Bendall – Cain – Nicholls – Allan Trigwell – Vern Trigwell
WX17864 BENDALL, Bertram ‘Bert’ Alfred POW, died Sandakan 12 February 1945 of cardiac beri beri aged 30 years.
Bert’s parents married England in 1908 after which they sailed to Australia, eventually settling to farm at Donnybrook where they grew apples and other fruits.
Bert was the second of three children, he had an older brother Will and younger sister Margery. The children would have attended school at Donnybrook.
When Bert enlisted 3 December 1941 he joined 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion reinforcements – sailing 6 weeks later on ‘Aquitania’ for Singapore on 16 January, 1942. Bert had spent the previous 12 months with 15th Machine Gun Brigade Militia.
WX17860 CAIN, Henry ‘Harry’ David KIA Hill 200, Ulu Pandan, Singapore 12 February 1942 aged 21 years. Harry was born 1920 at Donnybrook to Richard Cain and Vera Hildegarde Trigwell who married about 1917.
Cain enlisted 3 December, 1941- same day as Bendall (above). Harry or Cobber as he was known to his mates, had been with the 25th Light Horse Militia before transferring to AIF.
Harry’s mate Vern Trigwell was also his cousin.
WX7645 NICHOLLS, William James POW, died illness Batavia 13 October 1942 aged 32 years. Bill enlisted 10 August 1940 and joined 2/4th MGB as a Signaller with Headquarters Company. He was employed as a butcher prior to enlisting.
As ‘Aquitania’ headed for Fremantle from Sydney with 2/4th MGB and other reinforcements on board – the West Australians believed they would have shore leave to visit their families before heading to an unknown destination (they had not been informed they were bound for Singapore). They had been away from WA for six months training in SA and NT. The men couldn’t believe their latest order ‘There would be no shore leave for anybody’.
When Aquintania’ anchored at Gauge Roads on 15 January 1942, hundreds of 2/4th men disobeyed orders and ‘jumped ship’ scrambling onto the supply pontoons tied alongside. Many got back before ‘Aquitania’ sailed the following day, however more than 90 well-trained machine gunners were left behind. Some had been imprisoned by local police and were unable to be freed.
This group was to sail several weeks later with a smaller convoy. As they neared Singapore, their scheduled destination, it was apparent the island would soon fall to Japan – they were diverted to Java. Most joined ‘Blackforce’ and with other Allied Forces and the Dutch East Indies, they prepared to fight the Japanese. Their freedom was short-lived and within weeks, Nicholls was a POW of Japan! The Australian, British and American POWs were held at several camp locations, as were the Dutch East Indies.
Nicholls became sick on 30 September 1942 and entered Bicycle Camp Hospital, Batavia. He died from bacillary dysentery on 13th October 1942, aged 32 years.
Bill Nicholls was born Donnybrook July 1910 to Albert Edward and Elizabeth Ann Nicholls, of Donnybrook. By 1942 his mother was a widow.
WX17882 TRIGWELL, Allan George POW, died from malaria at Sandakan No. 1 Camp on 4 May 1945 aged 23 years. Allan enlisted AIF 4 December 1940 and joined the 2/4th reinforcements. He had previously served with the 10th Light Horse Militia.
While a POW in Singapore, he was selected with ‘E Force Borneo. You can read about ‘E’ Force Borneo.
WX17863 TRIGWELL, Vernon Chapman POW ‘Rakuyo Maru’ Lost South China Sea, 14 September 1944 aged 24 years.
Vern Trigwell, Allan Trigwell and Harry Cain served with 25th Light Horse Militia prior to enlisting with AIF 3rd and 4th December 1941. Vern joined reinforcements, 2/4th MGB ‘C’ Company. As a POW in Singapore he joined ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion to work on the Burma-Thai Railway.
(Green Force included the largest number of 2/4th’s men as did ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion.)
‘A’ Force was made up of 3,000 POWs, sailing from Singapore May 1942 to south-west coast of Burma. When the railway was completed at the end of December 1943 – the Japanese began moving all POWs in Burma, south into Thailand into one of 4 or 5 very large camps. Vern was probably sent to Tamarkan where after a month or so he was considered to be ‘fit’ by the Japanese and selected to work in Japan. Vern was in good company, a few mates from Donnybrook and others from ‘C’ Force and those he had been working with for the past 18 months in Burma. The ‘Rakuyo Maru’ were first sent by train via Bangkok to French Indo- China (included Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam0 and where it was intended to send them by ship to Japan from the port at Saigon.
The POWs were put to work at the wharves and around the city. Several times they were prepared to leave Saigon, but after hours and hours of waiting, they were returned to Camp. Eventually the Japanese decided it was futile to attempt any shipping departures – the American submarine blockade had been successful in sinking too many of their ships.
The ‘Rakuyo Maru’ party was prepared to travel by train to Singapore, where it was intended they would leave for Japan.
Following a few false starts, the POWs finally boarded the ‘Rakuyo Maru’ and headed out to sea. It was about 3 days later they were torpedoed.
Please read about Trigwell/Bunker and the Rakuyo Maru
Below: 25th Light Horse Militia
Below: Jim Scott returned safely from war.