John Fritz SACHS MM

SACHS, John Fritz

Service Number: NX9629
Enlisted: 2 January 1940
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: Z Special Unit
Born: Chatswood, North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 4 October 1913
Home Town: Double Bay, Woollahra, New South Wales
Schooling: Kings School - Nth Parramatta, New South Wales
Occupation: Mechanic / Technical Representative of (C.O.R.) Commonwealth Oil Refineries-Sydney, NSW.
Died: Execution whilst a POW, Java, Netherlands East Indies, 5 April 1945, aged 31 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorial Location: Column 117, Singapore Memorial (within Kranji War Cemetery). Roll of Honour: Double Bay, New South Wales.
Memorials: Australian Commando Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery
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Non Warlike Service

19 Sep 1938: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Bombardier, NX9629, 2nd/5th Field Regiment

World War 2 Service

2 Jan 1940: Involvement Bombardier, NX9629, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion
2 Jan 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lieutenant, NX9629, Z Special Unit
2 Jan 1940: Enlisted Bombardier, NX9629, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion, Victoria Barracks - Sydney, NSW, Australia
24 Sep 1940: Promoted Lance Bombardier, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion, (NAA, Pg-16)
31 Dec 1940: Involvement Lance Bombardier, NX9629, 2nd/1st Field Regiment, Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre
10 Feb 1941: Promoted Bombardier, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion, Promoted (Reverted): 10/02/1941, reverted back to Rank of Bombardier, from Lance Bombardier; (NAA, Pg-17).
24 Apr 1941: Promoted Sergeant, 2nd/1st Field Regiment, (NAA, Pg-17)
29 Apr 1941: Imprisoned Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre, (NAA, Pg-9)
26 Mar 1942: Honoured Military Medal, Middle East / Mediterranean Theatre, Honours & Awards: 26/03/1942, London Gazette, Pg-1372, Pos-4.
19 Apr 1943: Involvement Lieutenant, NX9629, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion
21 Sep 1943: Promoted Lieutenant, 2nd/6th Infantry Battalion, (NAA, Pg-18)
25 Apr 1944: Involvement Lieutenant, NX9629, Z Special Unit
17 Mar 1945: Imprisoned New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns, (NAA, Pg-6)

The Last Post Ceremony | Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX9629) Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit, Second World War.


The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX9629) Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit, Second World War.
Speech transcript

NX9629 Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, Z Special Unit
Executed 5 April 1945
Photograph: P03819.003

Story delivered 26 January 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs.

John Sachs was born in Chatswood, New South Wales, on 4 October 1913. He attended the Kings School, where he served in the cadet corps, and went on to become a mechanic. He was later employed by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries in Sydney. Although he was a qualified pilot, Sachs enlisted in the militia in September 1938, and was discharged to serve in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1940.

Sachs was sent overseas for service in Libya and Greece with the 2/1st Australian Field Regiment. Sergeant Sachs was wounded in the shoulder during the evacuation from Greece and was captured at Kalamata in April 1941. His captors at first kept him in hospital and then transferred him to a prisoner-of-war camp. While being transported to Corinth he jumped from the train and escaped custody.

Sachs hid in the hills until he could make arrangements to escape by sea, using a stolen 16-foot sailboat to dodge capture by travelling from island to island in the Aegean Sea until he made it to the Turkish coast. Sergeant Sachs was awarded the Military Medal for his "great fortitude and tenacity of purpose" in this escape.

Although he volunteered to return to Greece to help other escapees get out, Sachs was commissioned lieutenant and sent to New Guinea to serve with the 2/6th Battalion. He continued to serve with distinction, volunteering for reconnaissance duties and patrols. In May 1944 he was seconded to Z Special Unit, a special forces unit formed to operate behind Japanese lines in the Pacific and south-east Asia, and was trained in the use of submarines in sabotage and intelligence-gathering missions.

Lieutenant Sachs served on two missions outside Australian mandated territory in 1945. Few details of these missions have been made publically even today, but they involved conduction surveillance of Japanese troops, or even sabotaging their camps and facilities. On Sachs's second mission he left an Australian base by submarine with Lieutenant Peaske. They left the submarine in a small boat to conduct their mission, but failed to return. As the submarine was attempting to contact them by wireless they heard voices at the other end which were reported variously as Japanese voices, an Australian voice, or even Sach's voice saying, "Get out." Shortly afterwards the submarine was attacked from the air and was lucky to escape.

Whatever was heard, it was clear that Sachs and his companion had been made prisoners of the Japanese. It was later determined that Sachs and Peaske had been imprisoned at Surabaya in Java. They did not survive their imprisonment. Lieutenant John Sachs was beheaded by the Japanese on or around 5 April, 1945. Despite his brother Tom's efforts to find his body after the war, John Sachs has no known grave.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 others from the Second World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant John Fritz Sachs, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
TEXT: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Australia (CC BY-NC 3.0 AU) license

Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Daniel Bishop

Son of Fritz Abrahm SACHS, & Ada Frances "Biddie" (nee Beard) SACHS, of Double Bay, Municipality of Woollahra, New South Wales.


Lieutenant - John Fritz SACHS, Service No:  NX9629

Units Involved:  2nd/6th Australian Infantry Battalion; 2nd/1st Field Regiment; Last Unit - "Z" Special Unit.

A Brief of his World War II service history ...

He served in Greece where he was badly wounded, became a Prisoner Of War (POW), escaped and joined a Greek resistance group and was further involved in sabotage work.  He commandeered a boat, sailed to Turkey and rejoined the Australian Forces.  

Whilst a Sergeant with the 2nd/1st Field Regiment, Sachs' was awarded the 'Military Medal' on the 26th March 1942, for his 'courage, fortitude and tenacity in escaping from a POW camp'.  Lieutenant, Sachs joined the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD), in May 1944, and he became one of the first group of operatives to train in the use of submarines to use in sabotage and intelligence gathering missions. 

In his last fatal operation involved in the operation of the Z Special Force, he and his partner, Lieutenant, Clifford Perske (SN-QX22425), were to attack ships of the Japanese convoys which were anchored at the Manselembo by attaching limpet mines.  They were carried by USS Beam, a submarine which carried the folboat (two person submarine used for the operation).  The Folboat did not appear at the rendezvous, and on their return to Fremantle (W.A), the Captain of the submarine reported an Australian voice on the radio at sunrise who admitted his identification codeword.

It is believed this was Sachs, and that they had been captured, and it was an attempt to catch the USS Beam.  Sachs and Perske were discovered later to have been imprisoned for a time 'Surabaya, Java', and later beheaded by the Japanese.

Submitted By:  DL Bishop

[ Lieutenant-John Fritz SACHS, SN-NX9629 ( ]

(AWM) Australian War Memorial; Portrait:  Lieutenant-John Fritz SACHS, Service No:  NX9629.