The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Noel Edwin
Regimental #:
'C' Compay Headquarters
Place of Birth:
Mt Lawley, Western Australia
Father's Name:
James Albert Banks
Mothers's Name:
Celia Lydia Banks
Pre-war Occupation:
Java Party No. 22
‘Blackforce’, attached to 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion
Camps Java:
Bandoeng, Tjimahi, Bandoeng, Glodok Prison, Bicycle Camp Batavia, Makasura Java Party No. 22, to Sumatra to Pakan Baroe-Moearo Railway.
4444, 12562 & 11825
Return Details 1945:
Evacuated by aircraft to 2/14 Australian General Hospital, Singapore, Evacuated to Perth, by Duke of Gloucester’s aircraft 'Endeavour' on 24.9.1945.

General Description

Banks enlisted AIF Dec 1940 later joining 2/4th MGB’s ‘C’ Company Headquarters as did Sydney Clayden.    Harold Claydon and John Robinson also  joined ‘C’ Company No. 11 Platoon.
Noel Banks was one of several hundred 2/4th boys who went AWOL from ‘Aquitania’ when she anchored off Fremantle at Gage Roads on 15 January 194 having sailed from Sydney.  It is believed many soldiers managed to get back to their ship before Aquitania sailed next day 16 Jan 1942, however Noel was one of about 90 Machine Gunners left behind who would weeks later arrive at Java.
We believe Banks would have travelled from ‘Aquitania’  with mates Dusty Millar and Harold Clayden and probably returned with them in the truck which broke down on Greenmount Road, hence they missed the sailing time.
Please read further about those AWOL at Fremantle.
Banks was captured by Japanese on 8/3/1942 whilst travelling in an ambulance in transit to Bandoeng.  From 11/3/1942 – 18/4/1942 with 2/2nd Casualty Clearing Station suffering from malaria. Attached to 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company for period of convalescence until 5/11/1942.
Noel was too ill, frequently suffering from malaria to be included in earlier selection for work parties to Burma-Thai Railway.
He sailed to Singapore with 2/4th’s Harold Booth on 27 June 1944 with Java Party 22 from Bicycle Camp arriving 1st July 1944.  In Singapore they met up with a  third 2/4th POW, Robert Ramsay McAskil who had sailed with Java Party 20 from Java arriving Singapore 21 May 1944. The men were housed at River Valley Road Transit Camp.  McAskil had been health tested to work in Japan (by the Japanese) – but failed and was removed from ship’s list – the ship was later sunk by American Submarines off Nagasaki on 24 June 1944.

Please read McAskil’s shipping details from Java to Singapore

Please read about the 2/4th men who died Java, and those who remained and were recovered from there.
These three men were sent to Pakan Baroe, Sumatra where they caught up with a few other 2/4th men and commenced working on Sumatra’s railway.
Sumatra:  Worked on the Pakan Baroe-Mocearo Railway with McAskil, Booth, Annear.
Please read about Pakan Baroe Railway
Read about Noel’s evacuation from Sumatra
It is believed Noel Banks is included in this photograph, now part of AWM Collection. He is second from left with just his face profile showing.


Whilst working on one of rail bridges, Noel Banks slipped and fell into the river below  – he managed to grab a hold of one of the pylons – and eventually POWs managed to lift him to safety.  The Japanese and Korean guards looked on without interest.
The river was very fast flowing, had Banks not been successful in grabbing hold of the pylon, he would not have survived the torrents.


Building the Pakan Baroe Railway –
As POWs working in Burma, Thailand and French Indo-China found- the nights could often be extremely cold – there were no blankets and POWs had little clothing.
On one of those cold nights back at Camp, POWs warmed themselves beside a large fire (being fuelled at that time by the endless supply of local wood.)  Feeling particularly chilled Noel squatted close to absorb maximum warmth and comfort.   A nearby observant Japanese guard who obviously found this offensive, ordered him to jump into the fire!  Now armed with his bayonet the guard moved closer.
Bewildered, Noel resourcefully jumped over the fire safely.  When his feet touched down on the other side he found another Japanese guard with his bayonet who then gave him the same order. This terrifying scenario repeated its several times over – suddenly Noel heard the voice of one a nearby POW who yelled
For God’s sake Noel, put your foot in the Fire” . 
Knowing he could not physically keep up this ‘game’ Noel did exactly that.  While jumping over he pushed his foot into the fire – this action was sufficient to satisfy the guard’s orders and ultimately and most importantly for them at this point to ‘save face’.  
By this time of the war food supplies were desperately short –  Allied planes were everywhere over the waters in SE Asia and successfully sinking Japanese shipping.
The POWs were literally starving and whenever possible would look to scrounge food.  Armed with the tin can Noel used to eat from, he came across a stationery cart and bullock.  The large cart was loaded and Banks thought hew may have some luck.  He quickly helped himself to a few handfuls of dried fish when suddenly he became aware a Japanese soldier was sitting on top of the loaded cart.
As he slunk safely away with his tin can and dried fish, Noel swore the soldier must have known ‘this POW’ was stealing, he could not have failed to notice!
Sympathetic Japanese could never show leniency to POWs. The outcome for them was severe punishment.  Noel was lucky the soldier was alone and took a risk.



The Banks family lived at Woorooloo. Noel’s parents James Albert Banks and Celia Lydia ‘Grace’ Wray m. Albany 1904.  Noel and his twin brother Wilfred were born in 1916 the youngest of six children.
Wilfred  WX18179 joined 3rd Australian Water Tpt.  He served in New Guinea and was discharged 26 March 1946.
In 1943 Noel was recorded residing at Woorooloo, working as an orchardist.
When Noel enlisted 18 Dec 1940, his twin brother Wilfred also did so.  Wilfred George Banks WX18179 served in New Guinea with No. 3 Australian Water Transport.  After the war both Noel and Wilfred suffered with bouts of malaria.
Noel married in 1947 to Lillian Gillam. They had a family of 3 daughters and one son Geoff.  Geoff confirmed his father’s skill in rifle shooting – he has one of his Dad’s winning cups.
In the 1977 Electoral Roll Noel was residing 33 Terrace Street, Gosnells, retired.  Living with him was Evelyn Winnifred Banks.
He died 1988.

Please read about boys from Wooroloo, Mundaring and Perth Hills



Below:  Twins Noel & Wilfred


Below:  Noel’s mother died in 1945 – Noel was then POW in Sumatra.


Below:   Noel and Wilfred are amongst Woorooloo Boys officially welcomed home 1946.


Below:  Wilfred marries Oct 1947.


Below:  Noel Banks wedding 1947.

Below:  Funeral of James Banks Feb 1949.

Below:  Noel returns to his Rifle Club.

Camp Locations:

  • Bandoeng - Java ***
  • Bicycle Camp, Batavia, Jakarta - Java ***
  • Glodok Prison - Java ***
  • Makasura - Java
  • Tjimahi, Cimahi- Java ***
  • Pakan Baroe-Moearo - Sumatra **