The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Thomas Joseph
- Nick Name:
- Handbrake Harry or Tom
- Regimental #:
- Headquarters Company, No, 3 Platoon Administration
- Place of Birth:
- Perth. Westem Australia
- Father's Name:
- Thomas Edward Butler
- Mothers's Name:
- Bridget Butler (nee Fitzgerald)
- Roman Catholic
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Insurance Agent
- Kranji War Cemetery, Plot 3, Row E, Grave 8, Age 34.
- Cause of Death:
- Contracted pneumonia and died in hospital
- Place of Death:
- 2/13th Australian General Hospital
- Date of Death:
- Martia Road Military Cemetery, Katong on 15.2.1942 Roman Catholic Section, Section 1 Grave No 14.
Tom Butler enlisted AIF Aug 1940, later joining 2/4th’s HQ Company. With his role as a driver and his nickname ‘Handbrake Harry’ one imagines there was an unforgettable incident when Tom either forgot to use the handbrake or he forgot to release it!
He obviously did not live this down!
Tom Butler received a gunshot wound to upper chest during a bayonet charge at Hill 200 Ulu Pandan. A second witness stated he was wounded in the throat. He was transferred to 2/13th AGH where he died of complications (pneumonia)15 Feb 1942 aged 34 years.
At the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore Service held at the POW Memorial, Kings Park, Sunday 12th February 2017 – Maureen Powle (nee Butler) lays wreath in memory of her late uncle Thomas Butler who died 14 February 1942.
Tom was one of six children born to Thomas Edward Butler and Bridget Mary Fitzgerald who married 1893 at New Norcia. Both Butler and Fitzgerald families were farming in the Victoria Plains/New Norcia/Moora area. The Butler family were involved with the Benedictine Mission Farm, New Norcia.
Below is overview history of Butler family – Tom Butler (Snr) parents – the family’s first settlement at New Norcia.
‘In 1860s, Andrew Lanigan joined his uncle John Martin Butler who pioneered the Victoria Plains area alongside the Benedictine Monks. Lanigan worked at Clune’s Mill and joined his cousin P.M.J. Butler in a lease at Mogumber Pool on the Moore River. A house was constructed at each end of the lease with Lanigan’s being on Loc 345 in the vicinity of the pool to protect it(?) In 1869, they applied to purchase the leasehold and in 1874, subdivided the property equally in half. Both properties were named Mt Mary, although Butler’s was Mt Marie, and Lanigans is still Mt Mary. From c1940 to 1950s, church services were held in the front room of ‘Mt Mary’ , and it was the scene of families celebrations. Members of the Lanigan family have been involved with the Victoria plains Roads Board, Richard P Lanigan was the Roads Board Secretary from 1897 to 1935, Kevin Lanigan was a board member from 1960 to the 1970s. The former owner of Mt Mary, Kevin Lanigan, was the grandson of A Lanigan.’
As the region developed, the need for a community hall was evident. An appeal was made to Government by local Farmers and Settlers Association. As there was no townsite gazetted at New Norcia, the association accepted Jeremiah Clune’s offer of a site near the ‘Old Victoria Plains School’. The bricks were made from clay along the banks of the Moore River. The race track and sports ground were established on the south side of the hall. Jeremiah Clune took personal pride in Yarawindah functions. The annual agricultural show was a weekend affair. Sports meetings, dances, horse races, and many social and community activities took place at the hall and associated sportsground. The annual Waddington and Marbro shows were held at Yarawindah Hall from 1906. The meetings of the Victoria Plains Road Board were held at the hall from its opening in November 1906, until Moora Roads Board was formed in 1909. From then Victoria Plains Road Board met at New Norcia, and only ratepayers meetings were held at the hall. In 1954, Lovelocks bought the properly and used the former hall as a shearing shed, conserving the bricks for use in the repair of the Canterbury Mill. In early 1970s, Tommy and Alan Anderson lived in the two back rooms of the hall. In 1975, the hall was set alight when full of hay, and was almost destroyed, the ruins remain. The show grounds were on the south side of the hall.’
In the 1931 and 1936 Electoral Roll Tom Butler was recorded working as farm hand at Namban (Moora) – his father was manager, Benedictine Mission Farm. It is not known whether Tom (Jnr) was working with his father – but we assume so. His mother also recorded.
Tom was an active sportsman playing football and cricket in the Namban district. Tom (Snr) was also playing cricket the same time as his son as is evident in 1924 and seen below.
Research shows cricket was a traditional game had played in the Namban/New Norcia area since 1890s with many of the earlier games including local indigenous who were with the Mission.
Below: 200 people from Bamban and surrounding region gave a farewell party toTom Butler (Snr) and his family. Tom (Snr) had been Manager of the Benedictine Mission Farm with which he had been involved for the previous 25 years since 1910. Tom was recognised for his farming and sporting skills. His father John Martin Butler had initiated the relationship with the Mission right back in the beginnings of New Norcia Mission.
Tom (Snr) was born New Norcia 1870. His father John Martin Butler settled down at ‘Canterbury’ property after Bishop Salvado had established the New Norcia Benedictine Mission. John Martin Butler then moved to ‘Mt. Mary’ property from where he drove his bullock team to Perth and back with supplies for the farm and family.
Ill-health had pushed Tom (Snr) into retiring and amidst so many praises for the family, he was given a walking stick. Mentioned was the hospitality always offered by Mrs Butler, her door always open to all. Daughter Mollie had taught at the local school and been extremely active in the community. She was referred to as an “Angel without wings”.
Young Tom was also highly regarded and thought to be following in his father’s footsteps. Both Toms had participated in community sports – cricket, football, tennis.
In 1937 Tom was recorded as farm hand at Namban, however both his mother and father were not. We believe his mother died at Mr Hawthorn in 1937.
Thomas Joseph Butler married 1940 to Ruby E. Hatch.