The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX72749) Corporal John Jackson, 8 Division Provost Company, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.148
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 28 May 2018
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Dennis Stockman, the story for this day was on (NX72749) Corporal John Jackson, 8 Division Provost Company, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

NX72749 Corporal John Jackson, 8 Division Provost Company
Date of death 29 April 1945
Story delivered 28 May 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal John Jackson.

John Jackson, a Kamilaroi man, was born near Grafton on 28 April 1916. He grew up in the region and worked on dairy farms in the area. He also served in the militia with the 41st Battalion, known as the Byron Regiment.

He enlisted for service with the Second Australian Imperial Force in March 1941, at a time when Australian government and military policies banned the service of Indigenous Australians. Despite this, many had already enlisted and gone on to serve overseas.
Jackson’s leadership potential was recognised soon after his enlistment. After joining a training battalion in Tamworth, he was promoted first to lance corporal and three months later to sergeant. He was clearly a remarkable man, earning rapid promotions based purely on merit that provided a rare opportunity for Indigenous Australians to command white troops.

Prior to embarking for service overseas, he was given a final leave and he returned home. Jackson and two other soldiers who were home on leave were given a send-off at the local town hall during which Jackson, who had a fine voice, sang One day when we were young.

Jackson left Sydney on 17 September 1941, bound for Singapore. He was seconded to the 8th Division Provost Company and briefly reduced to private on joining his new unit, but was quickly promoted to corporal. In his role as a military policeman, he was responsible for the maintenance of discipline and order, which became a difficult task as Allied forces were forced to withdraw down the Malay Peninsula to Singapore.
Having already advanced through Thailand and most of Malaya, by the end of January, the last of the Allied troops had reached Singapore and an attack looked imminent.

The attack began at 10.30 pm on 8 February. Defending forces inflicted heavy casualties, but with their communications cut, heavily outnumbered, and the Japanese infiltrating between positions, the Australians were forced to withdraw.

By 13 February the battle for Singapore Island was all but over and British forces surrendered two days later.

Jackson was in hospital suffering from the effects of malaria when Singapore fell, and was imprisoned with the other Australians in the sprawling Changi prisoner-of-war camp. The Japanese were puzzled to find the handful of dark-skinned soldiers among the captured Australians, who were aware of the existence of the White Australia policy.

It was not long before prisoners were allocated to external work parties. Jackson became part of B Force, departing Singapore on 8 July 1942 on the so-called “hellship” Ubi Maru, bound for Sandakan in British North Borneo.

The ships used to transport prisoners were cramped, old, dirty and in poor repair. Prisoners were crammed in every available space in the holds, forced onto small, crudely-constructed wooden bunks.

After a nine-day journey Jackson and his comrades disembarked and marched to their internment camp, Sandakan No. 1 POW Camp.

After establishing their camp the prisoners were put to work building an airstrip. At first conditions and food supplies were reasonable. However, from September 1942 the Japanese control began to tighten. Prisoners were made to sign a promise not to escape, and senior officers were moved to Kuching in western Borneo. By October 1943, about 2,500 Australian and British servicemen were at Sandakan, and conditions continued to worsen. The men were overworked, underfed, regularly beaten and tortured. Given few of the basic requirements for human survival, they succumbed to the devastating effects of tropical illnesses, such as malaria, dysentery and beri beri, or died from starvation.

Surprisingly, an occasional camp concert was permitted: at one of them, Jacko sang Beautiful dreamer.

Only six prisoners interned at Sandakan would survive the war. Those who were still alive in 1945 perished during forced marches through 250 kilometres of mountainous country to Ranau.

John Jackson lived for three years in these trying conditions, but died from unknown causes on 29 April 1945. His name is listed on the Labuan Memorial inside the Labuan War Cemetery, North Borneo which commemorates Australians and local troops who died as Prisoners of War and have no known graves.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 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 Corporal John Jackson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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