Your call this morning was most interesting and I thank you for it. I have two maps obtained from a Government office in the early 2000s, although I cannot now recall exactly from whom. They are dated in the mid-70s and I was going to post you copies today. However that will now have to wait until Monday as the place where I have been doing my photocopying has been getting more inefficient by the month. I must now try somewhere else.
You might find the following comments useful.
It is pleasing to see Wayne Wetherall’s trek route taking in the very toughest section of the track that was walked by prisoners of war all those years ago between Sandakan and Ranau. That is the section that followed the Liwagu River north from near Taviu to Mankadai and then onto Miru. From Miru the track climbed precipitously to the very high razor-backed ridge, and on through Maringan before it again descended to the Liwagu at Tampias. Prewar, of course, the route from Ranau to Sandakan came down to Tampias as a pony trail, from where the travel was down the Liwagu River by boat into Labuk Bay and around to Sandakan or by boat to Beluran where a foot trail to Sandakan was picked up.
On that Taviu to Tampias section alone, approximately fifty of our Australian prisoners of war perished,mostly on the first March in February 1945. Their names documented in an Appendix to Lynette Silver’s own book. There were British deaths as well.
Your clients who walk that authentic Miru track must be proudly yet sadly conscious that they walk in the faltering steps of heroes, men already tragically weakened by their ordeals.. A Japanese officer described the ordeals of that track to Miru: ” . . . before Milulu we met a heavy rain and the path along the cliff was washed away everywhere. We fell down and crawled up the cliffs several times.”
Nelson Short, one of the four survivors from Ranau, described in interview his own experience of the steep vally sides that they had to traverse. ” I went over the top of a cliff. I fell and rolled down and down. I thought I was never going to stop. I had a – – was carrying a little mat with me and I come to rest on this rock and it saved my life. I crawled back up again and got back onto the march with them, but there were some terrible – – the precipices you know, little paths you had to go around, and everything were shocking – – shocking country through there.”
Just a day or so later, climbing up the mountain beyond Miru called for unbelievable reserves of strength. In my book I have described that climb in the following terms:
” Clinging to the stems of shrubby bushes and liana vines, getting a good footgrip before hauling themselves up one more step, avoiding the spiny rattans and the evil barbs of one or two other bushes, resting whenever they could against the uphill side of an occasional huge tree trunk, panting and gulping for air, each man fought his own way slowly upwards to the top of the razor-back ridge.”
Be proud of your venture, Wayne. In enabling young Australians and others to experience that track you greatly honour the memory of all who passed that way in 1945.
My kind regards to you.