The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Reginald Gerald
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- WX 16323
- ‘E’ Company, Special Reserve Battalion
- Place of Birth:
- Somerset, England
- Father's Name:
- Not Known
- Mothers's Name:
- May Tooze
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Epitaph, Singapore Memorial, Column 136, Age 21.
- Cause of Death:
- Killed in Action
- Place of Death:
- South-West Bukit Timah
- Date of Death:
Soldier was a Fairbridge Farm Schoolboy. Reg arrived Australia 14/5/1931 aged 11 years. He arrived on same ship as ‘Cowboy’ Matthews, the ‘Largs Bay’. Both were housed in Nelson Cottage.
It is believed Reg was in the Fairbridge Choir.
He was working on a farm in 1935 at ‘Byeen’, Wattening via Toodyay
In 1936 Reg was working at Pindawa Pastoral Company, Canna (small town located between Morawa and Mullewa) and was working at Yarloop prior to his enlistment.
When Reg Tooze was about 14 years old he was with a party of boys sawing wood with a group of boys. They had been on this task for about 6 weeks splitting sheoak, jarrah and banksia. The large and bulky steam combustion engine which weighed over a ton and could not be moved or budged if tripped over or lent on, was used to drive a 10 foot cross-cut saw to segment larger tree trunks into more easily handled lengths.
The piece of wood being sawed was jarrah with many knots in the grain so the crosscut saw had difficulty cutting through. Without warning the saw jerked sharply to a stop and the leather-driving belt thrashed out violently in all directions striking Reg Tooze. Although several boys suffered very slight wounds, Reg lay seriously injured on the ground. Bill McCormack immediately recognized Tooze’s injuries were such that he should not be transported back to Fairbridge in the Reo truck as the ride on corrugated track as the ride would be far too rough.
He ordered the boys to put together 2 strong sapling sticks and with bags from the truck made up a bush stretcher for 4 boys to carry the injured Tooze. There were 5 boys and Bill McCormack. They took turns carrying their patient, stopping at 5-minute intervals and one driving the Reo truck behind the party.
They had travelled a mile when it became obvious the boys were no longer able to carry Tooze. They all had severely blistered hands from the moisture of the green saplings mixed with perspiration and grimey hands. They were physically exhausted. They were also in a state of shock.
By this time Tooze was conscious and able to speak a few words. He managed to tell them he was cold, stiff and couldn’t feel his legs. With this news Bill McCormack ran to the Reo truck telling the boys not to leave under any circumstances. Reg’s mate Gordon Bowles sat beside him waving his hands to keep the flies away as Cormack drove away towards the village.
Within half an hour Bill McCormack was back in the Reo with the Fairbridge Nurse- dressed in her white stockings, white uniform and white cap. She hurriedly made her way to Reg; felt his forehead, raised his eyebrow to peer into his eyes and after shaking her thermometer proceeded to take his temperature. She did not attempt to straighten his doubled up knees.
After conferring with Bill McCormack the Red Cross Warden announced Reg was to be carefully lifted onto the back of truck and the boys to pack in tight around the stretcher so much so that it wouldn’t move or bounce about.
It was late when the truck arrived back at the village, in fact almost dark. While Reg was taken to Hospital at Pinjarra those with surface injuries were nursed in their beds and after a few days placed on light duties only.
It was several weeks later before Reg Tooze was found by the boys sitting on the steps of Stratton House – home to the senior boys. He lifted his shirt to show the deep welts on his abdomen some of which were still inflamed. Reg was put on light duties in the vegetable garden with Bowles. The two had previously lived in different houses, but opposite each other. Bowles was in Glasgow opposite Nelson where Tooze was. And they had both been in the church choir.
Both boys went out to their respective farm labouring jobs at 15 years of age. They never met again.
Reg had never voted or married. Fairbridge was all he really knew to be his family.
Tooze enlisted on 3rd September 1941 joining 2/4th MG Battalion Reinforcements. Five months later Reg Tooze was killed in action at the age of 21 years. Bowles enlisted with 2/48th. and survived.
L-R Standing: Harry Lucas, possibly Reg Tooze, Cowboy Matthews, Pat Hurst, possibly Ron Burchell, Front L-R unknown, unknown, Tom Pilmoor.
Reg in civvies- probably taken at Fairbridge.
Height 5′ 3 1/2″
Reg in white shirt
Reg’s younger brother George Reginald Tooze was born five years later in Sep 1925 Wellington, Somerset. George was brought up by his grandmother Ada Tooze. George Tooze enlisted in the British Forces during WW2.
George married and had two children. It was only after their father (George’s) death in May 2000 at Coldchester, Essex did his children learn of the existence of Reg Tooze, their uncle.
According to extended family, Reg corresponded with his English family until his death, confirming his happy childhood in country Western Australia.
Apparently Reg posted a kimono to his mother in England prior to his death. She kept this garment all her life.
Above: May ‘Dolly’ Tooze.
Reg’s mother May ‘Dolly’ Tooze died in 1945 aged 42 at Milverton, Somerset.
The above information has been provided by Geoffrey Tooze, who resides in Scotland – nephew of Reg and son of George March 2020. Geoffrey Tooze has Reg’s war medals.