Anzac Day | Naracoorte serviceman tells his tale

AS the community prepares to gather at the war memorial on April 25, Naracoorte's Ron Reynolds remembers his own harrowing experience as a 19-year-old serviceman.

Just before Anzac Day in 1945 a heavily armed patrol boat left Aitape in Papua New Guinea en route to Muschu Island, just north of Wewak.

On board were 12 sailors including two officers and Mr Reynolds who was the wireless operator - a role which required him to send out and receive signals using morse code.

They were headed for a large Japanese base which had a force of about 20,000 troops.

The mission called "Operation Copper" was to capture a prisoner for information and render inoperative a 150mm gun pending the assault on Wewak by the sixth division Australian Imperial Force camped at Aitape.

On board the patrol boat were also eight "Z- force" special commandoes, with four rubber fold boats, who were landed that night on Muschu Island before pushing inland the next day.

They saw the gun was useless and started back hoping to catch a prisoner.

Unfortunately they ran into a large Japanese patrol and a fire fight erupted.

Five of the "Z-force" commandoes were killed and the other three split up. 

One, known as Mick D, headed for the beach and swam the 5km back to PNG mainland before he walked 50km to a sixth division AIF patrol.

He now lives in Sydney aged 94.

The five killed were exhumed when the war finished and reburied in the war cemetery at Lae, PNG.

The other two, Spencer W and Ron W, were never heard of again until recently - 68 years later.

An investigation into what happened to them was launched and two "missing in action" operatives decided to search on an island adjoining Muschu Island called Kiruru.

They interviewed two island elders who, acting on word handed down, said that two Australian soldiers had swam ashore and been captured by the Japanese.

They were executed and their remains tossed on a jungle camp fire and burned.

The elders took them to the site and, after all those years, human remains were found.

DNA testing proved them to be those of Spencer W and Ron W.

The remains were taken to Lae and laid to rest, if only in spirit, with their five "Z-force" comrades.

Thus ended a saga in which the four remaining sailors and Mick D can say: "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. Lest we forget."

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