The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX9629) Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit, Second World War

Place Asia: Netherlands East Indies, Java, Surabaya
Accession Number PAFU2014/026.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 26 January 2014
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX9629) Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX9629 Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit
Executed 5 April 1945
Photograph: P03819.003

Story delivered 26 January 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs.

John Sachs was born in Chatswood, New South Wales, on 4 October 1913. He attended the Kings School, where he served in the cadet corps, and went on to become a mechanic. He was later employed by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries in Sydney. Although he was a qualified pilot, Sachs enlisted in the militia in September 1938, and was discharged to serve in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1940.

Sachs was sent overseas for service in Libya and Greece with the 2/1st Australian Field Regiment. Sergeant Sachs was wounded in the shoulder during the evacuation from Greece and was captured at Kalamata in April 1941. His captors at first kept him in hospital and then transferred him to a prisoner-of-war camp. While being transported to Corinth he jumped from the train and escaped custody.

Sachs hid in the hills until he could make arrangements to escape by sea, using a stolen 16-foot sailboat to dodge capture by travelling from island to island in the Aegean Sea until he made it to the Turkish coast. Sergeant Sachs was awarded the Military Medal for his "great fortitude and tenacity of purpose" in this escape.

Although he volunteered to return to Greece to help other escapees get out, Sachs was commissioned lieutenant and sent to New Guinea to serve with the 2/6th Battalion. He continued to serve with distinction, volunteering for reconnaissance duties and patrols. In May 1944 he was seconded to Z Special Unit, a special forces unit formed to operate behind Japanese lines in the Pacific and south-east Asia, and was trained in the use of submarines in sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions.

Lieutenant Sachs served on two missions outside Australian mandated territory in 1945. Few details of these missions have been made publically even today, but they involved conduction surveillance of Japanese troops, or even sabotaging their camps and facilities. On Sachs's second mission he left an Australian base by submarine with Lieutenant Peaske. They left the submarine in a small boat to conduct their mission, but failed to return. As the submarine was attempting to contact them by wireless they heard voices at the other end which were reported variously as Japanese voices, an Australian voice, or even Sach's voice saying, "Get out." Shortly afterwards the submarine was attacked from the air and was lucky to escape.

Whatever was heard, it was clear that Sachs and his companion had been made prisoners of the Japanese. It was later determined that Sachs and Peaske had been imprisoned at Surabaya in Java. They did not survive their imprisonment. Lieutenant John Sachs was beheaded by the Japanese on or around 5 April, 1945. Despite his brother Tom's efforts to find his body after the war, John Sachs has no known grave.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 others from the Second World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

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