1787 died, just 6 survived
A NEW stained-glass window installed at St Andrews Anglican Church in Lismore commemorates 1787 Australian servicemen who died in the infamous Sandakan death camps during the Second World War.
The Sandakan Memorial Window was unveiled in the church's south transept in front of 200 people on Saturday.
Lismore resident Richard Braithwaite, whose father James was one of just six soldiers to survive the Sandakan camps and marches, reflected on his father's plight on Saturday.
"At the end of the war when he escaped, he weighed less than 50% of his normal body weight and he only just survived," Mr Braithwaite said.
"When they first came back from war, they weren't really expected to talk about it.
"I think it's quite wonderful in that we're fixing something we didn't resolve very well at the time as a community."
James Braithwaite revealed traumatic memories of surviving the camps and marches shortly before his death in 1986.
Mr Braithwaite said his father would have been surprised by the commemorative window and service.
"He would've been just absolutely astonished because recognition through books and the community started to happen just after he died," he said.
"What we're able to have here is something that's local and a touchstone for those of us who frequent the area and live here."
Among the 1787 Australian servicemen killed in 1945 in the North Borneo camps and marches were 45 Northern Rivers locals. The new stained-glass window has 45 leaves around its border representing those local servicemen.
On Saturday, the Rotary Club of Lismore invited relatives of those killed in the camps and marches to lay sprigs of rosemary under the new window in honour of their loved ones.
The window was designed by Tweed Valley glass artist Bill Klease and installed by Lismore glass artisan Greg Gallpen.
It is the second stage in a two-part commemoration of soldiers who died in the Sandakan camps and marches. The first was the unveiling of a Sandakan Death March Memorial in Commemorative Park in Lismore on August 27, 2010.