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Sadie and Sydney Gow’s love story began in 1945 when they met on board HMAS Katoomba as it set sail to New Guinea.

Key points:

  • 100-year-old WWII veteran Sadie Gow will attend her last Anzac Day march in Hobart today
  • Mrs Gow served as a signal woman and her late husband Sydney was a member of the M Special Unit which went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence
  • Historian Reg Watson says the couple’s contribution to the overall success of the war can not be overestimated 

While they did not know it then, the work this young couple did would contribute enormously to the success of the allied forces during World War II. 

Sydney, who died in 2004, went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence for America on the Japanese as a member of the M Special Unit.


Sadie worked in signals where she would feed intelligence from her base in Lae to Australia, using Morse code. 


The couple’s daughter, Prudence Johnston, said her father would provide information from lookouts on where Japanese troops were stationed, or alert the American forces to whether the enemy was preparing for a raid.

Sydney and Sadie Gow on their wedding day in 1946.(Supplied)

Sadie Gow said her husband relied on the help of the Indigenous people of New Guinea during his three-year posting.

“He was able to gain their trust by learning their culture and language,” she said. 

Sydney Gow also had medical training from his time living in the Middle East, which in one instance he used to provide aid to the local people, in exchange for his life. 

Ms Johnston said her father was asked to perform medical operations on dozens of people, using surgical tools from his backpack, following his capture. 

Sadie Gow will wear her husband’s medals on the Anzac Day march.

While Sadie Gow was not on the frontline, there was still an element of danger in her line of work. 

Hobart historian Reg Watson said her role was important and the Japanese understood how vital intelligence was to the war efforts. 

Often these men and women were isolated and faced tough conditions — including intense humidity, insects and the occasional threat from crocodiles in the area. 

Ms Johnston said Australian servicemen and women did an incredible job under adverse conditions.

“They had very little in the way of food, equipment and uniforms,” she said. 

Today’s march will be Mrs Gow’s last, her family say.

Ms Johnston said this year’s march would be extra special for the family — she said her mother’s deteriorating health meant it was unlikely Sadie would take part in future marches.

Sydney Gow went behind enemy lines to gather intelligence about the Japanese for the United States during World War II.(Supplied)

Ms Johnston said it was wonderful for servicemen and women to know they would not be forgotten by younger generations.

“All generations should know what happened and the sacrifice they made for Australia,” she said.

Mr Watson said Sadie Gow’s story was unique to Tasmania and the rest of the country.

“There weren’t many women who signed up for signals training,” he said. 

Mr Watson said he hoped people remembered the sacrifice of all servicemen and women and their preparedness to go and fight for their country. 

The Hobart march starts at 11:00am on Macquarie Street and will end at the Cenotaph.

This year, the march is restricted to veterans and defence force personnel.

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