On 8 November 1945 Mrs Bessie Page, mother of WX4934 Ronald Arthur PAGE wrote a letter to The Daily Newspaper’s ‘Opinion’ column:
‘WHY? I, just one of many more thousands of mothers whose dear sons will not return, want to know why General Gordon Bennett left those sons just when they needed him most. – Mrs Bessie Lloyd Page, Welshpool.’
The editor of ‘OPINION’ responded: (there was not a response to every letter)
‘General Bennett did more to shorten the period of imprisonment of Australians by making available to the Australian Army his knowledge of jungle warfare and Jap methods than he could have done as one more of thousands of prisoners.’
Bennett’s senior Officers would not have agreed. They had more than three years as POWs to consider Bennett’s actions! They agreed never to talk about him. There was no respect for his actions. Bennett had failed the 8th Division in Singapore during the week of fighting and then bolted before the Allied surrender to Japan.
The POWs of 8th Division did not agree either!
In October 1945 just a few weeks prior to her letter to OPINION, Bessie Page received notification her son WX4934 Ronald Arthur PAGE had died at Ranau, North Borneo 17 Feb 1945 aged 26 years. She had no idea how her son came to be in this country about which she knew nothing. The Page family were never provided details of Ron’s death.
Mrs. Bessie Page was informed in 1942 another of her sons, Keith Aubrey Page born 1920 was KIA, buried Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, New Guinea. WX7492 Keith Aubrey Page with 2/16th Btn. died 8 Sep 1942 aged 22 years having first served in Syria then sent to New Guinea.
WX4934 Ron PAGE & WX17755 Manson BUTCHER are first cousins. Their mothers Mrs Bessie Page and Mrs Frances Butcher are sisters.
WX4934 PAGE, Ronald Arthur enlisted 23 Jul 1940 joined ‘C’ Coy 12 Platoon.
He left Singapore with ‘B’ Force Borneo 8 Jul 1942 to sail to Sandakan, Borneo where he worked on road and airfield construction for the Japanese Imperial Army. Due to intensive Allied bombing raids the airfield was finally declared unusable at end of 1944 .
Page left Sandakan before the end of Jan 1945 on the First March. He managed to reach Ranau where he died of acute enteritis aged 26 years 17 Feb 1945 (Japanese records state he contracted disease 3 Feb 1945).
The large Page family resided at Welshpool. Ron was known to John and Jim Gilmour of 2/4th.
WX17755 BUTCHER, Manson William Frank – Trainee Schoolteacher enlisted 24 Nov 1941.
He was KIA 11 Feb 1942 at South West Bukit Timah, Singapore with ‘E’ Company, Special Reserve Battalion aged 19 years. Manson Butcher had been in army less than three months.
Manson attended East Fremantle Primary School and later Perth Modern School. He played Junior Football with East Fremantle Football Club. He also had an interest in music. He entered Teachers College 1941.
Manson’s mother Frances Butcher died in 1944 not knowing what had happened to him.