The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Robert George Staunton
- Nick Name:
- Darkie or Bob
- Regimental #:
- Headquarters Company
- Place of Birth:
- Kamptee, Central Province, India
- Father's Name:
- Robert Starling Rennie
- Mothers's Name:
- Winifred Alice Rennie (nee Vardon)
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Plot 1, Row E, Grave 58, Age 37.
- ‘D’ Force Thailand, Java Party No. 6, P Platoon
- Camps Thailand:
- Konyu 1 River Camp, Hintok Rd, Hintok River, Thailand
- Camps Java:
- Cause of Death:
- Post Leg Amputation
- Place of Death:
- Date of Death:
- Grave E31,Tamarkan
Rennie had his right leg amputated at the thigh due to a tropical ulcer. This operation took place at Tamarkan Camp, and tragically he died aged 37 years of post operative complications. His general health as a POW would have been poor prior to his amputation.
Rennie’s amputation was done by Dr. Moon, a doctor very highly regarded by Dunlop and British Officer Toosey, in Charge at Tamakan and his patients.
Arthur Moon’s records include Rennie and fellow 2/4th mate Gittos – both died following amputations due to ulcers.
Document from NSW State Library
BY ARTHUR MOON
As a senior medical officer at Tamarkan, Moon endured appalling conditions. He had to use bamboo whisks to remove clotting agents from blood before transfusions; and he amputated patients’ limbs using the cook-house saw. Despite this, Moon saved hundreds of lives until he was moved to another camp in December 1943. Before leaving Tamarkan, he buried documents in a tin. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, he recovered the tin and its contents, some of which are on display in the Amaze gallery.‘
Rennie was AWOL at Fremantle following the anchoring of ‘Aquitania’ at Gauge Roads off Fremantle on 15th January, 1942 (no doubt he wanted to see Rita and their children). All leave was cancelled for those onboard men of 2/4th were outraged they would not see their families since leaving 4-6 months earlier for training in SA and NT. Although many machine gunners were able to reboard their ship before it sailed midday on 16th January, up to 100 were not.
They were offloaded at Java to form defence forces with other Australian forces, Dutch forces and some Americans. Rennie was placed with ‘Blackforce’ to defend the island.
Once taken POWs of Japan the men were placed into various camps set up throughout Java. Rennie could have been at several, but departed from Makasura to the port.
D Force Java Party 6 sailed from the port of Tanjong Priok on 4th January 1943 to Singapore. They remained in Singapore for about 2 weeks before departing by train for Thailand to work at the Hellfire Pass Cutting. Their first work camp was Konyu 1 River Camp arriving 25 January and remaining until 12 March. The men then moved to Hintok Road Camp working there from 22 March to 1July.
Their next camp was Hintok River Camp from 1 July to 17 September when the party moved to Kinsaiyok and worked until early December 1943.
Rennie would have been evacuated probably by barge, sick from Hintok to Tamakan Hospital Camp. It was here Dr. Moon performed the necessary amputation to Rennie’s right leg at his thigh. Amputation was always the last resort to prevent death by gangrene. He died 4th October 1943.
Although recorded as Robert George Stanton Rennie, his name was in fact ‘Staunton’.
He was born Kemptee, India to Robert Starling Staunton Rennie and Winnifred Alice Vardon who married Calcutta, Bengal, India on 12 April 1901. Both Robert Rennie and Winifred Vardon were born in India. Winifred Vardon born 20 Dec 1879 Calcutta and baptised 23 June 1880 her parents were Alfred and Adelaide Emily Vardon. We believe Robert Starling Rennie was born 12 Oct 1874 India, died 1914 aged 39 years in India.
Robert has a sister named Winifred Adelaide Gladys Rennie. His mother Winifred Rennie was residing in England in 1916, she was recorded as a midwife in 1926. Winifred Rennie died 1947 aged 47 years.
Unfortunately we know little else of Robert Rennie’s life until 1922 when he sailed from England to South Australia on SS ‘Balranald’. He was 17 years of age and his occupation was recorded as ‘Farming’ and his address London – he possibly travelled as a migrant or with a group of retrained youths, as he was listed amongst a large number single, young males destined for South Australia.
It is not known when Robert Rennie moved to Western Australia, however he married Rita Arbuckle in Perth about 1935.
Rita and Robert had a family of five children – Pam, Shirley, Dawn, Dianne and Kevin. Rita and children were residing in South Perth when Robert left for Singapore.
Back row L-R E. Preedy, J. Heffernan, J. Holt, Bluey Smith, Lin Powell, R Kelt, 2nd row – Tom Firns, H. Elkins,Scotty McEwan, Front row – Darkie Rennie, Unknown, R Newling, J. Quinn, Barney Doolan
Kanchanburi War Cemetery, Photographed 2018 C. Mellor
Rita’s father died in 1951.
- Hintok River Camp, 158k - Thailand
- Hintok Valley Camp, 154k - Thailand
- Kanu 1 151.00k - Thailand
- Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
- Makasura - Java