ABOUT 300 attended a memorial service at Strathdale Park yesterday to honour servicemen who died at Sandakan and Ranau in World War Two.
The Post-1975 Veterans Central Victoria, Sandakan Family and Friends Victoria, RSL and government representatives joined community members to lay wreaths and remember those killed in the brutal North Borneo death camps and marches.
Of the 2000 Allied prisoners forced to march to Sandakan and Ranau, only six survived.
Eaglehawk resident Leo Reither’s uncle, Herman Reither, was "one day away" from being one of those six.
Mr Reither, who attended yesterday’s service, said his Uncle Herman was taken prisoner in Singapore on February 15, 1942, and forced to march to Sandakan and later Ranau.
On the second death march to Ranau in May 1945, he was one of only a handful of prisoners still alive.
Tipped off by a guard that remaining POWs would be executed, Herman and another prisoner escaped, hid in the jungle and were cared for by locals.
“But they were severely ill with tropical diseases, and my uncle died on the 8th of August in the care of those locals," Mr Reither said.
“So he died a free man.
“The day after, on the 9th of August, his fellow escapee was rescued as the last and the sixth survivor.”
Six servicemen from the Bendigo region, including a father and son, died in the Sandakan and Ranau death marches and camps.