The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Eric John
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- 'C' Company
- Place of Birth:
- Narrogin, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Arthur Lynn Waddell
- Mothers's Name:
- Beatrice Dorothea Waddell
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Selarang Camp Changi, Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp), River Valley Road Camp, Selarang Barracks Changi.
- 'D' Force Thailand, S Battalion (soldier separated from main group at Tarsau, see ‘D’ Force, U Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Tarsau, Tonchan Central, Tonchan Spring Camp (cookhouse, water carrying duties and wood party), Tarsau (cholera), Tamuang, Non Pladuk, Nikhe‐Nikhe Wood Camp, Kanchanaburi, Tamuang, Bangkok (go-downs), Nakom Nayok, Phitsanulok, Takuri, Bangkok.
- Return Details 1945:
- Thailand-Singapore by aircraft, Singapore-Fremantle, HMT Tamaroa.
Waddell was in ‘C’ Company 11 Platoon which Don McGlinn joined as a reinforcement.
From Singapore John was selected to work on Burma Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand S Battalion.
It was at Tarsau (the first work Camp) that John separated from S Battalion and took up with U Battalion under the leadership of ?Reggie Newton. Please read further about this work force.
In mid July 1945, John was the only member of 2/4th to be included in a work party of 800 British and 100 Australian POWs from Nakom Nayok forced to march 375 miles during a six week period for no apparent reason. They were under the command of a British Warrant Officer and two Medical Officers – Capt Brereton AAMC and Capt Peh SSVF.
There were 105 chronic amoebic dysentery and 250 relapsing malaria cases which caused a heavier burden on the fitter POWs. It was considered a miracle there were only 3 deaths.
The route believed to have been taken was via the old capital of Ayuthaya where north-south railway line from Phitsanulok joined with the Bangkok line. Then north via Lopburi following the railway north past Nakom Sawan. Everything needed for the journey was pulled and pushed along in cars, with ten prisoners allocated to each cart. The distance travelled daily varied from as little as 2 or 3 miles to as many as 15 miles.
Initially the journey took them on a good gravelled road until eventually they were led down a narrow track – too narrow for the carts which then had to be dismantled and carried.
At one point the group crossed a river – believed to be Chao Puraya. The Japanese organised two large barges which successfully navigated the river crossing.
At this point in time – the guards were replaced by a group of ‘geriatric specimens of Japanese manhood’ – the younger guards thought to be destined for the Japanese frontline in north Burma. At about this time, local Thais informed the POWs the war ended.
The POWs later learned the Japanese planned to kill all prisoners on 18 Aug 1945. It is doubtful this would have occurred as unbeknown to the Japanese guards (and POWs) they had been shadowed for at least two weeks by a Major from the British Commandos – ready to intervene if necessary.
Despite the news, the group continued their journey until they reached the village of Changemai where they were locked up for the night. This routine continued until 31st August when the men were finally freed. A few days later the men were transferred to a camp at Takuri where an airfield had been completed. They flew to Bangkok and then onwards to Singapore. A Singapore the Australians would sail to their home ports.
John’s letter home-the first for many years. He writes of the deaths of his mates from Home – Allen Brooker, Charlie Roberts and Don McGlinn.
Johnny Waddell succumbed to cholera at Tarsau and survived. His mates placed a big bucket of boiled water beside him whilst laying in the cholera ward. They told him to keep drinking and drinking. He did and he survived. Johnny was of tall stature and well built – he was reduced to the size of a jockey almost overnight. (information from ‘Hellfire and Back’ the war experiences of 2/4th’s Joe Pearce)
John passed away aged 81yrs, September 15 2002, at Mandurah, WA.
John Waddell – Obituary reprinted from the Association magazine ‘The Borehole’.
John was born on 24 August 1920 to Lynn and Dora Waddell, being the third son of a family of nine children. John’s parents moved to Newdegate in 1925 and John did all his schooling there, travelling by horse and cart. He left school at the age of thirteen to start work on the land, shepherding sheep was one of his first jobs. This meant living on his own, he was also cooking for a crew of six who were harvesting and bag sewing at Magenta. Quite an effort for a fourteen year old. He trapped rabbits to sell, to enable him to buy a bike and for 2/6 on Sunday mornings he would raise and lower the targets at the rifle range. Life went on with hard work and much sweat as it did in the 30s.
Along came the war and John enlisted on 30 October 1940 in the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, training in Northam and later in South Australia and then overland to Darwin. During this trip. it was interesting to read comments John made about stopping at settlements en route. One quote ‘at Terowie they gave us sausages and eggs, jam tarts and cream. It was very nice. The women at these places make one feel he has something to fight for.’
John left Darwin on 2 January 1942 and arrived in Singapore on 27 January and straight into the front line and bombing raids. Then on 15 February he was taken prisoner and marched to Changi along with the other POWS. My good mate Billie Breed who was with John in the 2/4th used to relate stories to me of those Army days. He said if it wasn’t for John Waddell keeping up our morale and on the move most of us would not have made it home. When Bill was very ill at the camp, John who was on kitchen duties, stole a pig’s head and cooked it to give him some nourishment.
John suffered from malaria, cholera and malnutrition. After many years of use and abuse and out of touch with everyone he was finally released on 30 September 1945 and arrived in Fremantle on IO October l945 and discharged on 7 December. Imagine the relief of his family not having heard from John for such a long time when finally a telegram arrived about a month after the war finished saying that he was alive. What a celebration – a true survivor.
After the war, with his health slowly improving, things gradually got back to near normal on the farm he shared with his brothers. As years went by with John retaining his own piece of property he went on to become a very successful farmer. He also applied for officer of the school but was refused because of lack of education.
John finally met his soul mate. Betty from Moulyinning and after a fairly lengthy courtship, or it seemed that way to Lloydy, Tige and myself who had to sit around waiting for them to say their goodbyes after dances etc. when we went to Mouly and Kukerin. The marriage finally took place in I949, the union produced three children ‐ Harvey, Beau and Treena. They now have eight grandchildren all of who have brought great joy to their lives.
John was a tireless worker for the Newdegate district and a driving force behind many community projects, serving on the Lake Grace Shire for fifteen years representing Newdegate. He was also a Justice of the Peace from 1972, President of the RSL for many years, secretary of the P&C, a Chairman of Directors and a Director of the local Co-op.
When on the Shire there was a lot of to and and fro-ing about public toilets for Newdegate and where they should be situated. The Shire clerk said that you can’t put them there – you can see them when you drive into town and John replied that isn‘t it the first thing you want, which of course had to be agreed with and now situated as it is. He was also one of the main instigators for the Hall, which was eventually built and still stands where it is. When heavy discussions were going on regarding a swimming pool or grassed oval, John said we will go for both, which satisfied the majority so both eventuated.
One of John’s proudest achievements for the district started back in 1966 when he chaired a public meeting to discuss the development of a new sports complex. John was elected secretary and worked tirelessly with his committee over years to raise funds for the building. It came to fruition in July 1978 when John was given the honour of opening the new sports pavilion. It has now been updated which I am sure made John feel very proud especially as his son Beau, was president of the recent building committee. It is now one of the best recreation buildings anywhere and the hub of field day activities and many social events.
John was responsible for resurrecting football in Newdegate with a lot of the local lads having nothing constructive to do on Sunday afternoons. John gathered them to the old sports oval. which was down by the existing caravan park and got them kicking a footy around. The club went on to be very successful over the years. John’s dedication to the Club has been spelt out in so many ways. He has been Treasurer, Secretary, President, Captain, Coach of Reserves and League in Newdegate. He won fairest and best. He was the last one aged 35 in Newdegate Pingaring Assoc. At association levels he has held positions as Secretary and Vice-President. He played in association teams and was given life memberships of Newdegate Club, Newdegate-Pingaring Assoc and Lake Grace – Kulin Assoc.
No wonder he was labeled MrFootball!
John also enjoyed rifle shooting and was a mean tennis player, wining his first championship in I939 before the war. A man of many talents he made 39,000 bricks by hand for the house that Betty and he lived in. John had a very wry sense of humour and was very fond of poetry.
John was my idea of a true-blue Aussie, he served his country, his family and Newdegate district with distinction, hard work, much love and devotion, a person to be proud of and a good friend.
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp) - Singapore
- Kanchanaburi, 50k - Thailand
- Nakom Nayok, Nakhon Nayok - Thailand
- Nikhe Wood Camp, Ni Thea, 131 Kilo, 284k - Thailand
- Non Pladuk, 0k - Thailand
- Tamuang, Tha Muang 39k - Thailand
- Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand
- Tonchan South, 131k - Thailand
- Tonchan, 139k - Thailand