Ronald Arthur STACE


STACE, Ronald Arthur

Service Number: NX40828
Enlisted: 3 July 1940, Tamworth, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/19th Infantry Battalion
Born: Uralla, New South Wales, 10 February 1919
Home Town: Uralla, Uralla, New South Wales
Schooling: Uralla State School
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Died of Illness (POW of Japan), Borneo, 7 June 1945, aged 26 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave (Ronald Arthur Stace POW No. 1916 is Commemorated on Panel 11)
Memorials: Alma Park Uralla Soldiers Memorial Gates, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

3 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SN NX40828, 2nd/19th Infantry Battalion, Malaya/Singapore
3 Jul 1940: Enlisted Tamworth, New South Wales

Help us honour Ronald Arthur Stace's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.


Ronald Arthur Stace was the only child of Frank and Jessie Stace. He grew up on the family property 'Everton Glen' on the outskirts of Uralla, a small county town in the New England District of New South Wales.

Ron lodged his name at Uralla's 'Win-the-War' Rally and enlisted in Tamworth in the Australian Army on 3 July 1940 service number NX40828. He was attached to 2/18th Battalion in Malaya, returning home to Australia in October 1941 to the military hospital Sydney. After recovering he spent Christmas at home with his family, it was to be the last time he would see them.

Ron was captured by the Japanese in the surrender of Singapore February 1942. He spent time in Changi Prisoner of War Camp before being transferred with Force E to Sandakan, North Borneo 28 March 1943. One thousand Australian and British soldiers were on board SS DeKirk when it sailed from Singapore harbour arriving at Berhala Island adjacent to Sandakan Harbour 15 April 1943. The POWs were held there until 15 June then taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were transferred to 8 Mile Camp. The Japanese used the POWs to construct a military airfield on the island using little more than their bare hands.

Conditions in the POW camps until mid-1943 were tolerable but the discovery by the Japanese of a radio and finding out POWs were in contact with a local resistance organisation tightened discipline and life became very difficult for the POWs. it is universally acknowledged that the POWs at Sandakan were treated brutally, living in appalling conditions with no medical attention, the camp was drowning in disease, men suffered starvation and were bashed by guards and sometimes murdered. Although only skin and bones, suffering from malnutrition and gravely ill they were forced into hard labour by the Japanese.

Ron's parents were notificed that he was posted missing August 1942, he was officially listed as a POW in October 1943. The local newspaper's 'Letters from Prisoners of War' in 1943 reported Ron's message to his parents stated he was 'well and in excellent spirits'. This gave this family hope after not hearing for many long months but it was far from the truth.

As the war ground on conditions deteriorated and in late January 1945 the Japanese decided to move the prisoners to Ranua owing to the large Allied sea and air bombardment of Sandakan. The Japanese evacuated the remaining ill and malnourished 800 or so prisoners and burned their camp. Approximately 500 of those well enough to move were gathered in eleven groups for the second March to Ranua. Those too weak were left to die or were killed by the Japanese. Ron as part of the second March left Sandakan camp April 1945. This group was even sicker and more malnourished than the group in the first Death March. POWs ate what they could along the jungle track including snails and tree ferns. The Japanese beat them with their rifle butts to urge them on. Those who were too weak to walk any further were removed from the track shot, bayonetted or in some cases, beheaded. Of the 500 who set out on the second Death March only 183 survived, only to die of illness, starvation or at the hands of the Japanese.

A second article in the Uralla Times dated 11 January 1945 informs readers that Mr & Mrs Stace had received a card from their son Ron who was in a POW camp in Borneo. It read, "Loving greetings to you and all at home. Quite fit and looking forward to an early reunion. All my love, Ron." The message heavily censured by the Japanese was far from the truth but gave hope to those back home for his safe return.

Ron, like all the POWs, was skin and bone, probably unable to keep up he lost his life somewhere along the 260 kilometre rugged jungle track through the mountains which stretched from Sandakan to Ranau, a small settlement on the flanks of Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia's highest peak. Ron died 6 July 1945, aged twenty-six. There is a report which suggests he was buried beside the track where he died from exhaustion, malnutrition, and malaria and quite probably like so many POWs his life ended by a a Japanese soldier when he fell by the way no longer able to take another step. Japanese records state his cause of death was 'malaria',  this hids the true cause of death from the cruel mistreatment of a POW at the hands of the Japanese. 

Today the POWs whose bodies were recovered are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission War Cemetery at Labuan. Those who could not be identified or have no known grave, are commenorated on memorials to the missing of Labuan and Singapore. Ronald Arthur Stace is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 11, his POW number was 1916. Thankfully those who escaped and survived were able to give evidence against the Japanese, telling the world of the inhumane treatment received as POWs at the hands of the Japanese. Without these survivors we may never have discovered the fate of more than 2,000 Australians and British POWs. The Labuan Memorial consists of a colonnade forming a forecourt, immediately inside the wrought iron gates of the main entrance to the cemetery. On the inner faces of the pillars are bronze panels on which are engraved the names of those who it honours. Some of those whose names appear on the memorial are undoubtedly buried in unidentified graves in the cemetery.

Historian Lynette Ramsay Silver in her book 'Sandakan-A Conspiracy of Silence" explains the silence surrounding the Sandkakan POWs following the war and exposed the truth. It was a terrible story of official cover-up over an aborted proposal to liberate the Sandakan POWs in early 1945, in reponse to an order from the Japanese High Command that no prisoners were to survive the war, those still able to walk were sent on a series of death marches in the interior. In late 1944 the Allies, aware of the POWs were being 'eliminated', had evolved a plan for their rescue - a rescue which, after months of bungling, was finally cancelled in April 1945 in the erroneous belief the Sandakan camp had been evacuated. "Gross incompetence was to blame for the failed attempt. When it was realised that mistakes and stupidity were responsible, those at the highest level shifted the blame before embarking on a policy of wilful and deliberate suppression."