The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX40023) Private Eric Arthur Abbott, General Base Depot Malaya, Second Australian Imperial Force, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.93
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 3 April 2021
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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (NX40023) Private Eric Arthur Abbott, General Base Depot Malaya, Second Australian Imperial Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX40023 Private Eric Arthur Abbott, General Base Depot Malaya, Second Australian Imperial Force
DOI 21 January 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Eric Arthur Abbott.

Eric Abbott was born on 24 September 1918 in Summerhill, New South Wales, the son of teacher William Abbott and his wife Constance. Growing up alongside two sisters, Edna and Beryl, the family home was not a happy one. In 1935, Eric’s parents went to court, his mother accusing his father of physical abuse and cruelty. They separated, and Eric remained with his mother.

Eric Abbott was living in the Sydney suburb of Randwick and working as a pastry cook when he enlisted with East Command in the Army Service Corps in 1940. He served for some months as a driver with the 106 Reserve Motor Transport Company, until leaving to enlist with the Second Australian Imperial Force on 28 July 1941.

Posted to the General Base Depot, Abbott embarked from Sydney aboard the transport ship Sibajak on 17 September, arriving in Singapore in early October and working as a driver.

After Japan’s entry into the war in December 1941, the 8th Division was engaged in defending the Malayan peninsula. On 14 February 1942 Commonwealth forces in Malaya were forced to surrender, and Private Abbott was among the 45,000 British and Australian troops who became prisoners of war.

He was initially held at Changi prisoner-of-war camp, but the Japanese soon called for working parties to build and expand new infrastructure across their empire. In July, Abbott volunteered with B Force, which left for Borneo in July 1942. The men had been assured of better food and conditions, but the almost 1,500 members of B Force found themselves on a hellish sea journey, crammed into the cargo holds of the Ubi Maru for 11 days before arriving at Sandakan.

Conditions at Sandakan soon devolved into some of the worst experienced by prisoners of the Japanese. Prisoners, including the sick, were forced at gunpoint to work on the construction of a military airstrip, and were often beaten by their captors. Illness and death ravaged the camp, and food was scarce. Six months after arriving on Borneo, Private Eric Abbott developed cerebritis, a brain inflammation caused by bacterial infection or disease, and died on 21 January 1943. He was 24 years old.

Abbott was dearly missed by his mother and sisters, who placed in memoriam notices in the newspapers for years after his death. His body was recovered from Sandakan, and he is buried at the Labuan War Cemetery, under the inscription, “His duty nobly done.”

Private Eric Arthur Abbott’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 others from 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 Eric Abbott, and all those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Christina Zissis
Editor, Military History Section

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