The Soldier's Details

Surname:
Chipperfield
First Name:
Robert William
Nick Name:
Bob or Chipper
Rank:
Private
Regimental #:
WX8397
Company:
‘A‘ Company, No. 5 Platoon.
Enlisted:
7.10.1940
DOB:
5.05.1916
Place of Birth:
London, England
Father's Name:
R. W. Chipperfield
Mothers's Name:
Not Known
Religion:
Church Of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Labourer
Memorial:
Labuan War Cemetery, Plot R, Row AA, Grave 15, Age 28.
Singapore:
Selarang Camp Changi, Serangoon Road Camp
Force:
'B' Force Borneo
POW#:
591
Cause of Death:
Cardiac, Beri-Beri (Japanese official records) however highly likely executed.
Place of Death:
First March Sandakan-Ranau near Sagidai.
Date of Death:
11.02.1945

General Description

Bob Chipperfield at 6′ 8″ was the tallest man in the Battalion.

He was a  Kingsley Fairbridge Farm Schoolboy. Born  5/5/1916 Bob aged 6 years arrived in Western Australia on Themistocles 9/8/1921 with his older brother Charles Edward aged 11 years.

Bob was housed in Wolfe and Charles in Darwin.  Bob Chipperfield’s parents died in 1922.

He was a student at Fairbridge for 10 years, so he would have been well known and close to many of the staff, teachers and students.

In 1931 Bob was working for Miss Hancock, ‘Juadine’ Northam,  in 1932 Mr. J.P. Grace, Donnybrook and in 1933 C/- C. Trigwell Esq., Donnybrook.

Bob’s 1935 work and address was C/o E. Lacy, Esq., Gnaweeda Station, Meekatharra. (Perhaps his older brother Charles joined the Police Force as his address was C/o Police Barracks, Perth). His Brother Charles Chipperfield died 25 September 1994. He had married Ada M. Coussens in Perth 1933.  Bob recorded his NOK as brother Charles Chipperfield.

In 1936 Bob was living at Buckland Hill.

It is thought he was working in the area of Nyabing towards the outbreak of war.

‘The Longest Story by W.S.S.
As per and article from ‘Transportholes” edited by Pte R. Kenny a magazine for soldiers in transport aboard (assuming) Aquatania.
A real chip off the old block is Bob Chipperfield. If you haven’t seen him on board your sight is at fault, because he’s by far the tallest digger with us.
When Bob went in to the recruiting depot to enlist the doctor examining him had to get a step ladder to get a good view of him.
He’s just 6 feet 8 inches in his stockinged feet, his boot is a No.12, and he has hands that make the average man’s look like periwinkles.
Bob looks down on the world and even Brigadiers and Colonels look up to him. It is said that once when Bob saluted a Captain in a Sydney street the mighty semi-circular movement of his right arm cut a swathe in the crowd as a scythe cuts a swathe in corn.
Bob was born in India, but denies any relationship with Gandhi. Bob’s father was a R.G.A. soldier, from whom the giant gets his soldierly bearing.
It was at the foot of the Himalayas that he was born, not too far from Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world from which Bob apparently borrowed a few extra inches. He came to Australia in 1921. When asked whether he liked Darwin , Bob replied bluntly that he “didn’t“.
In civilian life he is a jack of all trades, but his trouble has always been that he could not get a bed to fit him.
He was sleeping on B deck one night with a foot hanging over the rail. He was rudely awakened and told to withdraw his foot as the sole of it was causing a phosphorescent glow that might be mistaken by the enemy for a naked light.
Bob is the envy of the ship because he has a job with Q. He is a rucking man to the R.Q.M.S. who acts as his rover.
Among Bob’s various accomplishments are to swear as hard as the next man, drink a schooner without emotion, grin when the going’s hardest, and to whisk away the fairest of the sex before jealous eyes of men of lesser physique.’
Soldier was shell shocked at Ulu Pandan. Admitted to 2/13th Australian General Hospital on 13.2.1942. Discharged to unit on 15.2.1942.

On 25th May 1942, Bob was included in  Major Bert Saggers’ party of 278 AIF men to Sarangoon Road Camp.  A few days after arriving on 27 May 1942 Chipperfield was evacuated to Hospital with Dengue Fever.

Fellow Old Fairbridgian John Lane (formerly Ramsbottom) wrote of Bob in his book ‘Summer Will Come Again’ – (John was very sick with dysentery in Singapore) ” Bob offered to go through the wire to buy me some condensed milk.  Armed with money, he set off on his mission, which was not without considerable danger as armed Sikh guards were now patrolling the perimeter on behalf of the Japanese.
In the early hours of the morning, Chipper came to my bed strip and quietly slipped half a dozen tins of milk into my pack.  That was how big Bob lived.  He was a quiet giant of a man with a heart to match, he went out of his way to help other people.”
EPSON MFP image
Bob Chipperfield with Shorty Barnes
Bob Chipperfield - tallest Man
Bob Chipperfield – tallest Man

 

Bob was selected for ‘B’ Force. Under the command of Lt-Col A.W. Walsh, 2/10th Field Regiment they departed Changi boarding ‘Ubi Maru’ (later identified correctly as ‘Ume Maru’) at Singapore  to transport them to British North Borneo.  ‘B’ Force comprised  1,495 Australians of which 145 were officers.

We know ‘B’ Force was assigned to construct an aerodrome near Sandakan; they would firstly have to build the necessary roads.

Initially the aerodrome was to have one runway, however the Japanese soon changed this to two runways.  As the terrain dropped away each end of the runways, the POWs’ work included landfilling these areas.

Another 2/4th mate died on the same day 11 February 1945 near Sagidai about 20 miles away from Ranau during the First Sandakan to Ranau Death march.  According to Japanese records, Bob Chipperfield died of cardiac beri beri.  Cardiac beri beri results in instantaneous death from heart attack.

 

Chipperfield

Camp Locations:

  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Serangoon Road Camp - Singapore
  • Sandakan - Borneo ***
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