Here's a story of a young man who gave his life fighting in the AIF during WW2. His name was Maaruff Bin Shalid and he died three weeks short of his 23rd. birthday, only a few miles north of where my father was at the time, near Balikpapan, Dutch Borneo. I started researching Maaruff a few years ago and started a Wikipedia page about him; something which I'm yet to complete. It started when I took my dad down to Leyburn in Queensland to see the old WW2 airstrip, the one where RAAF 200 flight was headquarted during their time working with Z Special Unit. As you drive into Leyburn, there's a memorial and a plaque inscribed with the names of lost 200 Flight crews and Z Force commandos.
What caught my eye was the two Malay names on the plaque. We drove out to the old airstrip, one leg of which is now a bitumen road named Liberator Place. We got talking to a local lady who lived on a block at Liberator Place, and she informed us that the Malay Z Force members were taken on board as interpreters. After that, I started compiling available information on him which is the basis of this story.
Lance Sergeant Maaruff Bin Shalid was born in Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur in 1923. At the time the war with Japan started, he was working as a pearl diver on a lugger out of Broome in W.A. which ended with the introduction of the National Security (Aliens Service) Regulations in 1942. As Maaruff was a natural born British Subject, he was classified as an Allied Alien and was placed in the CMF's 23rd. Australian Labour Company, one of the so called 'Forgotten Soldiers". Initially put to work on the docks, he soon graduated to the 51st. Port Craft Company, Royal Australian Engineers, no doubt due to his maritime experience. During this time, he also worked detachments to other units as a Malay instructor.
In August 1944, Maaruff was transferred to the A.I.F. as a member of Z Special Unit and remained in Western Australia until transferring to the Australian Parachute Training Centre at RAAF Base Richmond, in February of 1945. After qualifying as a parachutist, he was sent to Leyburn to train with 200 Flight who operated six modified B-24 Liberators under the direct command of the Allied Intelligence Bureau. In May of 1945, Maaruuf departed for service outside Australian territory, most likely to Morotai, Dutch East Indies, where 200 Flight had a forward operating base.
That same month, Maaruuf was inserted into North Borneo as a team member of Agas 2, an operation in the Sandakan and Pitas region, to perform intelligence and guerilla activities in support of the 9th. Division landings at Labuan and Brunei Bay. His second operation was Operation Platypus 7 in support of the 7th. Division landings at Balikpapan. He was part of a four man team parachuted into the Semoi region, just north of Balikpapan on 30th. June, 1945, one day before the landings. And that's where things went wrong. Out of respect for living relatives, I won't list the details here, but to cut a long story short, they were dropped ten miles away from the planned DZ, right on top of a Japanese camp.
The team comprised the leader, Flight Lieutenant Alan Martin (RAAF), Sergeant James O'Dwyer (AIF), Signalman Ernie Myers (NZF) and Lance Sergeant Maruuf Bin Shalid (AIF). Flt. LT. Martin was the only survivor and eventually made his way back to Balikpapan. His story of surviving is worth telling and I can do that at a later date if anyone is interested in reading it. There are conflicting reports about the fate of the other members. One member was killed initially and Maaruuf and the other member survived until the 3rd of July. or the 5th. according to different native and Japanese sources. Reports vary as to whether it was Sgt. O'Dwyer or Signalman Myers who was captured and killed first.
It was to be a while before Maaruff was laid to rest in his final resting place. He was initially buried near the river bank by either the Japanese or locals. In November 1945, he was located and reburied at the Balikpapan War Cemetery. In 1947, he was relocated to the Sandakan War Cemetery, and at a later date to his final resting place in the Indian section at the Labuan War Cemetery. In 1953, his awards were posted. He posthumously received the 1939/45 Star, the Pacific Star, the War Medal and the Australia Service Medal 1939/45. Two months later, they were listed as returned unclaimed. My guess is that they were sent to the Australian Consulate or relevant authorities in Malaya and living relatives could not be located. Maaruuf was unmarried, and with the Japanese occupation, his relatives might not have survived, or possibly relocated to another district. With Malays having no family name, they are very hard to trace. His last name is a patronym. Bin Shalid means 'of Shalid', with Shalid being the name of his father. So as their last name, everyone has their father's first name; very hard to track.
I think Maaruuf was one such average bloke who did more than his share and is well deserving of recognition. I hope to finish that Wikipedia page one day; it's the least someone can do to recognize his service and sacrifice. At the moment, the only public reference to him is a few scattered records here and there.