Eltham Roll of Honour: Sgt. Theodore Feldbauer, 27 Mar 1945, Borneo

FELDBAUER, Theodore, Sgt., VX51733
(DOD, 27 Mar 1945, Borneo)
Vic. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of VX51733 Sergeant Theodore Feldbauer (AWM)

Theodore Albert ‘Curly’ Feldbauer was born 15 October 1909 at Melbourne, the son of Theodore Henry (a naturalised German) and Jessie Margarette Feldbauer. The family moved several times during his childhood but before he was 20 he was living and working in the Eltham district. He became a well-known local sportsman. He played cricket for the Montmorency Imperials in 1929 and 1930 in the Eltham Cricket Association and excelled as a footballer and football coach. There are press references at the time to minor misdemeanours and accidents: evidently he was up for a brawl or two, but he was also able to do a recitation at a social night to launch the Eltham Girls Club in 1932. He married a local girl, Violet Amelda Teagle, in 1933, the 12th of 13 Teagle offspring who lived in Frank Street. Curly and Violet’s first child, June, was born the following year. By 1935 Curly was honorary secretary of the Research Cricket Club. He continued playing cricket regularly, mainly for Research, through till the 1940 season, after the war had begun. The girls started at Research State School in 1939 and 1940, respectively. They lived near Violet’s parents in Frank Street. Curly’s daughter, Valerie Waller recalls:

“We lived near my Teagle grandparents, who had a cow. Dad took over the milking. He would rest his head against the cow and sing to her. When he left to join the army, it took weeks before she would settle down to allow anyone else to milk her.”

Violet’s sister Margaret coincidentally married Ken Ingram in 1936, brother of Lester Ingram of Research who is also on the Eltham Honour Roll.

You can see from the photo that Curly was a well-built young man, 32 years of age when he joined up on 14 June 1940. Despite the army short-back-and-sides, the unruly hair on top took him to a height of just under 6 feet.

Curly’s service record is not yet accessible from the National Archives of Australia. Valerie Waller gives us some insight into that period between Curly joining and ultimately embarking for Singapore:

“Before he sailed to Singapore, Mum would travel by train, to Seymour, to spend a few hours with him. He sent her postcards and called her his “dear love”. His idea was that the sooner everyone eligible joined up, the sooner the war would be over. He had a great love for Australia.”

The Australian War Memorial records provide some bare facts about his military service.

Curly was assigned to the 2/10th Ordnance Workshops, Australian Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attaining the rank of Sergeant. Only months after his enlistment, Sgt Feldbauer was among the thousands of Allied troops captured by the Japanese in the fall of Singapore, February 14, 1942. His loved ones knew nothing of his fate until July that year, when his name appeared in the long list of those ‘officially missing’. A glimmer of optimism revived when he was officially reported as a Prisoner of War in mid-1943. It proved to be a false hope. Valerie adds:

“While he was a prisoner, Mum received a few postcards from him, not in his neat handwriting, but in block letter printing, to tell her he had received no mail or parcels from her. He must have felt we’d forgotten him, because, of course, Mum had sent lots of parcels and letters, and the Japanese hadn’t handed them on.”

Along with Craftsman Jack Herbert Butherway, Theo was one of over 2,000 Allied prisoners of war held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as part of B Force. The 1,494 POWs that made up B Force were transported from Changi [Singapore] on 7 July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru, arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18 July 1942. Sergeant Feldbauer, aged 35, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 27 March 1945 at Sandakan Number 1 Camp. The Japanese recorded his death from Malaria. He has no known grave, but it is believed to be at Sandakan Number 2 Camp.

His death was not reported in Australia until some months later. Valerie noted:

“I will never forget the sound my mother made when she received the telegram saying Dad had died months earlier, ostensibly from Malaria, but he died during the march. The sound still haunts me.”

The family placed a notice in the Age (17 November 1945) ‘MRS. T. A. Feldbauer and Family wish to express their sincere THANKS for sympathy in the loss of their loved one. Sgt. T. A. Feldbauer, 2/10th Batt., P.O.W., Borneo.’

We don’t have details of his death but if Curly died of ‘illness’, as recorded at the AWM, it was because he was one of the thousands of Australian victims of the infamous forced Death Marches from Sandakan, January – May 1945, of which there were only six survivors.

Tuesday, 27 March 1945, when the Eltham Progress Association’s public meeting put in motion its plans to create the Eltham War Memorial Baby Health Centre, Pre-School and Children’s Library, was the exact date of Curly Feldbauer’s death at Sandakan.

Theo was remembered with the following notices published in The Age newspaper, Friday 2 November 1945, p8:

  • FELDBAUER. — Serg. Theo, VX51733, 2/10 Ordnance Workshops, died while P.O.W. Borneo- Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Teagle, Research
  • FELDBAUER. — Serg. Theo, VX51733, 2/10 Ordnance Workshops, died while P.O.W. Borneo- Mrs. R. Ingram, Research
  • FELDBAUER. — Serg. Theo, VX51733, 2/10 Ordnance Workshops, died while P.O.W. Borneo- His loving nieces and nephews, Dawn, Pat, Joy, Ted, Bill Teagle, Alphington.
  • FELDBAUER. — Serg. Theo, VX51733, 2/10 Ordnance Workshops, died while P.O.W., March 27, 1945, loving husband of Violet, father of June, Val, Theo, Albert. – Inserted by loving wife and family, Research.

The Age, Saturday, 3 November 1945, p11

  • FELDBAUER.— Sgt. Theo. A. Feldbauer, VX51733, 2/10th Ord W. Shop, killed March 2, 1945, brother of Henry (deceased), Mrs. V. Foster, Eric (deceased), loving husband of Violet, children Junie, Valrie, Theo, Albert, dad and mum. Always in our mind, in which we’ll never forget.

The Age, Tuesday, 6 November 1945, p8

  • FELDBAUER. — Sgt. Theo, VX51733, 2/10th Ord. W’shop, died while P.O.W. in Borneo, loved brother-in-law of Rita and Wally, uncle of Shirley and Brian. A hero at rest.

The Age, Wednesday, 27 March 1946, p10

  • FELDBAUER. — VX51733, Sgt. Theo, 2/10 Ordnance, who died whilst P.O.W., Borneo, on March 27, 1945. In proud and loving memory of our dear husband and daddy. A silent thought brings many a tear, For the one we lost and loved so dear – Inserted by his loving wife and children.
  • FELDBAUER. — VX51733, Sgt. Theo, 2/10 Ordnance, who died whilst a P.O.W., Borneo, on March 27, 1945. Not just to-day, but every day, In silence we remember. – Inserted by Edna, Charlie and family, Research.
  • FELDBAUER. — In memory of Sgt. Theo, VX51733, 2/10th Ord. Workshop, died whilst prisoner of war in Borneo, loved brother-in-law of Rita and Wally, uncle Shirley and Brain. Always remembered.
  • FELDBAUER. — VX51733, Sgt. Theo, 2/10 Ordnance, who died whilst a P.O.W., Borneo, March 27, 1945. He died that we might live. – Inserted by Mr. and Mrs. Teagle, Research.
  • FELDBAUER. — VX51733, Sgt. Theo, VX51733, died while P.O.W., Borneo, March 27, 1945. – Always remembered by his loving niece, Pearl.
  • FELDBAUER. — In loving memory of Theo, who died while P.O.W., Borneo on March 27, 1945. – Vin and Ivy.
Major Frank D. Stevens, RSL President and schoolboy Albert Feldbauer at the ceremony of turning the first sod for the Eltham War Memorial Infant Welfare Centre Building, 18 July 1950. Albert still retains the silver ceremonial shovel today. (Photo: Peter Bassett-Smith, EDHS collection)

Theo is commemorated on Panel 28 of the Labuan War Memorial Cemetery in Malaysia and Panel 91, Supplementary Panel 10 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial. Like all the men who sacrificed their lives during the Second World War, his name was added to the original obelisk honouring the dead from the First World War and the Eltham Honour Roll. But the most meaningful commemoration is the actual fact of the Eltham War Memorial in Main Road, Eltham, where his son Albert, being the youngest child of the children of the soldier fathers attending a school in the district, officially turned the first sod and started the building process on that winter day in 1950 – the ‘constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

2/10 Ordnance Wksps. Australian Corps of Elec. And Mech. Engineers.
27th March 1945. Age 35.
Son of Theodore Henry and Jessie Margarette Feldbauer; husband of Violet Amelda Feldbauer, of Research, Victoria.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

  • Sgt. George Williams
  • Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
  • L/Cpl. George Moore
  • L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
  • L/Cpl. John C. Bell
  • Pte. Geoffrey Grant
  • Pte. George Sommerville
  • Pte. George Brown
  • Pte. John Brown
  • Pte. William Bond
  • Pte. Thomas Cameron
  • Pte. Alfred Cassells
  • Pte. Robert Meadows
  • Pte. Walter Mosley
  • Pte. James Pryor
  • Pte. William Prior
  • Pte. Edward Barrett
  • Pte. William Crellin
  • Pte. Henry Norman
  • Pte. Edward Bird
  • Pte. Arthur Brown
  • Pte. Roslyn Stevens
  • Pte. Herbert Creed
  • Pte. Charles Bromfield
  • Pte. Kenneth Sharp
  • Pte. Henry McAlary
  • Capt. S.M. Gahan
  • Plt. Off. D. Rutter
  • Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
  • Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
  • Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
  • Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
  • Cpl. T. Feldbauer
  • Cpl. A.C. Clerke
  • Spr. G.E. Castledine
  • Pte. J. Butherway
  • Pte. K.F. Field

Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall

#VictoriaRemembers   #VPDay75
The Eltham Roll of Honour: Second World War

Read the stories of all the men from the Shire of Eltham who sacrificed their lives in the Second World War and to whom the Eltham War Memorial is dedicated.

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