Don Wall (17-01-1921 to 15-11-2004)
Don Wall was a veteran of both the fall of Singapore and the infamous Burma - Thailand Railway.
Don served with the 2/20 Battalion 8 Division AIF, in Malaya from 1941. When Japan attacked in December 1941 the battalion was deployed in the Mersing-Endau area and was among the first Australian infantry to engage the Japanese on the peninsula.
After the fall of Singapore he spent time in Changi Prisoner of War Camp before being sent to Thailand on ‘F’ Force, to assist in the construction of the Burma - Thailand Railway line under the supervision of Japanese forces.
In 1943, as a driver, Don observed and experienced the horrendous conditions inflicted upon Australian and British prisoners of war. ‘F’ Force suffered over 3000 casualties in 8 months before returning to Changi.
After returning to Changi, Don organised a small group to operate a covert wireless between 1944-45. For his part in this dangerous venture he was Mentioned in Dispatches.
In 1982 he commenced recording the events of his Prisoner of War days. The result was a 375 page hardcover book, titled, “Singapore and Beyond”, a history of the 2/20 Battalion 2nd AIF. Self-published in 1985 and described by Dr “Weary” E.E Dunlop as “one of the very best battalion histories ever written”. Notably, it was a soldiers’ version of the loss of the 8th division. To achieve this, Don travelled extensively and used his tape recorder, as well as written sources, to capture the personal stories of his fellow 2/20th mates, many of whom were telling their stories for the first time. As an interviewer, Don came with in-built credibility having shared their experiences as a Prisoner of War.
Having written “Singapore and Beyond”’, Don went on to write another six books including the long awaited and well-received “Sandakan the Last March”. First published in 1988, followed by several more editions as he uncovered more important material.
“Sandakan the Last March” was regarded as the most definitive account of the Sandakan tragedy to date, and ultimately triggered the formation of the Sandakan Memorial Foundation in 1992. The Sandakan Memorial Foundation then set about to establish permanent memorials to those who perished at Sandakan, in the districts from which significant numbers of Sandakan POWs had originated. Prime Minister Paul Keating opened the first Memorial on August 1 1993 at Burwood. Others followed at Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Maitland, Bendigo and New Farm Park in Brisbane in July 1995.
Don’s interest in comprehensively recording Australian WW2 military history resulted in his publishing of four more books: “Abandoned”, “Heroes at Sea”, “Heroes of F Force” and “Kill the Prisoners.”
In 1995 Don was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his contribution to 8th Division history and the fate of prisoners of war at Sandakan Northern Borneo.
Throughout the late 1990s and until his death in 2004, Don continued his research work and remained a treasured source of information for families of POWs and military historians alike.
Along the way he found time to publish “The other side of Bourke - the fragile land”, a tribute to the people of outback N.S.W.
In 2001 Don published Pat Darling’s “Portrait of a Nurse”. See BOOKS for a detailed description of all titles.