VALE BRIAN: Brian Walpole died peacefully at his home in Sydney on June 1st, 2009, at 86 years of age.
He was laid to rest in a simple, dignified ceremony at Northern Suburbs Crematorium on June 10th. Friends and family paid tribute to his essential decency, positive outlook and courage.
As his friend Chris pointed out, when Brian contracted malaria after eight months of intense jungle fighting in New Guinea there was no need for him to go back – he could have seen the war out behind a desk at home in Australia. Yet Brian went to considerable lengths to be posted overseas again and once more put his life on the line, serving with distinction in Borneo in a covert campaign that continued several weeks beyond Japan’s official surrender.
His decision to take a small unit to secure the Sarawak town Simanggang in September 1945 saved a number of lives, at no small risk to his own. Japanese troops were about to evacuate Simanggang and surrender to the Australian 9th Division in Kuching – but not before murdering all their Allied prisoners-of-war. Brian and his Sea Dyak team arrived the day the Japanese were departing and, after a firefight, succeeded in saving every POW in the town.
Life is for living, the subtitle of the book, was Brian’s personal motto. He was always positive and up for new challenges. He learned how to use a computer to write his manuscript, which he composed at the rate of a chapter a day, sitting in his local park armed with a laptop and a bottle of vodka.
Brian was married three times and had three children but was living alone at the time of his death. He was a regular and popular fixture at North Sydney Leagues Club. I believe he was lucid to the very end and enjoyed a drink with friends on his last day.
It was my great privilege to assist Brian in preparing his war memoirs for publication. He was tremendously pleased that his story finally made a book after so many years.