by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Trinity News : November 2011
46 TRINITY NEWS ALUMNI Born in 1903, Ronald Coghlan enrolled in July 1914 as No. 85 of Trinity’s Student Community. A.G.H. Chambers, delivering the eulogy at Coghlan’s memorial service in 1946, remembered him as a young man of modest spirit and high ideals: “...shy of any fuss, always clean and neat, retiring behind a wall of silence when hurt in spirit, but always ready to be in on anything he considered worthwhile.” It was Rugby that drew him out of his shell and the athletic, powerfully-built Coghlan became an outstanding exponent of the game: Captain of the School’s 1st XV in 1922, he went on to represent both Western Suburbs and Norths as a First Grader in the 1920s and 1930s. Coghlan remained energetically devoted to the School throughout his working life. From 1925 he served on the Council of the Old Trinitarians’ Union and volunteered his services each year to coach athletics and Rugby. He even purchased at his own expense a new set of goal posts for No. 1 Oval and painted the fence that enclosed it. The 36-year old Coghlan enlisted for service in December 1940 and was attached to the 2/3 Motor Ambulance Convoy. In April 1941 he embarked for active service and after arrival in Singapore began a Specialist Trade Group III Course to qualify as a driver/ mechanic. He contracted malaria just prior to the fall of Singapore. Coghlan was one of 15,000 troops incarcerated in Changi, the unwelcoming grey stone jail the British had built in the 1930s on the north-east coast of Singapore Island, where he endured many hardships before being moved, with 1500 other Australian prisoners allocated to B Force, which sailed east from Singapore to North Borneo. On July 17 the “Ubi Maru” steamed into the Port of Sandakan and the following day the prisoners marched 12 kilometres inland to the Number 1 POW Camp which would house them for the next three years. Prisoners were housed 64 to a hut in a narrow 183x60 centimetre space which made sleep difficult in the stifling heat. The land surrounding the camp was a combination of dense jungle and steamy marshes, host to malaria-bearing mosquitoes. To the north of the camp lay the area that would be the site of the 1.5 kilometre long, 800 metre wide airstrip to be built by the prisoners of war. 1500 Australian POWs, 4000 Javanese coolies and a large number of local natives would provide the initial labour force. In April 1943 a further 500 Australians (E force) and 750 British prisoners were added. Coghlan survived for almost three years at Sandakan, enduring with the others endless vicissitudes of exhausting work, brutality from the guards, malnutrition and torture. Racked with malaria and other complaints, he was often too sick to work and with no food available to those in hospital, his body wasted away. At last, by October 1944 the tide of war in the Pacific was turning. Fearing invasion, Hoshijima decided to move the prisoners inland to Ranau, an isolated camp 250 kilometres into the jungles of North Borneo. Only one of Trinity’s Old Boys at Sandakan would take part in the death marches to Ranau: Short, Swift and Coghlan would die at the camp. Although the official Japanese explanation was that all died from the effects of malaria, it has recently been established that Short was executed. Coghlan’s fate however remains less certain. Hoshijima had received orders on the 17 March, 1945 that all prisoners were to be eliminated. Most died on the marches to Ranau, those who remained in camp at Sandakan were either executed or died over a six-month period from the effects of disease, malnutrition and the privations of their incarceration. Prisoner of War Number 541 Ronald Coghlan ‘officially’ died on April 3, 1945 and was one of the 82 identified and 345 unidentified prisoners buried in the Sandakan No. 2 Cemetery which was in use between March and May 1945. Chambers’ eulogy the following year concluded: And so we take our leave of ‘Cog’ – a man amongst men. He has gone on while we linger. He has shared his School life with us; he shared our trials and joys in the mundane life of ‘surviving’ in the world of commerce, and now he has laid down that life of his that we, his friends, might have peace...Detur Gloria Soli Deo. | Robert Scott Trinity Remembers... RONALD VIVIAN COGHLAN | NX 69286 from top Coghlan (standing 2nd from left) – Prefects 1921 | Ronald Coghlan – Captain of the 1st XV 1922 | A view of the main entrance to the camp, showing the landmark ‘Big Tree,’ the last remnant of the original forest, the weather station, cage, guardhouses and gate. The trees in the background are kapok trees. Woodcut by J.R. Kilgour, from a sketch by Fred Woodley. | Esau, the punishment cage. Drawing by a Sandakan Prisoner | Ronald Coghlan signature | Ronald Vivian Coghlan.