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My Uncle – I wish I had known him …….

As brave as they come … Captain Lionel Matthews.

It is humbling to read about the uncle I never knew – executed as a prisoner of war by the Japanese in 1944. I cannot even begin to imagine the terror, deprivation and stubborn refusal to give in that kept them alive for so long in the face of unremitting misery and the absence of hope.

My uncle, Lionel Matthews, was captured by the Japanese and sent to Sandakan in what used to be Borneo. There he was able to engineer a daring scheme to smuggle in supplies and smuggle out information & news. Naturally this enterprise was eventually discovered and the Japanese wreaked a terrible revenge. The ring leaders, including my uncle, were executed and of the 1500 odd remaining prisoners, only 6 survived to see the end of the war…

My aunt, Lionel’s wife & my father’s oldest sister, eventually remarried and only died last year in Adelaide, aged 96.


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