The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (WX41467) Lance Sergeant Ma’aruff bin Shalid, Z Special Unit, Second World War.

Place Asia: Borneo, Balikpapan
Accession Number PAFU2015/243.01
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 23 June 2015
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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 Blanch, the story for this day was on (WX41467) Lance Sergeant Ma’aruff bin Shalid, Z Special Unit, Second World War.

Speech transcript

WX41467 Lance Sergeant Ma’aruff bin Shalid, Z Special Unit
KIA 3 July 1945
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 23 June 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Sergeant Ma’aruff bin Shalid.

Ma’aruff bin Shalid was born on 23 July 1923 in Ulu Klang, near Kuala Lumpur in what was then known as Malaya. His father’s name was Shalid bin Fakih Radah. Little is known of his early life, but we do know that bin Shalid had gained experience as a crewmember on lugger fishing boats. He came to Australia as a young man to work as a pearl diver.

In June 1942 bin Shalid enrolled for service in a labour company in Perth. He worked in and around Perth, and on a number of occasions was detached to work in the fish markets of Fremantle. However, bin Shalid came to the notice of someone in the army as having potential. From mid-1943 he began a series of detachments to the 8th Brigade as an instructor in the Malay language. His work was so valued that he was allowed to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in 1944 – a very unusual achievement for a man considered an “allied alien”, and one who gave his religion as “mohammedan”.

Bin Shalid continued to excel in his role with the army, and in August 1944 was seconded to Z Special Unit, a joint Allied unit that had been formed to operate behind enemy lines in the Pacific and south-east Asia. Probably originally seconded as a language instructor, the newly promoted Corporal bin Shalid was transferred to Z Special Unit in September 1944, and was soon incorporated into operations. In March 1945 he successfully completed a parachute course and was promoted to lance sergeant in preparation for a secret operation in Borneo.

In July 1945 a number of parties from Z Special Unit were inserted into Borneo by parachute to conduct reconnaissance patrols preceding Operation Oboe Two, the invasion of Balikpapan. Bin Shalid was a member of a small party that was to land in the Mount Mentawir area, some 30 kilometres north of Balikpapan. The other members of his party were Flight Lieutenant Martin of the Royal Australian Air Force, Sergeant O’Dwyer of the AIF, and Signaller Myers of the New Zealand army.

On 30 June 1945 the party dropped out of a Liberator heavy bomber and drifted towards the ground, landing more than 16 kilometres from their drop zone. Flight Lieutenant Martin became separated from the group, and got tangled up in a tree. While there he heard rifle-fire, and cut himself loose, breaking his pelvis as he dropped to the ground. Over the next several days he evaded capture and made his way to safety with the help of a local man.

On his return, he reported that he had heard shots and skirmishes a number of times in the days following the drop. Bin Shalid, O’Dwyer, and Myers were never found.

After the war it was determined that they had been captured by the Japanese and shot. The bursts of rifle-fire that Martin had heard over a number of days were likely the encounters bin Shalid and his group had with the Japanese.

Today Ma’aruff bin Shalid lies in the Labuan War Cemetery with his fellow operatives from Operation Platypus 7, Sergeant J. J. O’Dwyer and Signaller Ernie Myers.

He died weeks short of his 22nd birthday.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died during the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lance Sergeant Ma’aruff bin Shalid, Sergeant James Joseph O’Dwyer, Signaller Ernest Henry Myers, and all those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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