The Soldier's Details

Surname:
Hutchison
First Name:
Robert Bamford
Nick Name:
Rob
Rank:
Private
Regimental #:
WX7646
Classification:
Cook
Company:
‘D’ Company, No. 14 Platoon
Enlisted:
10.08.1940
DOB:
23.04.1912
Place of Birth:
Subiaco, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Thomas Hutchison
Mothers's Name:
Violet Denmead Hutchison
Religion:
Church of Christ
Pre-war Occupation:
Fetter
Memorial:
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 32.
Singapore:
Selarang Camp Changi
Force:
'A' Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Tamarkan
POW#:
1508
Japan:
Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 35
Cause of Death:
Lost at Sea
Place of Death:
South China Sea
Date of Death:
12.09.1944

General Description

Soldier was wounded in action 12.2.1942, receiving a shrapnel wound to his back.

Gwynne reported Rob Hutchison did a very good job in action.

In May 1942 Rob was selected from Selarang Barracks, Singapore for “A” Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion. “A” Force was made up of 3,000 men, the first Australians to head for Burma-Thai Railway.  This Force composed 3 battalions and 3 other detachments, sailing from Singapore on Toyashi Maru and Celebes Maru.  Conditions were terrible, the ships only skeletons of what they should have been.  The POWs cramped in intensive heat in the hulls.

Green Force left Toyashi Maru at Victoria Point, Burma on 21st May 1942.   The group of about 1,000 POWs was split into 2Victoria Point, Burma groups –one to stay and work at Victoria Point unloading stock of rice and fuel; and later to joined up with 600 men who had marched 7 miles to commence work on repairing the airfield  (left by the RAF when Japan invaded) which was completed mid August 1942.

The group was again split into 2 – one under Major Green of 2/4th and one under Major Stringer and marched towards the railway. The two groups leap frogged each other until joining forces at Kendau, 8.4 km Camp. Kendau was the first construction Camp on the Burma side of railway. The Burma side made up about 25% of the total railway distance. The terrain was generally kinder than that in Thailand and employed far fewer POWs. Their greatest challenge was to be lack of food and medical supplies and incessant rain. The POWs faced long working hours during speedo whilst starving and fighting tropical illnesses. Because of the remoteness of Burma Camps there was far less opportunity to purchase food from the local population. The Japanese and Korean guards were as spiteful and brutal as anywhere.

Green Force remained at 4.8km Camp 1st October 1942 – 1st December 1942 working on the excavation of embankments and cuttings.

Then force-marched to Thetkaw 14km Camp 1st December 1942 to 28th March 1943 employed mainly on bridge building. There were several collapses where POWs and Japanese were badly injured.   Thetkaw Camp was an improvement on the previous location.

 Rob Bamford was at Aungganaung 105 km Camp 11th May to December 1943. The camp was located on a slope. The filthy, vermin infested atap huts awaited the exhausted POWs.

In December 1943 Major Green was informed the rail link was completed.  With the completion POWs were all moved by rail in 6 parties to Tamarkan Camp, Thailand. In fact the Japanese left only maintenance throughout the entire line. It was from here Rob was selected for Japan 27 March 1944 in Kumi No. 35 destined to board the Rakuyo Maru. Initially the Rakuyo Maru group was planned to depart for Japan from Vietnam, then known as Indo-
China. On arrival the Japanese realized their plans were futile, as the Americans had successfully blockaded the seas with their submarines.

The Rakuyo Maru group then headed on their return journey to sail out of Singapore. They finally sailed out of Keppel Harbour, Singapore on 6th September 1944 – once again cramped in appalling conditions, the worse being the heat and lack of drinking water.

The Rakuyo Maru was sunk following an American submarine attack. Only a few very lucky POWs managed to survive long enough in the South China Sea to be picked up by US Navy. The loss of life in those conditions remains unimaginable.

Worsdell WX5204 & Robert Hutchinson, lost South China Sea Sept 1944
Worsdell WX5204 discharged 1946 & Robert Hutchinson, lost South China Sea Sept 1944

 

HUTCHISON, Private, ROBERT BAMFORD, WX7646, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 12 September 1944. Age 32. Son of Thomas and Violet Denmead Hutchison, of Subiaco, Western Australia. Panel 18.

Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.

Hutchison R B
Hutchison R B

Please read further about POWs sending cards to families in WA

Camp Locations:

  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
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