The Soldier's Details

First Name:
William Arthur
Nick Name:
Corporal (Promoted on 24.1.1942)
Regimental #:
'B' Company, No. 7 Platoon
Place of Birth:
Geraldton, Western Australia
Father's Name:
James Edge Halligan
Mothers's Name:
Nellie Francis Halligan (Ward)
Roman Catholic
Pre-war Occupation:
Miner and Hoist Driver
Selarang Camp and Barracks Changi
'D' Force Thailand, S Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Tarsau, Kanu II , Konkoita, Tarsau, Nacompaton
Return Details 1945:
Thailand-Singapore by aircraft; Singapore-Perth, PBY Catalina aircraft 18.10.1945

General Description


Halligan was missing from 10/2/1942 but had joined up with ‘A’ Company 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion and fought with them until surrender on 15/2/1942.


Halligan Brothers - L-R Bill, Jim KIA Crete and Jack
Halligan Brothers – L-R Bill, Jim WX4768, (DOW Egypt,) buried  Cairo War Cemetery  October 1942 and Jack.  Jack and Bill enlisted same day in October 1940.  Jack was selected for ‘B’ Force Borneo and died in February 1945 Sandakan-Ranau track, known as ‘Death Marches’.
We believe Jack was actually two years younger than the age he enlisted with in 1940.
Jim Halligan WX/4768 of 2/1st Army Field Army Workshop AAOC died of injuries 8 October, Cario, Egypt.  He was buried at Cairo War Cemetery.  The Australian and British Force were fighting in the ‘Western Desert’ , i.e. west of Nile.  2/1st AFAW were maintaining, repairing vehicles, bren guns, tanks, etc for Australian Forces.  Sometimes using captured Italian vehicle parts.
The following information has been forwarded by Bill’s son Robert Halligan regarding Jim’s movements.  Thank you Robert!
‘I have a copy of a  letter written by Jim to his parents dated 21st of July with him mentioning how they had been at Tobruk since January 1941 and how good it was to be back in Palestine with him mentioning spending two days in Alexandria on their way back through Egypt after being at Tobruk for the past 6 months . He died in October 1941.’


The following information about the seige of Tobruk is from AWM with our thanks and acknowledgement.
‘Between April and August 1941 around 14,000 Australian soldiers were besieged in Tobruk by a German–Italian army commanded by General Erwin Rommel. The garrison, commanded by Lieutenant General Leslie Morshead, consisted of the 9th Division (20th, 24th, and 26th Brigades), the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division, along with four regiments of British artillery and some Indian troops.
It was vital for the Allies’ defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal to hold the town with its harbour, as this forced the enemy to bring most of their supplies overland from the port of Tripoli, across 1500 km of desert, as well as diverting troops from their advance. Tobruk was subject to repeated ground assaults and almost constant shelling and bombing. The Nazi propagandist Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) derided the tenacious defenders as ‘rats’, a term that the Australian soldiers embraced as an ironic compliment.
The Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy provided the garrison’s link to the outside world, the so-called ‘Tobruk ferry’. These ships included the Australian destroyers Napier, Nizam, Stuart, Vendetta and Voyager. Losses comprised two destroyers, including HMAS Waterhen, three sloops, including HMAS Parramatta, and 21 smaller vessels.
Half the Australian garrison was relieved in August, the rest in September-October. However, 2/13 Battalion could not be evacuated and was still there when the siege was lifted on 10 December, the only unit present for the entire siege.
Australian casualties from the 9th Division from 8th April to 25th October numbered 749 killed, 1,996 wounded and 604 prisoners. The total losses in the 9th Division and attached troops from 1st March to 15th December amounted to 832 killed, 2,177 wounded and 941 prisoners.’






Bill was one of three sons and two daughters born to parents James Edge Halligan born 1882 Victoria and Nellie Frances Ward born 1895 either SA or Ballarat, Victoria who married in 1911 at Menzies.


The Halligan’s grandmother died.


Tragically only Bill survived to return home to Western Australia, and in 1946 his father died.
In 1942, the Halligan family were notified their eldest son Jim had lost his life, DOW at Cairo, Egypt.





And in 1945 – the Halligan family learn of their youngest son Jack’s death Feb 1945 at Sandakan-Ranau March, Borneo.

Read further of the appalling story of Sandakan, North Borneo






In 1946 Bill was appointed to the Committee of the newly formed 2/4th Kalgoorlie Assoc.  Please read further
He married in 1950 to Phyllis May Mitchell at Kalgoorlie.   The couple had three surviving sons, including William Arthur (Jnr) born 1958 and died 2019 Perth.
Phyllis who was born in 1922, died 1971 aged 46 years.  She was buried East Coolgardie.
Bill Halligan died in 1992 at Albany, aged 74 years.


While in Changi Bill was mates with Thaxter and the two men would slip out at night seeking to purchase or trade for food with the Chinese.  Please read Thaxter’s Diary
Bill Halligan was selected in Singapore to work on the Burma end of the Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force S Battalion, which departed Singapore  Railway Station 12 March 1943 heading to Thailand, and a terrible trip of 4-5 days in appallingly crowded rail trucks.
Please read about ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion.
When the railway was completed towards end of 1943, the Japanese moved he POWs in Burma and Thailand to 4 or 5 larger camps in Thailand.
Without documentation we are unable to confirm the exact movement of POWs.  Initially Bill worked in the Hellfire Pass Cutting at Kanyu II where work and accomodation conditions were appalling.  The POWs were subjected daily to Japanese brutality and spitefulness, tropical diseases (including Cholera) and starvation.  Bill moved to Konkoita from Kanyu II, and then to Tarsau probably Hospital  before being moved to Nacompaton Hospital Camp from where Bill was recovered at the end of war.
Perhaps Bill was fortunate he was not selected to work in Japan as so many were from 2/4th in S Battalion were.
Thank God one son returned to the Halligan family in the Western Australian Goldfields.

Camp Locations:

  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Kanu II, 152.30k - Thailand
  • Nacompaton, Nakom Pathom Hospital - Thailand
  • Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand