The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Nick Name:
- Bob or 'ant track Jack'
- Regimental #:
- 'D' Company, No. 15 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Princess Royal, Norseman, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Henry Whitford
- Mothers's Name:
- Minnie Priscilla Whitford (nee Bennett)
- Church of Christ
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Kranji War Cemetery, Plot 30, Row A, Grave 17, Age 38.
- Cause of Death:
- Died of Wounds
- Place of Death:
- Buona Vista
- Date of Death:
- In a common grave, in a Chinese Cemetery, at the head of Holland Village and Buona Vista Road.
Soldier was killed during the last artillery barrage of the battle. He was hit in the chest by same shell that killed Jim Thorpe. He was running towards a native hut which was hit by a shell and caught fire. The men managed to get him clear from the burning hut, however he only lived for about 5 minutes after being wounded.
Robert Whitford’s parents Henry Whitford and Minnie Priscilla Bennett married about 1889 in Victoria. Robert was the youngest of their five children which included two daughters.
It is believed Robert was their only child born in WA at Princess Royal Mine in 1903, which is near Norseman.
When Robert was about 14 years of age, the family learnt of their eldest son Richard’s tragic death on 11 April 1917 with 16th Battalion, France in WW1. Richard was born Mount Egerton, Victoria 1893. He was a fireman when he enlisted, travelling to Blackboy Hill for training.
Three years later the Whitford family were again in mourning with the death of their daughter Hetty, who was married with a young child.
Below: Henry Whitford selling his mining interests in 1918.
Above: The 1931 happy family event when Robert’s brother Henry (Jnr) marries.
Above: Henry Whitford (Snr) died 25 July 1940.
Above: Later in 1940, Minnie Whitford died on 12 November aged 69 years at Victoria Park.
Prior to enlisting Robert Whitford was residing at Kalgoorlie, working as a miner/prospector. He enlisted on 1 August 1940 not long after his father had died. He would have been away interstate training with 2/4th when his mother Minnie died November 1940.
Growing up he had 4 siblings and both parents. When he departed for Singapore, Robert had one brother Henry and one sister, Mrs Campbell.
Bob was with ‘D’ Coy No. 16 Platoon. His tracking ability had earned himself the nickname ‘ant track Jack’ – supposedly he could track an ant! During preparation of Japanese invasion, Bob was given the task of the platoon’s pineapple gatherer (nothing to do with tracking ants though!)
With their commanding officer Lt. Meiklejohn, No. 16 Platoon was under the command of 2/28th Battalion and were supporting ‘C’ Coy 2/18th north of Murrai River in an area broken up by small hills and inlets. Because the river mouth was a possible Japanese landing site the machine gunners were divided into two sections, stationed on a narrow peninsula dividing the river mouth from a river inlet from the north. Their gun pits were close to the waters edge separated by a small inlet.
Prior to the Japanese attack on night of 8 Feb 1942, and during their preparation, the men of 2/4th could see Japanese troops across the strait (about 600 yards away) catching ducks in the Chinese gardens. They could also hear welding and riveting – preparing landing craft. Truck loads of troops arrived during the night and large groups of men stood around bonfires. Allied troops had been ordered not to fire.
During the day canoes would drift down as close as 300 yards away – they could see hands holding onto the sides, sometimes five or six close together. But they had been ordered not to fire.
Bob died a short time after receiving wounds at Buona Vista on 15 Feb 1942. It was during the last artillery barrages of the Battle for Singapore.