was of very strong character and a very capable person.
Uncle Bert was the musical one in the family. He played an accordion. When Uncle Bert left school he went into the Bootmaking trade. He was making shoes and sandals right up to the time he joined the army.
Dad loved motor cycles and was a motor cycle club member when we lived in Sydney. When the war broke out Dad joined the Citizen Military Forces and later joined the AIF. Uncle Bert joined the AIF first followed by Dad.
I can also recall attending the Sydney Showground with Mum and seeing many tanks, equipment and men. Dad was in an army uniform. I would have been aged six years. We were living in Carlton, a suburb of Sydney.
Then I remember being at Central Railway Station to see Dad off on the train that was taking the troops to Perth. Mum, Grandma, Dad’s two sisters and other family members were all there. Uncle Bert may have been travelling on the train also, but I do not remember him being there. Dad saw me crying as we all said our goodbyes and that did upset him a lot. That was the last time I ever saw my Dad.
Dad sent letters and presents for Mum and I from Jahore in Malaya, where he was stationed. A wicker basket with goodies, a toy Indian motor cycle with sidecar, wooden clogs, silk pajamas and a beautiful Kimono dressing gown for Mum. Dad also wrote to tell Mum that if the Japanese came close to Sydney then she was to promise to go back into the country with her family at Griffith.
My Grandmother bought a piano during the war especially for her youngest son, Bert, as a present for when he returned from Active Service. He was never to receive the present or be aware of the surprise waiting for him at home.
I can recall going to see a Japanese Submarine on display in Sydney that had been caught in the Sydney harbour. Also being at Bondi Beach Promenade, with it all blown up, and with barb wire on the beach and around the demolished promenade. Mum kept her word and packed up and moved to Griffith with me.Mum worked hard at Griffith. There was little labour resources available as most men were in the services. Women were left to carry out many of the menial tasks. I remember her in bib overalls, flannelette shirt, a scarf holding her hair up and wearing a hat. She was picking grapes and her hands were black from the grape stains and swollen from bee stings.
We received a telegram that Dad was a Prisoner of War, then another telegram to say that Dad had died as a POW. That was the only information we ever received about Dad’s death. Grandma also received a telegram to say that Bert had died as a POW. Grandma had lost two of her sons in Borneo who were thought to be safe as POWs. I was sixty two years of age when I found out Dad and Uncle Bert had been massacred at Ranua back in August 1945.
Mum got on with life with us initially living with grandma and later she purchased an old fibro home as our own. Mum never married again and there was to be no other man in her life.
On the 28 th August 1994 I attended the commemoration of the Sandakan Memorial at Wagga Wagga, where Dad’s name is listed. My Mum did not attend this service.
I am sure that my Dad with his great interest in motor cycles would have been thrilled at the achievements of his grandson, and my only son, Glenn, who he never had a chance to meet. Glenn with his interest in Speedway Motor Cycles, went on to be twice Australian Speedway Solo Champion and Runner Up on the third occasion. He was also six times Western Australian Champion and captained Australia in the Test Series against England when held in Perth. Glenn has won numerous awards and medals during his Speedway Motor Cycle career.
Editor: Military background for the Doyle brothers and the known circumstances of their deaths is detailed below and kindly supplied by Lynette Silver.
PROFILE OF TWO BROTHERS By Lynette Silver
LEONARD HAROLD DOYLE NX 66892 AND ALBERT GEORGE DOYLE NX 53898
Leonard Doyle is the father of Borneo POW Relatives Association of WA member, Len Doyle, and Albert is his uncle.
Albert Doyle, aged 22, came from the Sydney suburb of Bexley and was the first of the two brothers to enlist, reporting to the recruiting centre at Paddington on 9th July 1940. Six months later, on 7th January 1941, Len, who was ten years older and lived in Carlton, quite near his brother, joined up. Not surprisingly, both men were in the same unit - 22 Company of the Australian Army Service Corps. Len was not merely the senior in years - as a sergeant he was also senior in rank to Albert, a driver.
After Singapore surrendered on 15th February 1942, the pair managed to stay together. In July, Len, being one of the 'old blokes', was put on the draft for B Force, and so, fortunately, was Albert. At the camp, Len and Albert became POWs 198 and 611, respectively, Len's lower number reflecting his sergeant status, although, alphabetically, he came after his brother.
It is said by all POWs that to have a mate was vital to long-term survival. And it seems certain that Len and Albert were mates, in the truest sense of the word, as both survived the rigors and horror of the 2nd death march. On arrival at Ranau on 26th June, after a trek which had lasted almost a month, they marched the final five miles south of the village, to a secluded camp hidden deep in the jungle. Despite rampant dysentery, which claimed the lives of so many of the prisoners who had fought so hard to survive, the records indicate that Len and Albert were among the 33 still alive on 1st August 1945. Twenty-six days later, all were dead - 17 murdered on 1st August and the remainder on 27th August, twelve days after the war ended.
In a vain effort to deflect suspicion as to what they had done, the killers falsified the dates of death of everyone who died after 31st July. According to the Japanese, Len died on 2nd August, and Albert on the 9th. It is impossible to ascertain which massacre claimed their lives. But, given their close bond, made stronger by adversity, and the strength which they must have drawn from it to last as long as they did, one would like to think that they died together, supporting each other to the end, united in death as they had been, in life.
Post-war, search teams found Len's identity disc at the Ranau Camp - one of the few discs to be recovered. It was of no assistance in identifying his body which, with that of Albert and all those killed so callously in those final days of the war, now lies buried in Labuan War Cemetery, beneath a gravestone marked 'Known Unto God'.Copyright, Lynette Silver. Reprinted with permission.
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