Clarence Valley farewells its last Prisoner of War
THE Lower Clarence commmunity has lost a much-loved identity with the death of former prisoner-of-war and Yamba Surf Life Saving Club's life member Clifford Lowien.
Born in Toowoomba in April 1923, Mr Lowien, or 'Cliffie' as he was affectionately known, joined the Yamba SLSC in 1940 and obtained his Bronze Medallion.
Less than two years later, however, on November 14, 1941, he joined throngs of young men who left the Clarence Valley to enlist in the Army during WWII.
It was the start of a journey that would lead to Private Lowien and his fellow soldiers being taken prisoner by the Japanese, and marched some 25km to the Changi barracks.
After a time surviving on meagre rations, the soldier was sent to Singapore where he worked on the wharves for about six months.
Mr Lowien then returned to Changi before being sent to work on the construction of the Hellfire Pass, on the notorious Burma Railway, which claimed the lives of more than 12,000 POWs.
He told The Daily Examiner in 2014 that he was one of the lucky ones on light duties, tasked to take the rations from the Japanese cookhouse to the Japanese engineers on the rail line.
"I had to take out four dixies full of food, so I used to eat a little bit out of each one and then I'd spit in it before I gave it to them," he said.
"Thankfully they never found out."
After being moved again to work on the coal mines in Japan, he was finally released at the end of the war, and discharged on February 6, 1946.
He moved west on his return to Australia, before retiring to Yamba about 30 years ago.
That was when he got involved in the surf club again, and served as treasurer for a decade in the 1990s.
Mr Lowien was awarded life membership to the club in 2004, an honour that long-time club mate Mick Smith said was well-deserved.
Mr Smith, who was the club's president at the height of Mr Lowien's involvements, described the dedicated volunteer as an "easy-going fella" who was always happy to help.
"He was very keen, as you've got to be to take up those committee positions," he said.
"Cliffie loved to have a good time, and he loved a glass of red wine. There's a few fun stories about him around, I think most of them will come out (at the funeral)."
Mr Lowien died last week, aged 93.
As news of his death spread, other club members also paid their condolences on the Yamba SLSC Facebook page.
"A champion bloke, gone to be with darling Kath. RIP..our mate Cliff," Julie White wrote.
Grant Cooper posted that he was a great man. "RIP Cliffie. Thanks for the memories mate," he said.
Mr Lowien's funeral will be held at 10am today, at the All Saints Anglican Church, Church St, Yamba.