Relic of murdered Glen Innes diggers shows up in war memorial collection

Private Joseph Platford's enlistment photo. Platford was from Glen Innes, but was killed in Malaysia by the Japanese.

Private Joseph Platford's enlistment photo. Platford was from Glen Innes, but was killed in Malaysia by the Japanese.

A Second World War relic recently discovered at the Australian war memorial could help tell the story of a pair of Glen Innes diggers murdered by the Japanese on the Sandakan death march.

Di Rutherford, the curator of military heraldry and technology at the war memorial in Canberra, recently found a small badge, which she thinks was donated by the Glen Innes and district patriotic fund, in a collection of items discovered at the Sandakan prisoner of war camp. Ms Rutherford is appealing for help identifying the badge, which she thinks was attached to a money pouch.

The badge reads "from Glen Innes and district" and bears the town's coat of arms. She thinks it was given to either Private Joseph Platford or Private Charles William Hogbin. Both enlisted in Glen Innes on 28 June 1940, in the 2/18 AIF battalion and died at Sandakan in 1945, possibly murdered by the Japanese.

"This is an item that somebody has carried with them their entire captivity and it's not an item that necessarily would have been useful to them to survive in the physical sense, but from a personal sense it's a reminder of home, it's a reminder of the family and that kind of thing," she said.

"And so that aspect of it - that they carried it with them as long as they could - says a lot about the person, their mindset, what they thought was important to help them survive."

This small badge would have been attached to a money belt - it is thought to be brass. Patriotic funds sprung up across Australia dedicated to raising money for new items of clothing for diggers overseas.

This small badge would have been attached to a money belt - it is thought to be brass. Patriotic funds sprung up across Australia dedicated to raising money for new items of clothing for diggers overseas.

Platford and Hogbin were among 80,000 allied troops captured by the Japanese army at Singapore in February 1942, with the entire battalion going into captivity. In July 1944 they were transferred to the infamous Sandakan prison.

Sandakan was one of the worst prisoner of war camps of the Pacific war. Of 2,345 allied prisoners kept in the Malaysian camp, every single soldier died except six escaped Australians.

Conditions were dreadful for years, including overwork at gun point, denial of food and constant sadistic abuse, but most of the deaths occurred in a series of infamous 260 kilometer barefoot death marches in 1945. Both Hogbin and Platford died around this time, but Ms Rutherford isn't sure if they died of malnutrition or were shot.

The badge found its way into a rubbish tip at the camp. In 1986, an Australian infantry company on a training exercise in the area retraced the march. They returned to Australia with a large pile of items, which were put into storage at the war memorial.

Private Charles William Hogbin was one of thousands murdered by the Japanese at the Sandakan camps.

Private Charles William Hogbin was one of thousands murdered by the Japanese at the Sandakan camps.

Ms Rutherford has been working on cataloging the group of items.

"As part of that I found some amazing things and one of them was this badge," she said.

"To find something that's associated with a town and then could possibly be even associated with a person, the potential was really quite amazing.

"There were a number of things that were really quite poignant that I found amongst those objects and this was one of them."

The badge reads "Glen Innes and district".

The badge reads "Glen Innes and district".

The memorial plans to put the item online with its story, but is appealing to the community for more information. She said there might even be people in Glen Innes who helped manufacture the badge or the money belt, or who helped raise money.

"What I'd be interested to know is if anyone living in Glen Innes, any family members, still have any of these money belts" she said.

Ultimately the item will go on the war memorial's website.

"We're letting Glen Innes know that this item is here and that that it came from someone from their area," she said.