82-year-old recalls execution of hero dad in Petagas
Published on: Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: An 82-year-old could not hold back tears when recalling the day his father was executed by the Japanese army in Petagas during the closing stages of World War Two. Sheh Yen Tien was eight when his father Sheh Chun Hwa and six others were shot before being stabbed with bayonets in the heart.

According to the epitaph for the Kinabalu guerrilla movement martyrs, they were part of 176 men (including sympathisers, followers and supporters) who were transported by railway cargo wagon from "Batu Tiga" to Petagas where they were executed on Jan. 21, 1944.

The guerrillas were led by a Sarawakian, Albert Kwok, who managed to inflict casualties on the Japanese troops while waiting for promised help from Allied Forces to arrive.

They managed to hide in the Shangtung area in Penampang until they were betrayed by people known to them.

The Japanese immediately surrounded the neighbourhood and threatened to kill everyone if they did not come out of hiding. In order to spare innocent blood, Kwok and his band who included Jules Stephens, the father of first CM Donald (later Fuad) Stephens, decided to surrender.

Sheh had been attending the annual memorial service at the Petagas War Memorial every year but it was the first time that he placed the floral wreath representing the families of the fallen heroes.

He recalled that before his father was taken in by the Japanese, the seven were hiding at the cemetery on a hill in Luyang for more than two weeks, his grandmother and mother providing daily meals for them.

However, the two-week standoff ended when his father and the other men surrendered after the Japanese threatened to kill innocent women and children if they did not do so.

Sheh said they knew about his father's execution from a relative, a photographer who was called by the Japanese to take pictures of those to be killed.

"My father, before he was executed, was seen in a picture holding his name written in Chinese … the other men were lined up before being shot to death.

"It would have been different if he had been shot, as he would have died instantly.

"However, my father was bayonetted in the chest before the gun was forcibly brought downwards to disembowel him," he said, in tears.

His father was about 27 or 28 at the time.

Sheh now a Kapitan in Sabindo and a former school headmaster before venturing into business, attended the ceremony with his children, grandchildren and siblings.

Earlier, Special Tasks Minister Datuk Teo Chee Kang led the annual memorial service in honour of those who lost their lives defending Sabah against the Japanese during World War II at the memorial.

The 68th memorial service ceremony, carried out on Jan 21 every year, began with the sounding of the "Last Post", followed by observing a 20-second silence as a mark of respect to 176 members of the Kinabalu Guerrillas, who were executed in Petagas during the war.

Teo then laid a wreath on behalf of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. The Petagas memorial is believed to be only the second in the world after Pearl Harbour in Hawaii where a memorial was erected over the exact spot where the victims met their fate.

Also present were honorary British Consul in Sabah Robert M. New; Australian Defence Adviser, Group Captain Wendy Horder, USN Assistant Naval Attache, Defence Attache Office, Commander Allan Baker; Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, Kuching Utara Mayor Datuk Abang Abdul Wahab Abang Julai, Donald Tan Sri Ben Stephens representing former prisoners and victims of war and senior officials.


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