The Soldier's Details

Surname:
Hill
First Name:
John
Nick Name:
Johnny
Rank:
Lance Corporal
Regimental #:
WX8756
Classification:
Driver/Mechanic
Company:
'B' Company
Enlisted:
23.10.1940
DOB:
1.01.1912
Place of Birth:
Fremantle, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Arthur Hill
Mothers's Name:
Margaret Hill
Religion:
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Truck Driver
Memorial:
Kranji War Cemetery, Plot 2, Row C, Grave 20, Age 31.
Cause of Death:
Bacillary Dysentery
Place of Death:
A. G. H. Roberts Barracks Changi
Date of Death:
11.03.1943
Buried:
A.I.F. Cemetery Changi, Grave No. 80

General Description

John Hill was one of nine Indigenous Western Australians to join the 2/4th.  Tragically ‘Johnny’ was the only one not to return home to his land and beloved family.

Wounded in action at Pasir Panjang and admitted to Field Ambulance with gunshot wounds to his left arm and head on 14.2.1942. Admitted to 2/13th Australian General Hospital on 16.2.1942. Soldier died at approximately 1330 hours on 11.3.1943 at the Australian General Hospital at Roberts Barracks Changi from mycotoxicosis, diphtheria and acute but resolving bacillary dysentery. Soldier’s body was cremated by order of Imperial Japanese Anny and his ashes buried on 11.3.1943. The funeral service was conducted by Chaplain G. Polain of  2/26th Battalion.

His grave was marked with a cross made by his fellow prisoners.

After the war ended his grave was moved to Kranji Cemetery and\ the old cross was replaced with as new headstone.  At the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion reunion in 1990k, Tom Hampton informed me that the old cross, from Johnny’s original grave had been brought back to Australia.  Enclosed in a gla\ss case, it now stands in the introductory gallery of the Canberra War Memorial to represent the men who died as prisoners of the Japanese.

J. Hill Headstone
J. Hill Headstone

 

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for 22 September 2016 was (WX8756) Lance Corporal John Hill, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd AIF, Second World War.  John Hill’s photograph was displayed beside the Pool of Reflection. Watch a recording of the ceremony courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

 

Johnny joined the army on 15 June 1940.  He had a medical examination at Norseman, but was not required for duty until 23 October 1940 when he reported to the recruit reception depot at Claremont.

The 2/4th was being formed in October that year, and Johnny became a member of ‘B’ Company in the unit.  In the ensuing months he attended several motor transport schools at Claremont or at Karrakatta.  He qualified as a mechanic and motor transport driver, and was made a lance corporal.  By November the battalion was at full strength, and undergoing intensive training at a camp in Northam.

In July 1941, the 2/4th Machine Gunners moved to Woodside in South Australia for further training.  They stayed there until 11 October when they were entrained at Oak Bank to go to Darwin.  Battalion HQ were at Winellie Camp, a few miles south of Darwin, where defensive beach positions were soon established.  ‘B’ Company was held in reserve doing guard duties at Adelaide River.  On 30 December 1941 the Battalion was again moved.  They embarked on SS Marilla and HMAS Westralia and sailed on 31 December for Port Moresby.  There they were transhipped to troopship ‘Aqjuitania’ and sailed south.  They arrived at Sydney on 8 January 1942.

‘Aquitania’ sailed from Sydney on 10 January and arrived at Fremantle on 15 January 1942.  No leave was granted but as Fremantle was home port for most of the men, many of them ignored the leave ban and went ashore in defiance of orders.  Johnny was among them.  ‘Aquitania’ sailed from Fremantle the next day on 16 January, 93 trained machine gunners were left behind, unable to reboard in time.

On 24 January the troops arrived at Singapore having been transhipped on the 20th in Sunda Straits to two small Dutch vessels, the SS Van Swoll and SS Van Der Lin.  They immediately moved to the Naval Base Camp.  From here they were dispersed to various defensive positions to try to repel the imminent Japanese invasion.

On 8 February the invasion began and despite fierce resistance and fighting by the Allied troops, the numerically superior Japanese quickly made inroads into Allied defences. On 15 February 1942, the Allied Force capitulated to Japan.

Johnny had been driving a bren gun carrier during the battle.  Although wounded in his head and left arm, Johnny managed to drive his vehicle with its dead and wounded crew members back to a first aid post. After Singapoire fell, Johnny became a prisoner in the Changi prison camp where he slowly recovered from his wounds.

Ron Badock wrote “In late December Johnny rejoined us.  He looked particularly well, certainly better than the rest of us.  Later in January he reported sick with diarrhoea and after some time was transferred to Roberts Hospital.  After a few days we visited Johnny but he was no better, indeed he was deteriorating.  We again visited him to find him much worse and he had been diagnosed as suffering with dysentery.  He didn’t appear to be all that bad so we were shocked to learn he had passed away.”

Ron Badock and Johnny were two of a large number of enlistments from north east Coolgardie who joined  2/4th.

He died of Bacillary Dysentery on 11 March 1943.

Johnny’s brother served on HMAS Perth, Ron Badock wrote the information for him .

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