Though he knelt before the executioner's sword and felt the full force of its blow, Private Colin Fleming Brien survived his own beheading.
As an article from The Daily Advertiser on September 21, 1945, describes it, the 19-year-old soldier "had the amazing experience of feeling the stroke of a Japanese headsman's sword and living to tell the tale, after being buried and left for dead".
The "former Junee boy" wore the memory of his harrowing experience as a "crescent-shaped scar in the centre of his forehead, a great gash from shoulder to shoulder and a gaping crater at the back of his neck" big enough to fit a fist in, as a South Australian newspaper reported on September 19, 1945.
Junee-based historian, Graham Elphick, pieced together Private Brien's compelling story from his friends and fellow soldiers' accounts.
"He went to school here [in Junee] for a few years," Mr Elphick recalls. "He lived in Tumbarumba as well."
"He'd put his age up a few months [when he enlisted] so he arrived under-aged in Singapore. He wasn't there long before the nasty skirmish [capitulation of Singapore]."
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Serving with the 2/19th Australian Infantry Battalion, Private Brien had not held a weapon before he arrived on enemy soil.
A bayonet charge during the infamous Battle of Singapore in February 1942 left Private Brien wounded.
Then a nearby grenade explosion knocked him out. But his life was saved by his friend beside who died when he took the full force of its detonation.
"When he came to, there was no-one around, friend or foe, nobody," Mr Elphick said.
Among the dead bodies, Private Brien was left for 12 days.
"I believe a Chinese woman came by and gave him food and water, but then the Japanese soldiers came through and because he was on the wrong side of the line, they assumed he was a spy," Mr Elphick said.
On February 26 he was found by the enemy and on March 1, he was brought to the Japanese headquarters in Singapore.
That first Sunday in March, he was led out "through the lalang and coconut palms to a clearing" where a group of Japanese soldiers had assembled for his arrival, as he later detailed by war correspondent Allan Dawes.
"An officer's sword was stuck in the earth before what I thought was a freshly dug weapon pit", Private Brien told the reporter.
"An officer told me I was going to meet my God."
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Afterwards, Private Brien admitted he had "accepted the inevitable" though he "certainly prayed very hard" as he knelt before the soldiers.
A towel was fixed across his eyes, his hands were bound behind his back and he was led to sit with his legs dangling over his own grave.
"They bent my head forward and pulled my shirt back from my shoulders," the soldier said.
"There was a pause for a few minutes and then I felt a sudden dull sensation on the back of my neck."
The executioner had made his cut but Private Brien's life stubbornly refused to yield.
"It was a bigger shock to realise I was still alive, but I rolled on my right side and pretended to be dead," Private Brien said.
Falling into the trench before him, he lost consciousness. When he awoke, he discovered that only a quarter of his grave had been filled with loose gravel.
His blood was still flowing thickly down the length of his body. He felt weak, but his desire to survive persisted.
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Hands still fastened, Private Brien waited an hour before breaking out of his tomb by making an opening in the earth with his toes.
"I staggered out and struggled into the long grass, where I lay the rest of the day," Private Brien said.
"Before I went any farther, I prayed again - this time in gratitude."
As he lay in wait with his hands still tied, he recalls "the flies on the open wound were torturing me".
When night fell, he found an empty fish tin and managed to cut his hands loose with its edge.
Contemplating his situation for two days, hunger forced the soldier to decision.
Mr Elphick explains he was aided by a passing Indian national who "suggested he hand himself into the Malayan police who would then hand him over to the Japanese".
Resolving to do so, he staggered his way into Singapore to the police station.
Questioned by the Japanese officers, Private Brien feigned illness to avoid incriminating himself.
An ambulance was called, and the prisoner was transported to the infamous Changi Prison, where his story was confined to only a few high-ranking officers among the guards.
A medical examination found the sword had just penetrated the bone of his neck and had not hit the spinal cord.
He assumed the scar on his forehead came from striking his head on a stake as he fell into the open grave.
A later business acquaintance of the young private relayed the events at the prison camp to Mr Elphick.
"I met a man named Norm Anderton who had been in the hospital in Changi when they brought Colin in," Mr Elphick said.
"He remembered the man in the bed next to him was in a bad way. An orderly came and sat at the end of his bed to pick maggots from his wounds, otherwise, he'd have died of blood poisoning.
"But Norm didn't know the man lying beside him was Colin. He found that out at [Colin's] funeral [in 2013]."
Along with 700 other Australian prisoners of war, Private Brien was liberated from Changi Prison on September 5, 1945.
He returned to Australia aboard the Duntroon, arriving in Sydney on October 7, 1945.
"He was only one who suffered terribly, but he survived. They're virtually all gone now, but their stories are worth remembering," Mr Elphick said.
Going on to travel the country and the world, Private Brien lived to the age of 90, dying near Surfers Paradise, Queensland on November 15, 2013.
He spoke little of his ordeal aside from the one interview he gave to the war correspondent with The News.
"He never married, he never had a family but he ended up being an excellent businessman, mostly in New Guinea," Mr Elphick said.
"I was humbled when I first heard of him, I read his story, I was told it by three different people. Colin Brien, I would have loved to have met him."
Private Brien was one who "knelt before a Japanese headsman, suffered a sword stroke and escaped with his life", as The News of 1945 concluded.
Few could claim a similar achievement, to have been led blindfolded and bound to a fight with an executioner and to have still won.