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Peter Egan is a long time Russell Island resident who just happens to be a Vietnam War veteran.

But this story isn’t necessarily about Peter, but more about his uncle Jack Egan, who died in remarkable circumstances in World War 11.

The family’s military history goes back even further to World War 1 to Peter’s grand father, Mick Egan, who survived that dreadful war.

Then, throw in Peter’s brothers Gordon and Michael who became amateur historians of note, mostly due to the exploits of Uncle Jack.

A whole host of other Egans are involved, more so today. They include current serving officer Mitchell Egan, and sons of Michael Egan, John, Phillip and Kevin Egan. Oh, and there is Daniel Egan and we are not quite sure who he belongs to. Yes, he is one of Peter Egan’s three sons.

Sounds complicated?


There is another person in all this, a former Changi and Burma Railway survivor, Carl Rope, who died way back in 1998.

And then there is the watch than once belonged to Jack Egan (the one who died in World War 11).

Much of this has to do with the diary that Jack Egan wrote that started when he enlisted and was assigned to the Australian 2/30 Battalion. The final entry was just prior to his untimely death in 1942.

We say that Jack’s death was untimely; but it was also unusual.

The complicated Egan family all hail from the Tweed area in Northern NSW and were farmers of some note.

Jack Egan was particularly handy at all things outdoors and was good with ‘his hands’, as the saying goes.

Jack’s 2/30 Battalion was involved with heavy fighting against the Japanese and were pushed down the Malayan Peninsula, prior to the infamous surrender in Singapore.

Jack was 26 years old and his best mate was Carl Rope.

They were incarcerated at the notorious Changi prison, prior to the Burma Railway horrors that were soon to follow.

But Jack Egan didn’t get that far. 

He was to die in most unusual circumstances as a consequence of the Japanese, but not by the Japanese. It was a wartime incident, but not in the heat of battle.

Jack Egan died when helping to fell a tree that the Japanese wanted cut. It was to be used in the construction of the Japanese Shrine at Bukit Temah.

A limb from the tree came down, killing Jack instantly. It was the 27th November 1942.

It is said that Jack was buried with military honours on the part of the Japanese. Almost unheard of in World War 11. The Japanese were not known for their sympathy in that conflict.

Jack’s only possessions were his gold watch, his Diary notes, and a copy of the book, We of the Never Never (it was given to him by the Japanese)

These ended up being safely kept and hidden by his good mate Carl Rope. How he did that whilst surviving the horrors of the Burma Railway, is another story that would be longer than this one!

At War’s end, Carl contacted the Egan family and was able to hand over the notes that were to become Jack Egan’s now famous diary.

At that time, the family decided to give the watch to Carl Rope.

He duly wore it on his wrist until 1986, when he gave it back to the family. Carl died aged 83 in 1998.

Peter Egan’s brothers Gordon (now 90) and Michael (he died just two months ago) became heavily involved in having Jack Egan’s diary published. The diary, in two forms, are now on Russell Island in the possession of Peter Egan.

The twist in the tale is that Gold Watch!

In recent times the family got into touch with the Australian War Memorial who had expressed interest in receiving and displaying Jack Egan’s Gold Watch.

And so, duly and professionally mounted with the tale and history about the watch, eight members of the Egan family descended on the Australian War Memorial and ‘officially’ handed over the remarkable timepiece, on May 10th.

The watch was originally presented to Jack Egan by his parents, Mick and Daisy, in 1940, when Jack enlisted in the AIF.

The watch survived the Malayan campaign, Changi prison, the Burma Railway, and the past 80 years in extraordinary circumstances.

Definitely a Timely Tale about an amazing Time Piece!

AND, we haven’t yet read Jack Egan’s Diary. 

[ED: The Diary original notes and the World War 1 diary of Jack’s father, MicK, are with the Library of NSW].

• The Egan family at the Australian War Memorial presentation.

• Peter Egan with his Uncle Jack’s published Diaries

• Jack Egan just after his enlistment

• Carl Rope in 1986

• Carl Rope (left) and Jack Egan (right) in 1942



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