The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- David William
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘D’ Company
- Place of Birth:
- Perth, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Joseph John Thomas
- Mothers's Name:
- Emily Coombes Thomas
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 19, Age 23.
- Selarang Camp Changi
- ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Tamarkan, River Valley Road Transit Camp
- Camps Burma:
- Victoria Point, Thetkaw, Kendau, Meiloe, Aungganaung
- Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 37
- Cause of Death:
- Lost at Sea
- Place of Death:
- South China Sea
- Date of Death:
Height 5′ 10″
THOMAS, Private, DAVID WILLIAM, WX6623, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 12 September 1944. Age 23. Son of Joseph John and Emily Coombes Thomas, of Perth, Western Australia. Panel 19.
Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.
Dave was selected in Singapore to work in Burma on the Burma-Thai Railway with the first work party to leave Singapore – ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion. This Battalion included a large number of men from 2/4th.
They sailed from Singapore to south-west Burma coast mid March 1942 to Victoria Point where they worked to repair and enlarge aerodrome before making their way to northern end of Rail link in Burma. Green Fore began work on the rail 1st October 1942 and would continue through to end of 1943 when the link was completed and the Japanese brought all POWs working in Burma south to Thailand.
It was here Dave was selected as fit by Japanese to work in Japan – ‘Rakuyo’ Maru Party. They first travelled by train to French Indo China where it was intended to sail to Japan. After some time the Japanese realised this plan would no longer be possible – the American sub marines had affectively cut off the port near Saigon and the waters were littered with bombed out shipping.
The ‘Rakuyo’ Maru group returned by train to Singapore where they were accommodated at River Valley Road Transit Camp to await a ship. As was the case in Saigon, the men worked mostly around the docks.
They were finally loaded onto their ship 4th Sept 1944 at Singapore. Though not without great difficulty. There was insufficient room for the initial group and several groups were taken off the shipping list. Even then there was no way the 1300 British and Australian POWs could all fit into the ship’s holds. Eventually the Japanese agreed one third of total number of POWS would be allowed to travel on deck (the men rotated).
The first 36 hours were spent in the Roads off. Singapore wharves until ‘Rakuyo’ Maru joined a small convoy. Conditions for POWs particulary in the hull were very crowded, food and water scarce.
‘Rakuyo’ Maru was hit by two torpedoes fired by American Submarine in early hours of 12th September 1944. Tom was one of a large number of Australian and British POWs who would lose their lives during the next few days.
Biography presented during plaque dedication:
‘Private David William Thomas was born in Perth in September 1919. He was one of six sons and two daughters of Joseph Thomas and Emily Coomb Towns (who was formerly married to Corporal Owen Burton).
The family farmed at Jardee near Manjimup on ‘Karri Hills’ farm. As a consequence of the great depression in the early 1930s, the family left the farm and moved to Brisbane Street, Perth.
David worked as a butcher in Perth until he enlisted in the army in July 1940. He was not married.
After initial training, he was transferred to the eastern states and eventually into 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion which was later moved to Singapore, disembarking there in January 1942.
With the Japanese army advancing on Singapore, the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion was engaged in heavy fighting. They suffered with many casualties, killed, wounded and taken prisoner.
Private Thomas was posted missing in Malaya in February 1942. Later, he was recorded as a prisoner of war and later again presumed deceased.
He was actually aboard the prisoner of war ship Rakuyo Maru which was torpedoed by an American submarine.
Private David William Thomas, service number WX6623 of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion, died as a prisoner of war on 12 September 1944 in the South China Sea.
He was 24 years of age and his name is recorded on the Labuan Memorial, Borneo.
His plaque is placed alongside that of his mother’s first husband, Corporal Owen Burton of 28 Battalion who died in World War 1.’
In about 1912 Dave’s mother Emily Coombe Towns married Owen Charles Henry Burton. The couple had two children.
Corporal Burton (known as Skipper) was tragically KIA France July 1916.
Emily Burton remarried about 1917 to Joseph John Thomas.
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore