This is the story of the exploits of an Australian soldier. Major Rex Blow DSO, in
North Borneo and the Philippines during World War II.
Major Blow was captured at the fall of Singapore and was one of the 2,500 POWs
who were sent to Sandakan in North Borneo to build an airfield. Shortly before the
war ended those who were still alive were the victims of the notorious "death march"
from Sandakan to Ranau in the interior, from which there were only six survivors, and
which must surely rank among the most horrifying of the atrocities of the war years.
But Major Blow was more fortunate. Soon after their arrival at Sandakan he and
seven others made a daring escape from their prison camp and were welcomed with
open arms by a band of Moro guerillas in the Sulu Archipelago (the islands between
North Borneo and the Philippines). They refused the chance of being evacuated back
to Australia by submarine. Instead, they got down to the job of training the guerillas
and helping to organise their campaign of harassing the local Japanese shipping and
skirmishing with their patrols. Later Major Blow and his companions moved to
Mindanao, where they carried on serving with the guerilla forces, making constant
raids which became pitched battles against the occupying Japanese.
After two years of fighting in the Philippines Major Blow went back to North
Borneo in command of a special unit of the Services Reconnaissance Department,
whose job was to gather information about the exact whereabouts of the Japanese,
and their numbers, and to harass them whenever possible. When the war ended he did
a spell as a District Officer with the British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit before being
released from the Army, whereupon he joined the Colonial Service.
Sheila Ross writes with understanding born of her personal knowledge of the people
and places in her book, and its useful maps and interesting photographs help to bring the story to life. It is a fitting tribute to the determination, bravery and quick thinking
which enabled Major Blow and his companions to survive and fight on. It is also a
tribute to their local comrades in arms - men like the Murut Police Sergeant, Koram
bin Anduit MBE, who engineered their escape from the prison camp - all of whom
voluntarily risked their lives, and some of whom lost lives, in the fight to liberate their