The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX4738) Private Robert Edward Salcole, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second Australian Imperial Force, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.181
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 30 June 2017
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
Description

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 Ricahard Cruise, the story for this day was on (NX4738) Private Robert Edward Salcole, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second Australian Imperial Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX4738 Private Robert Edward Salcole, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second Australian Imperial Force
Died at sea 12 September 1944

Story delivered 30 June 2017

Today we pay tribute to Private Robert Salcole.

Robert Edward Salcole was born on 30 June 1912 in Nyngan, in the Bogan Shire area of central New South Wales, to Robert Edward senior and Gertrude Emily Salcole.

Robert Sacole enlisted in the Second AIF on 30 April 1941 and was posted to the 3rd Reserve Motor Transport. Following training he embarked for overseas service. Arriving in Singapore, his unit joined the 8th Australian Division.
Following Japan’s entry in the war in early December 1941, the Allied forces on the Malayan peninsula were pushed back against a rapid Japanese advance.

On 6 February 1942, two days before the Japanese landed on Singapore Island, Salcole’s unit was evacuated from Singapore, arriving on Java on 11 February. There they joined other Australian units assembled on Java to form “Blackforce”, named after its commander, Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC. For a few days Blackburn mounted a successful holding operation, but on 11 March Blackforce was obliged to surrender after the capitulation of Allied forces, and over 2,700 men were taken prisoner, including Robert Salcole.

Over 22,000 Australians were captured by the Japanese when they conquered south-east Asia in early 1942, more than a third of whom would die in captivity.

At the end of 1942, Salcole was transported to Burma as part of the large workforce being assembled by the Japanese to build the Burma–Thailand Railway. Following the completion of the railway in October 1943, Salcole was transported from Thailand to Singapore. Here, along
with more than 2,000 Australian and British prisoners of war, he embarked upon the ship the Rakuyo Maru, to be transported to Japan.

The Rakuyo Maru (with 1,318 Australian and British prisoners of war aboard) and Kachidoki Maru (carrying 900 British prisoners of war) were part of a convoy carrying mostly raw materials that left Singapore for Japan on 6 September 1944. The prisoners were 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 USS Sealion II, and Kachidoki Maru by USS Pampanito. 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. A further 500 were picked up by Japanese destroyers and continued the journey to Japan. Those not rescued perished at sea. One thousand five-hundred and fifty-nine prisoners of war were killed in the incident, all missing at sea.

Salcole was one of the missing. It is believed that he clung to floating debris for four days before disappearing beneath the waves.

He was 32 years old.

Toady his name, along with those of the 543 Australians who were killed in the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru, appears on the Labuan Memorial in Malaysia.

His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in 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 Private Robert Edward Salcole, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX4738) Private Robert Edward Salcole, 3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company, Second Australian Imperial Force, Second World War. (video)