The re-interment of Lance Corporal Spencer Henry Walklate and Private Ronald Edward Eagleton at Port Moresby’s Bomana War Cemetery on 12 June 2014 marked the final resting of those two Z Special Unit soldiers, almost 70 years after they were killed by the Japanese off the north coast of Papua New Guinea.
The two soldiers, who were buried with full military honours in front of their families and a guard of serving soldiers from Special Operations Command, had been declared missing and later presumed dead following Operation Copper, a secret mission on the island of Muschu in April 1945.
The event in 2014 represented the end of a long journey of identification, recovery and re-interment, which involved members of the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit and the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG). After lengthy research and investigation, the Unrecovered War Casualties unit was able to identify the remains of the two soldiers, who until then had been commemorated on the Lae Memorial to the Missing within the Lae War Cemetery.
OAWG-contracted stonemasons in Brisbane hand crafted the traditional Commonwealth headstones, emblazoned with the Rising Sun badge of the Australian Imperial Force. OAWG staff at Bomana established the gravesite, erected the headstones and manicured the cemetery lawns and gardens prior to the service. The service was conducted by the Australian Defence Force. The soldiers of Special Operations Command who bore the coffins were veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
Spencer Walklate and Ronald Eagleton were finally laid to rest alongside more than 3,300 of their mates and in the presence of their families. The combined efforts of the Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit and the OAWG allowed the present and the past to connect in a way befitting the sacrifice made by those two brave men.