Tuesday, November 2, 2021

THE MELBOURNE CUP, 1942


Due to Covid restrictions, border closures, lockdowns and health issues, we have not been able to visit Kate’s dad, Noel, since February 2021. When the borders opened yesterday we drove to Canberra to catch up with him and spend some time there. It was good to catch up, he is also happy at the end of lockdown so that he can resume his daily routine of a trip to the shopping centre for coffee, hellos, catch ups and shopping. He is a young 94.

For those not aware, the highway to Canberra is part of a drive called the Remembrance Driveway, in honour of those who served in the Australian Defence Forces in World War II and subsequent wars or conflicts.

It includes rest stops named after winners of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system, awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy". Until 1991, the UK awarded the Victoria Cross to Australians. From that year Australia determined its own Victoria Cross awards, a part of the Australian Honours System commenced in 1975.

The drive to Canberra, the fact of the Melbourne Cup today and thinking about the VC winners whose names flash by at rest stops got me to thinking, both about a past post about a 1942 Melbourne Cup and about the people behind the names on the rest stop signs.

I am reposting the item about the 1942 Melbourne Cup, below, with an update.

Tomorrow will begin a new series, Remembering Heroes, about VC Winners and those after whom the rest stops are named.


From Bytes, Tuesday, November 2, 2010:

Melbourne Cup 1942

In 1942 the Melbourne Cup was won by Colonus, ridden by H McCloud, trained by F Manning and owned by L Menck.



War was on Australia’s doorstep with Darwin having been bombed in February of that year. Interstate travel restrictions were in force for both people and animals, the result being that the 1942 Cup was contested only by Victorian horses. Colonus won by 7 lengths. For the years 1942, 1943 and 1944 a cup was not presented. Instead, in keeping with the theme of austerity, the winner was given a £200 Austerity Bond. The race was known as the Austerity Cup.

In the hellish Sandakan prisoner of war camp in Borneo in 1942, a place far beyond austerity, the race was still known as the Melbourne Cup and the trophy was still a cup.

The person who made the improvised 1942 Melbourne Cup from a bully beef tin in the Sandakan camp is unknown. Below the 1942 date is another metal plate with the year 1943, the same cup having been used the following year at Sarawak.

The following extract is from the Australian War Memorial website:
This improvised Melbourne Cup was made at Sandakan prisoner of war camp in North Borneo in 1942. Deciding to mark Melbourne Cup day with their own race, the Australian officers at the camp set up a straight track, for nine or ten entrants, between the officer’s huts. Each track was divided into thirty squares and each competitor wore a coloured top of some kind to represent jockey’s silks. Drawing a number from a deck of cards to determine their position on the track, a race caller then proceeded to draw cards which determined how many squares each jockey could advance. The first to reach the end was the winner and was presented with the ‘Melbourne Cup’. In October 1943 the officers were transferred to Batu Lintang prisoner of war and internee camp at Kuching in Sarawak. This camp had a parade ground and in November that year the officers built a circular track and competed for the Melbourne Cup again, using the same method. At both events bookies took bets and evidence from the 9 Military History Field Team which collected the cup from the barracks in 1945, suggests that Lieutenant William Peck, of 4 Anti-Tank regiment, won the cup on at least one occasion and possibly both years.


As you enjoy the day and the race, perhaps at a party, with friends or in your office, take a moment to reflect on another Melbourne Cup in a prisoner of war camp 79 years ago.


Update:

In 2015, the Melbourne Cup and a replica of the above 1942 POW Melbourne Cup was displayed in Sabah, Malaysia, as part of the Emirates Melbourne Cup tour. Included amongst the Australians accompanying that tour was a survivor of the Sandakan POW camp at the time, Lt Leslie Bunn “Bunny” Glover, who was present when the POWs ran the 1942 Cup event.

Following is an article about the 2015 events and greater detail about those in 1942, from:

PoW recalls Melbourne Cup day in S’kan camp

The Borneo Post (Sabah)15 Aug 2015By Chok Sim Yee

Thirty seven Australians, including a 94-year-old former prisoner of war (PoW) and family members of PoW, are in Sabah for the Emirates Melbourne Cup 2015 tour in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the Sandakan Memorial Day today.

The Australians have brought along with them a replica of the Melbourne Cup 1942 made at Sandakan PoW camp in North Borneo in 1942.

The Melbourne Cup horse racing event is an icon of Australian sporting and social history which was first held in 1861.

Sandakan PoW camp survivor Lt Leslie Bunn Glover, who is better known as ‘Bunny’, said the improvised Melbourne Cup day sweepstakes was organized by the entertainment group of the PoW in November 1942 to raise funds for hospital needs.

Bunny, a PoW for a year in Sandakan and two years in Kuching, said 1,500 Australian PoW came from Changi to Sandakan as part of B Force to build an airfield for the Japanese in July 1942. Their numbers were added by another 1,200 plus PoW.

“Almost everyone was killed or died there. 99.5 per cent died and the 0.5 per cent came out alive.”

Bunny suffered a broken neck in the prison camp and has spent the last 45 years receiving physiotherapy treatment twice weekly.

“A guy hit me on the back of the neck but I was a champion boxer and I ducked quickly.”

He said the full blow of the impact would have killed him, and he ended up with a broken neck which he had to straighten very slowly using an improvised brace.

Today, Bunny lives in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia and is a father of five children. He also has six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

In the early days as PoW, Bunny recounted that Sunday was allowed as a non-work day for the camp to be cleaned and prisoners to get treated for damaged bodies.

“On these days entertainment was sometimes permitted – concerts, choirs, lecturers and church services.

“In 1942, we decided to have a Melbourne Cup race, which was called the Sandakan Melbourne Cup and we had a sweepstake,” he said when sharing about the history of the Melbourne Cup 1942 during a cocktail reception hosted by Sabah Tourism Board (STB) here on Wednesday.

In the improvised Melbourne Cup race, a sweepstakes was held by selling tickets, with winning tickets allocated a ‘horse’ in the race. Men stood in as substitute for the horses. On a rest day the event took place, horse numbers were picked from a bag, allowing them to advance until the finish line 50 paces away.

Tickets were sold at five cents for three pieces; the prisoners were paid about 20 cents a day. The funds went to the hospital, while the Cup winner received 15 per cent and the Melbourne Cup trophy, second place three per cent and third place two per cent.

The improvised Melbourne Cup 1942 trophy was made from a kitchen Bully Beef tin.

“On that day, the feeling was exciting, just like being at a Melbourne Cup day at home,” Bunny recounted.

On October 1943, the prisoners were transferred to Batu Lintang PoW and internee camp in Kuching Sarawak. This camp had a parade ground and in November that year, Australian officers built a circular track and competed for the Melbourne Cup again, using the same method.

“Lt Bill Peck won the Cup and he took it home to Melbourne.” The Melbourne Cup 1942 was later donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

As it was not possible to take the original Melbourne Cup 1942 to Sabah, Bunny’s son, Michael, who is the president of the Queensland Sandakan PoW Family and Friends Association, has made an exact replica of the Cup, which he graciously donated to the Sandakan Museum.

“It will rest in good company and be near those souls of the deceased PoWs who took part in the 1942 Melbourne Cup race event but never made it home.”

Looking back at the PoW days, Bunny believed that the Australians’ good sense of humour and strong mateship have helped the Australian PoW survived more than others.

“No British people survived. Those who survived were Australians, we have a very strong spirit and good sense of humour.

“We laughed at things. Even when serious things happened, we still found something to laugh at.”

 

 



Leslie “Bunny” Glover with the replica 1942 PoW Cup presented to the museum. The copy was made by Leslie’s son Michael who is the president of the Queensland Sandakan POWs Family and Friends Association. Leslie Glover, 94, was the last surviving Australian POW in Sandakan camp during World War 2.




Leslie Bunn Glover
Died 15th February 2018, aged 96 years

Those wishing to read more about Leslie Glover and view pics can do so by clicking on:

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