REMEMBRANCE: Vernon Jarrett-Smith with Assistant Curator Ballina RSL Sub-Branch Museum, Allan Britt, with the plaque showing all the names of North Coast POWs who died in the Sandakan march in 1945.
REMEMBRANCE: Vernon Jarrett-Smith with Assistant Curator Ballina RSL Sub-Branch Museum, Allan Britt, with the plaque showing all the names of North Coast POWs who died in the Sandakan march in 1945. Javier Encalada

Should we name a local beach after a place in Borneo?

FOUR men from Ballina died in the infamous Sandakan Camp march as PoWs at the end of Second World War, and now the elderly brother of one of those men wants a Ballina beach named in their honour.

Ballina Shire Council called for suggestions to name the beach on the north eastern side of Missingham Bridge and in August, Ballina resident Vernon Jarrett-Smith suggested Sandakan Beach, in memory of his brother William and the three other men.

The 256km forced march of 1023 PoWs in Borneo started in January 1945, and only six survived the ordeal, but the story of the four Ballina men as a group started much earlier.

Ernie Leadbeatter, Fred Reardon, William Smith and 'Rolly' Stone were four Ballina men who grew up together, went to school at the same time and travelled on the same train to war.

Mr Jarrett-Smith said his family's history is entrenched in Ballina's history.

"My ancestors were some of the first settlers in Ballina - one of my grandfathers, Charles Jarrett, was the second mayor of Ballina," he said.

Mr Jarrett-Smith said it's important for future generations to remember these four soldiers.

"They all came from Ballina, when they were boys they used to swim on that beach, they used to fish there, they used to help their father with their boats to bring sea mullet into the beach. Over in Borneo they have a memorial for them, down in Newcastle too, same in Tamworth, there is one in Lismore, but what's down here?

"I think were all cane cutters, and my brother married a girl called Mona.

"She died having the baby and they also lost the little boy, who he named James, and I take care of all the graves here in Ballina," he said.

Assistant Curator at the Ballina RSL sub-Branch Museum Allan Britts said a plaque listing the names of the northern NSW men who died in the Sandakan march was recently donated to the museum.

"This plaque was at the Armidale cenotaph, and it was then given to Darcy Hassett, a Ballina resident who used to own a private military museum in Urallah, and he donated it to us," Mr Britts said.

The sub-branch will apply for a grant from the Department of Veteran Affairs so the plaque can be located at the Ballina cenotaph.