MATES – WX8690 Hall, WX8709 Blaschek,
WX8738 Struthers, WX8706 Wilkie
These four mates met when enlisting with AIF 1940. Later they joined 2/4th.
They had all survived through the depression of the 1930s, worked manually hard and long hours as farm labourers and miners.
Having fought at Singapore and survived, they faced the next 3 1/2 years as POWs.
Having survived the war and returned home safely to Western Australia Jimmy Hall, Bill Struthers and Dick Blaschek learnt during November 1945 their mate Jimmy/Scotty Wilkie was not so lucky. They would not meet up with Scotty again. He had perished in Borneo 1945.
Jimmy Hall – born Lancashire, England. He was Driver/stretcher bearer with Battalion HQ. He departed Singapore to work on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand, V Battalion. At the end of the war Hall and Struthers were recovered from Ubon Camp, Thailand. Please read further about Ubon Camp
Bill Struthers – born Scotland, migrated to WA aged 17 years with his 18 year old sister.
He was a Driver with Headquarters Company, No 3 Platoon Administrative under C.O. Capt Phelps. Struthers departed Singapore with ‘D’ Force Thailand V Battalion. V Battalion suffered terrible loss of lives working on the Burma-Thai Railway.
Jimmy/Scotty Wilkie – born Scotland 1908 migrated to WA about 1928. It is thought he had no relatives in WA. We believe he worked as a labourer at Manjimup, acquired land at Carnarvon; a Gascoyne River Lot for growing tropical fruits/vegetables. Perhaps the farming venture failed. When he enlisted he was working as a miner at Norsemen.
Scotty was with Battalion Headquarters Company No. 2 Platoon Anti-Aircraft under C.O. Lt. Royce who DOW during the fighting at Hill 200. Ulu Padan during the bayonet charge. Please read further,
Scotty had the misfortune to leave Singapore with ‘E’ Force to Borneo. He died 17 May 1945 aged 36 years. Please read further about the men who died at Sandakan.
Dick Blaschek – b. 1914 South Australia. Dick with his brothers, moved to Norseman to work as miners.
He was stretcher bearer with Battalion Headquarters. Blaschek remained POW in Singapore. Dick died 29 July 1998 in Queensland. The following eulogy was sent by his daughter to Borehole.
Eulogy read at funeral of Richard (Dick) Bernard Blaschek
Dick was born Fullarton, South Australia near Adelaide June 1914. His father, an immigrant from Bohemia, worked on the railway to supplement income from a farm. His mother had eight children seven surviving childhood.
With his sisters and brothers he attended a Catholic School at Murray Bridge. Dick was an alter boy and carried the cross.
At the completion of grade 7 and at the age of 13, Dick was sent to work on neighbouring farms. Work was hard, the hours long and his his earnings included board and a few shillings. He drove large teams of horses ploughing paddocks for wheat growing in the Mallee area. He often spoke of the hardship he endured at this early age. Sleeping in sheds on wheat bags, weathering the cold winter morning and rising early every day. He also spoke of his love for the horses and kindness of some of the farmer’s wives who gave him extra food and even taught him some of the things he should have been learning at home.
As a young man Dick left South Australia with his brothers Bill and Frank, driving across the Nullarbor to work at the Norseman gold mines. With the outbreak of WW2, Dick enlisted 23 October 1940. He joined 2/4th and became a Stretcher Bearer with Battalion HQ. His training included first-aid, combat and route marches from Northam to Perth a distance of 44 miles in two days.
He met his future wife Vi ** (Violet Anne Le Serf) while on leave in Perth. They married during 1941 prior to his departure for Adelaide. The Battalion undertook training at Woodside Camp and Darwin when just prior to New Year 1941, they sailed for Singapore via Sydney and Fremantle.
Following surrender by the Allies to Japan, Dick became a POW of Japan. He remained in Singapore throughout the war. He believed his early years of hard work prepared him for his internment.
Vi had their first daughter Carol while Dick was away – not knowing whether he was safe or not as there was no news. Carol was almost 3 years old when Vi finally received news via the Red Cross.
He returned to WA and had to adjust to civilian life. After a short stay in Norseman where their second daughter Gale was born Dick and Vi bought a house in Perth and he worked for a bricklayer until they decided to move to Renmark, South Australia in the early 1950’s.
The Blaschek family travelled in a utility loaded with as much as it could carry (their border collie ‘Laddie’ riding on the roof) driving for 7 days across the Nullabor Plains, their travelling included getting bogged on the rough dirt roads until they reached their destination and stayed with Dick’s brother Frank and his family until Dick found a suitable fruit orchard on the Murray River.
Finally Dick was able to grow all that he had dreamed of – citrus and stone fruits. The family was very happy, and at last Dick loved being his own boss! Their third daughter Lynette was born. Both Dick and Vi worked very hard and were successful on this property and others until in 1963 the family moved to a soldier settlement vineyard in Loxton, South Australia where they remained until Dick’s retirement in 1975.
Dick and Vi moved to Caboolture to be near their daughters and grandchildren. He was very proud of his daughters Carol, Gale and Lynette, their husbands and his grandchildren taking an interest in all that they did.
Due to ill health, Dick became a resident at the War Veterans’ Home where he was cared for with love and understanding by Vi and the staff.
** Violet was 3 years old when she departed London 29 November 1929 on S.S. Benalla for Fremantle with her parents Arnold and Nellie Le Serf. Shipping list recorded they were all Swiss subjects and accompanying them was Violet’s small brother Arnold 2 years. Arnold (Snr) was recorded being a farmer.
The three men were working at Norseman when they enlisted 1940.