Commandos buried in Papua New Guinea
Lance Corporal Spencer Walklate and Private Ronnie Eagleton were buried with military honours in front of their families and a guard of Special Forces soldiers. The Z Special Unit patrol’s sole survivor, former Sapper Edgar ‘Mick’ Dennis, also attended.
Members of an eight-man patrol sent to conduct a recon of Mauschu Island, Lance Corporal Walklate and Private Eagleton were thought to have drowned after trying to escape the island on logs.
However, it was later discovered they were executed by the Japanese on nearby Kairiru Island after Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit found new evidence and located the bodies.
Private Eagleton’s sister Carol Sadler remembered her younger brother as just a regular boy.
“We lived in Sutherland, NSW, and he used to ride his bike a lot in the national park,” she said.
“I think he would have really liked to have been a teacher. But he couldn’t because our parents were caught in the Great Depression and we couldn’t afford to go to university.”
So instead they both got jobs and, according to Mrs Sadler, Private Eagleton couldn’t wait until he was old enough to join the Army. He ended up joining underage and was eventually posted to Z Special Unit.
The family only discovered how Private Eagleton died in February this year.
“My parents died not knowing,” Mrs Sadler said. “All we had been told was that he had been on Muschu Island and had been killed.”
Todd Walklate, Lance Corporal Walklate’s grandson, said many in the family had wondered what became of their relative.
“The family had a desire to know what happened,” he said.
“They thought he drowned and was presumed missing in action. Knowing what happened has given them a whole new outlook on their lives.”
The journey to finding out what happened to Lance Corporal Walklate has brought the family closer.
“The whole experience has been fairly humbling, with a whole lot of mixed emotions,” Mr Walklate said.
“It’s nice to finally give him a resting place, somewhere we know he’s safe. It’s been a major journey and a learning experience for the whole family.”
During the reinterment service, soldiers from 1st Commando Regiment, 2nd Commando Regiment and the Special Air Service Regiment – all units that descended from Z Special Unit – formed the funeral party.