The Soldier's Details

Surname:
Beer
First Name:
William John
Nick Name:
Bill
Rank:
Private
Regimental #:
WX7636
Company:
'D' Company
Enlisted:
10.08.1940
DOB:
7.02.1917
Place of Birth:
Bunbury, Western Australia
Father's Name:
George Henry Joseph Beer
Mothers's Name:
Margarette Mary Beer
Religion:
Roman Catholic
Pre-war Occupation:
Not Known
Memorial:
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 28.
Singapore:
Selarang Camp and Barracks Changi
Force:
'E' Force Borneo
POW#:
1581
Cause of Death:
Malaria
Place of Death:
Ranau, Second Ranau march.
Date of Death:
14.06.1945

General Description

Bill was the second of four sons and four girls born to parents George Henry Joseph Beer and Margarette Mary O’Neill who married at Boulder in 1910.

Bill was living and working as a plasterer in Bunbury prior to his enlistment in 1940.

WA. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of WX7636 Private William John Beer, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Australian Infantry. He was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of E Force. The 500 Australian and 500 British POW’s who made up E Force, left Changi on 28 March 1943, on board the S.S. DeKlerk arriving at Berhala Island (adjacent to Sandakan Harbour) on 15 April 1943. The POW’s were held there until 5 June, when they were taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were transferred to the 8 Mile Camp, which was about half a mile from the B Force compound. Private Beer, aged 28, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 14 June 1945. He was the son of George Henry Joseph and Margarette Mary Beer, of Bunbury, WA. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 18. (Photograph copied from AWM232, items 4 and 5. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)

Beer William John 1

Beer 2

 

Beer Bill

 

Now a little story about Bill Beer dedicated by his nephew Lou Daily. Bill was born on the 7th February 1917 in Bunbury and grew up there with his three brothers and four sisters. His parents were George Beer and Mother, Margarette Beer.

The service to country was in the family, as his father, George Beer, earlier had enlisted in the 11th Battalion Australian Imperial Force and was sent to the Trenches in France in May 1917. He was severely injured and after hospitalisation, he returned home in August 1918.

In those days, Bunbury was a small country town and Bill enjoyed his childhood surrounded by a large family structure. He attended the local St Mary’s Convent School until he left at the age of 15.

Bill then worked in various shops and as a labourer in Bunbury. He was active in sports and played football for the South Bunbury Football Club and was considered a fair player.

At the age of 23, Bill enlisted in the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion on the 10 August 1940. Following the necessary training, he along with all other members of the 2/4th Battalion sailed to Singapore in January 1942.

Following the fall of Singapore, Bill was sent to Sandakan in British North Borneo by the Japanese with many other Australian and British troops (total 2434). We are aware of the cruel and brutal treatment given by the Japanese troops to the Australian Prisoners while in Sandakan to build the airfield for the Japanese.

In 1945, as ordered by the Japanese high command that no prisoners were to survive, Bill along with many others, still able to walk, were murdered by the Japanese soldiers on one of the “Death Marches “from Sandakan into the Borneo jungle. The actual date of Bill’s death was the 14th June 1945 and the location approximately four miles east of Boto.

Following the completion of the war, The War Graves Commission relocated all the remains of the soldiers, including Bills, found in British North Borneo to the island of Labuan off Kota Kinabalu. Members of his family have visited his grave.

As Bill was a single person when he enlisted, therefore he did not leave a wife or children. Only his parents and siblings remained to mourn him and give thanks for his service to Australia.

 

 

As a POW in Singapore, Bill was selected with ‘E’ Force to work in Borneo.  ‘E’ Force sailed from Singapore March 1943.

Please read further about ‘E’ Force Borneo.

Also please take a look at the Sandakan to Ranau map and photos of WA men who perished.

Camp Locations:

  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Lintang Officers Camp, Kuching - Sarawak
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