The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Eric John
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
'C' Company
Place of Birth:
Narrogin, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Arthur Lynn Waddell
Mothers's Name:
Beatrice Dorothea Waddell
Pre-war Occupation:
Selarang Camp Changi, Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp), River Valley Road Camp, Selarang Barracks Changi.
'D' Force Thailand, S Battalion (soldier separated from main group at Tarsau, see ‘D’ Force, U Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Tarsau, Tonchan Central, Tonchan Spring Camp (cookhouse, water carrying duties and wood party), Tarsau (cholera), Tamuang, Non Pladuk, Nikhe‐Nikhe Wood Camp, Kanchanaburi, Tamuang, Bangkok (go-downs), Nakom Nayok, Phitsanulok, Takuri, Bangkok.
Return Details 1945:
Thailand-Singapore by aircraft, Singapore-Fremantle, HMT Tamaroa.

General Description

Back Row L-R: W Roberets WX9358 died 16/8/1943 Khonkan 55km Camp, Burma, Unknown, Unknown. Front L-R: A Brooker KIA. W. Breed, John Waddell, 12th Platoon,
Back Row L-R: W Roberts WX9358 died 16/8/1943 Khonkan 55km Camp, Burma, Unknown, Unknown.
Front L-R: A Brooker KIA. W. Breed, John Waddell, 12th Platoon,


Johnny Waddell succumbed to cholera at Tarsau and survived. His mates placed a big bucket of boiled water beside him whilst laying in the cholera ward.   They told him to keep drinking and drinking.  He did and he survived.  Johnny was of tall stature and well built – he was reduced to the size of a jockey almost overnight.   (information from ‘Hellfire and Back’ the war experiences of 2/4th’s Joe Pearce)

Read John Waddell’s radio message from Singapore via radio operator John C Peters.

John passed away aged 81yrs, September 15 2002, at Mandurah, WA.


John Waddell  – Obituary reprinted from the Association magazine ‘The Borehole’.

John was born on 24 August 1920 to Lynn and Dora Waddell, being the third son of a family of nine children. John’s parents moved to Newdegate in 1925 and John did all his schooling there, travelling by horse and cart. He left school at the age of thirteen to start work on the land, shepherding sheep was one of his first jobs. This meant living on his own, he was also cooking for a crew of six who were harvesting and bag sewing at Magenta. Quite an effort for a fourteen year old. He trapped rabbits to sell, to enable him to buy a bike and for 2/6 on Sunday mornings he would raise and lower the targets at the rifle range. Life went on with hard work and much sweat as it did in the 30s.

Along came the war and John enlisted on 30 October 1940 in the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, training in Northam and later in South Australia and then overland to Darwin. During this trip. it was interesting to read comments John made about stopping at settlements en route. One quote ‘at Terowie they gave us sausages and eggs, jam tarts and cream. It was very nice. The women at these places make one feel he has something to fight for.’

John left Darwin on 2 January 1942 and arrived in Singapore on 27 January and straight into the front line and bombing raids. Then on 15 February he was taken prisoner and marched to Changi along with the other POWS. My good mate Billie Breed who was with John in the 2/4th used to relate stories to me of those Army days. He said if it wasn’t for John Waddell keeping up our morale and on the move most of us would not have made it home. When Bill was very ill at the camp, John who was on kitchen duties. He stole a pig’s head and cooked it to give him some nourishment.

John suffered from malaria, cholera and malnutrition. After many years of use and abuse and out of touch with everyone he was finally released on 30 September 1945 and arrived in Fremantle on IO October l945 and discharged on 7 December. Imagine the relief of his family not having heard from John for such a long time when finally a telegram arrived about a month after the war finished saying that he was alive. What a celebration – a true survivor.


After the war. with health slowly improving. things gradually got back to near normal on the farm he shared with his brothers. As years went by with John retaining his own piece of property he went on to become a very successful farmer. He also applied for officer of the school but was refused because of lack of education.


John finally met his soul mate. Betty from Moulyinning and after a fairly lengthy courtship, or it seemed that way to Lloydy, Tige and myself who had to sit around waiting for them to say their goodbyes after dances etc. when we went to Mouly and Kukerin. The marriage finally took place in I949, the union produced three children ‐ Harvey, Beau and Treena. They now have eight grandchildren all of who have brought great joy to their lives.

John was a tireless worker for the Newdegate district and a driving force behind many community projects, serving on the Lake Grace Shire for fifteen years representing Newdegate. He was also a Justice of the Peace from 1972, President of the RSL for many years, secretary of the P&C, a Chairman of Directors and a Director of the local Co-op.

When on the Shire there was a lot of to and and fro-ing about public toilets for Newdegate and where they should be situated. The Shire clerk said that you can’t put them there – you can see them when you drive into town and John replied that isn‘t it the first thing you want, which of course had to be agreed with and now situated as it is. He was also one of the main instigators for the Hall, which was eventually built and still stands where it is. When heavy discussions were going on regarding a swimming pool or grassed oval, John said we will go for both. which satisfied the majority so both eventuated.

One of John’s proudest achievements for the district started back in 1966 when he chaired a public meeting to discuss the development of a new sports complex. John was elected secretary and worked tirelessly with his committee over years to raise funds for the building. It came to fruition in July 1978 when John was given the honour of opening the new sports pavilion. It has now been updated which I am sure made John feel very proud especially as his son Beau, was president of the recent building committee. It is now one of the best recreation buildings anywhere and the hub of field day activities and many social events.

John was responsible for resurrecting football in Newdegate with a lot of the local lads having nothing constructive to do on Sunday afternoons. John gathered them to the old sports oval. which was down by the existing caravan park and got them kicking a footy around. The club went on to be very successful over the years. John’s dedication to the Club has been spelt out in so many ways. He has been Treasurer, Secretary, President, Captain, Coach of Reserves and League in Newdegate. He won fairest and best.  He was the last one aged 35 in Newdegate Pingaring Assoc. At association levels he has held positions as Secretary and Vice-President. He played in association teams and was given life memberships of Newdegate Club, Newdegate-Pingaring Assoc and Lake Grace – Kulin Assoc.

No wonder he was labeled MrFootball!

John also enjoyed rifle shooting and was a mean tennis player, wining his first championship in I939 before the war. A man of many talents he made 39,000 bricks by hand for the house that Betty and he lived in. John had a very wry sense of humour and was very fond of poetry.

John was my idea of a true-blue Aussie, he served his country, his family and Newdegate district with distinction, hard work, much love and devotion, a person to be proud of and a good friend.


Camp Locations:

  • River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp) - Singapore
  • Kanchanaburi, 50k - Thailand
  • Nakom Nayok, Nakhon Nayok - Thailand
  • Nikhe Wood Camp, Ni Thea, 131 Kilo, 284k - Thailand
  • Non Pladuk, 0k - Thailand
  • Tamuang, Tha Muang 39k - Thailand
  • Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand
  • Tonchan South, 131k - Thailand
  • Tonchan, 139k - Thailand