The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX69499) Corporal Joseph Sargent, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second AIF, Second World War.

Place Asia: South China Sea
Accession Number AWM2016.2.13
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 13 January 2016
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 Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX69499) Corporal Joseph Sargent, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX69499 Corporal Joseph Sargent, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second AIF
Died at sea 12 September 1944
No photograph in collection – Family supplied

Story delivered 13 January 2016

Today we pay tribute to Corporal Joseph Sargent, who was killed on active service during the Second World War.

Born in Sydney on 26 February 1910, Joseph Sargent was one of seven children to William and Gertrude Sargent. He attended school in Auburn, and on completing worked as a panel beater and motor body builder. He once built a bus, and by 1936 had started his own business in Bathurst – Sargent and Dodds – with his brother in law, Hilton Dodds. Married to Phyllis Winifred, Sargent had two daughters, Janice Winifred Sargent and Wendy Jean Sargent.

On 10 March 1941, at the age of 31, Sargent enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 3rd Reserve Motor Transport. In April he embarked for overseas service, arriving the following month in Singapore, where his unit joined the 8th Australian Division.

Following Japan’s entry in the war in December 1941, the Allied forces on the Malayan peninsula were pushed back against a rapid advance. On 6 February 1942, just two days before the Japanese landed on Singapore Island, Sargent’s unit was evacuated and disembarked on Java on 11 February. It joined other Australian units assembled on Java to form “Black Force”, but with the capitulation of Allied forces in March Sargent was one of 22,000 Australians to become a prisoner of the Japanese.

At the end of 1942 Sargent was transported to Burma as part of the large workforce being assembled by the Japanese to build the Burma–Thailand Railway. Sargent survived the horrendous conditions there, and was then transported to Singapore. Here, along with more than 2,000 Australian and British prisoners of war, he boarded the ship Rakuyo Maru for transport to Japan.

The Rakuyo Maru (with 1,318 Australian and British prisoners of war aboard) and Kachidoki Maru (with 900 British prisoners of war) were part of a convoy carrying mostly raw materials from Singapore to Japan. The prisoners were all survivors of the Burma–Thailand Railway.

On the morning of 12 September 1944 the convoy was attacked by American submarines in the South China Sea. Rakuyo Maru was sunk by the USS Sealion II, and Kachidoki Maru by USS Pampanito. Those prisoners able to evacuate the ships spent the following days in life rafts or clinging to wreckage in open water. About 150 Australian and British survivors were rescued by American submarines, with a further 500 picked up by Japanese destroyers. Those not rescued perished at sea. A total of 1,559 Australian and British prisoners of war were killed in the incident. The total number of Australians killed was 543.

Sargent was one of the missing. He was 34 years old.

His wife and daughters would never forget the final letter home they received from him, which read: “Kiss our little darlings for me and always remember I love you such a lot.”

Joseph Sargent’s name is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial in Malaysia and on the Roll of Honour on my left, among the roughly 40,000 other Australians who died serving in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Joseph Sargent, and all of those Australians who gave their lives for their nation.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX69499) Corporal Joseph Sargent, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second AIF, Second World War. (video)