Bob Barguss became a prisoner of war and died during the construction of the Thai-Burma railway.

By Chloe Kent

IT MAY have been delayed due to the pandemic, but Ken Caithness is determined to give our boys the honour they deserve.

For 53 years, Ian Kinnish served as the Koonwarra Memorial Hall secretary and treasurer. He was also on the Koonwarra Memorial Park Committee for 44 years. And, outside of his official capabilities, he was also the caretaker and booking officer.

He left big shoes to fill when he passed two years ago.

The Old Timers Dances may have fallen victim to COVID, but thanks to Ian’s diligence and care, the hall is and will remain in very good repair for many years to come.

Additionally, an upcoming unveiling will honour two fallen soldiers who lost their lives in World War II: Robert ‘Bob’ Barguss and Harry Milsom.

To a young Ken Caithness, these men would have bounced him on their knees, as his parents’ neighbours, before leaving for a war they never returned from.

Bob enlisted into the Australian Army on May 26, 1941, after farming and marrying his wife Helena in the Koonwarra area.

Appointed to the Australian Army Medical Corp, 13th General Hospital, Bob travelled to Singapore whereby he became a prisoner of war in Changi.

Transported to Burma by the Japanese to work on the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway, Bob struggled against brutal treatment, malnutrition and tropical disease, passing away on January 12, 1944, aged just 38.

Bob is buried in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery Myanmar.

Harry Milsom lived and farmed at Tarwin. Engaged to Sheila Meadows, Harry enlisted on March 11, 1941, with the Australian Imperial Force.

Allocated to the 2/22nd Infantry Battalion, and following initial training, Harry was sent to Rabaul, New Guinea, to protect the harbour.

Overrun by the Japanese on January 23, 1942, Harry – with five other men from the Meeniyan-Dumbalk district – escaped into the jungle and evaded the enemy for eight weeks.

Recaptured, Harry – along with Bill and Tom Bellingham, Jim Butterworth, Frank James and Bert Kuhne – were executed on the beach by a firing squad on March 8, 1942.

Their graves remain unknown.

An open invitation to all, the official plaque unveiling will take place on April 3 at 2pm at Koonwarra Memorial Park. There will be live music by Tanya Wilson and Brian Hosking, with afternoon tea to be provided.

Bob’s niece will also have his diary (which includes records up to the day before his death) for individuals to view, along with other memorabilia.

An afternoon not to be missed, as Koonwarra reflects, remembers and celebrates three incredible lives.