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Historical background:

Private Allan Quailey

Allan Quailey

Allan Quailey

Allan Quailey, an Australian soldier, became a prisoner of war when Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

In July that year, he was among 1500 Australians transferred from Singapore to Sandakan. POW Camp. Tough and resilient, he survived the forced labour at the camp and was among the 455 fitter prisoners placed on a draft to march from Sandakan to Ranau, in January 1945 (see Sandakan Death Marches).

On 15 February 1945, having negotiated all but 20 kms of the 250 km trek to Ranau, his party stopped for the night outside Nalapak. After existing on starvation rations, the POWs had managed to trade a blanket for some worm-ridden pork before they left Paginatan, 23 kms away, that morning. On arrival at Nalapak, they eagerly prepared a stew to which they added wild tapioca, sweet potato, fern tops and a large melon, found along the way. However, when the men lifted the first spoonful to their lips, they immediately began to retch. What the melon was, they did not know, but it had imparted a taste so vile and bitter, that no one, not even the most ravenously hungry, could swallow as much as a mouthful. After many days of near-starvation, it was all too much for Allan Quailey, who wept with frustration and disappointment.

As they continued along the track the following morning, it was obvious that something was the matter with Quailey. A friend, who stayed behind to help him, realised it was not just the beriberi, the malaria, or the uphill trek that was the problem. He seemed to have lost the will to go on. At the top of the ridge, he slumped against a tree, refusing all entreaties to go any further. Fully realising that he was signing his own death warrant, his friend urged him to make one final effort. It made no difference. Quailey’s fate was sealed. In accordance with their orders to dispose of anyone who could not keep up, the Japanese bringing up the rear killed him.

Post-war the bodies of those who had died along the track were recovered and reburied in Labuan War Cemetery. Quailey, who was unidentified, remained ’Know unto God’ until 1999, when Lynette Silver located and identified a grave in Labuan as that of Private Quailey. The old headstone was removed and replaced with a new one, bearing his details and an inscription, chosen by his family. (see also Grave Identifications)

Quailey’s grave


The creation of Quailey’s Hill

In late 1944 a track was cut to link Sandakan to Ranau, by connecting two existing foot tracks. One extended from Sandakan to the lower reaches of the Labuk River. The other went from Ranau to the river at Tampias, 50 kms away, where local people continued their journey eastwards, by boat. In 2005, when trekking expert Tham Yau Kong and Lynette Silver plotted and located the original route taken by the prisoners of war, they discovered that part of the old track passed through the area now occupied by the Sabah Tea Gardens.

Sabah Tea Gardens

Using wartime documentation, they identified the place where Private Allan Quailey had been murdered and suggested that it be named ‘Quailey’s Hill’ in his honour. The management of the Tea Gardens, on realising the significance of the site, not only agreed, but also created a memorial at the spot, with a granite plaque outlining the circumstances of Private Quailey’s death. This plaque was jointly unveiled by Datuk Masidi Manjun (Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment, Sabah), Senator Anne McEwen (Senator for South Australia), Lynette Silver, and Goh Mung Chwee (Executive Director, Sabah Tea Sdn Bhd) at a ceremony held on 14 July, 2007.

Quailey’s Hill memorial

Since then, the Australian government, through the Office of Australian War Graves, has been able to assist with an upgrading and improvement of the site, through its grants program.

An illustrated booklet about Allan Quailey and the death marches, written by Lynette Silver and produced by the plantation management, is available from the plantation’s Tea Shop. All proceeds from the sale of these booklets are donated to the Sandakan Memorial Scholarship Scheme.

How to get there: Nalapak, a two-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, is about twenty-minutes drive east of Ranau. The turn off to Sabah Tea Gardens and Quailey’s Hill is clearly signposted. For further information on the tea plantation, visit the website sabahtea.net