The Soldier's Details

First Name:
John Frederick
Nick Name:
Jack or Johnny
Regimental #:
'B' Company
Place of Birth:
London, England
Father's Name:
John Helsin
Mothers's Name:
Edith Emily Helsin (nee Field)
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 25.
Selarang Camp Changi
'A' Force Burma Green Force No. 3 Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Camps Burma:
Khonkan 55km Camp, ex-Aungganaung 105km Camp, Victoria Point, Kendau 4.8km, Thetkaw 14km, Meilo 75km,
Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 35
Cause of Death:
Lost at Sea
Place of Death:
South China Sea
Date of Death:

General Description

From Selarang, Singapore John Helsin was selected to work on the Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway, sailing from Singapore harbour to South West Burma.
Please read story of ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion
Whilst at Aungganaung he was evacuated to Khonkan Hospital Camp before being south to Tamarkan, Thailand when the railway was completed.
At Tamarkan the POWs were rested and recovered from the madness of ‘Speedo’ and building the railway.  Now the Japanese selected those they considered fit (whether the men were or not was a consideration).  John was selected to work in Japan with what would become known as ‘Rakuyo Maru’ Party.  This party was sent by train via Bangkok to French Indo-China, where it was intended they would sail out of Saigon Harbour to Japan.
This was not to be as by this time the American submarines had successfully blockaded the exit and coastline.  After weeks of woking on the wharves and other nearby locations, the POW were loaded onto trains and sent via Bangkok to Singapore where they were to board their ship for Japan.
They were accommodated at River Valley Road Transit Camp.  They were required for work parties, mostly at the wharfs.  There were several failed attempts and visits to wharf to board a ship before eventually they did board ‘Rakuyo Maru’.  Three or four days out of Singapore, this ship, crowded with POWs in its hull was hit by American Submarines.
Only a handful of men survived this horrendous event.
Please read history of Rakuyo Maru.


John Frederick Helsin aged of 6 months arrived in WA with his widowed mother Edith Emily Helsin (nee Field) and 2 year old sister Dorothy Mabel known as ‘Molly’ in September 1919 from England.
His father, John Malmo Helsin was born in Victoria, educated and enlisted Pemberton, WA died 3 September 1918, France, WW1.


Above:  Sgt John Helsin enlisted from Pemberton, WA.

John Malmo Helsin married 27 February 1917 London, to English born Edith Emily Field.  Helsin was with 16th Battalion.
He won a Military Medal in France whilst serving with the Australian Forces in WW1.



John Malmo Helsin’s father, John Helsin (1st)  arrived in Australia from Denmark.  He married in Melbourne, Australia to Elizabeth Anne Ridler born England.  Their only son was named John Malmo Helsin as his Danish-born father was born in Malmo.
It is believed John Helsin (Grandfather to John Frederick) died in Victoria about 1889 and Mrs Elizabeth Helsin  (nee Ridler) moved to Western Australia with her son John Malmo Helsin, and two daughters.  It is believed Elizabeth had  Ridler family relatives residing in Western Australia.
Nurse Helsin, as she was known, died in 1951.  She obviously enjoyed a strong relationship with her grandson, John Frederick Helsin (the 3rd).  Elizabeth Helsin had encouraged and welcomed her daughter-in-law, widowed Edith and her two children who moved from England to WA following the tragic death of her only son in France.

Above: John Malmo Helsin MM



Below:  Elizabeth Helsin (nee Ridler) also lost her brother to WW1.

Above: September 1916




John Helsin (Jnr) was born in England seven months after his father died in France.
In 1924, John’s mother Edith Helsin remarried to Arthur H. Mitchell in Fremantle.


John Helsin.

Quite possibly taken prior to his departure to Woodside, SA and Darwin in 1941.  2/4th were not granted leave on their one night stopover at Fremantle on their journey to  Singapore on 15 January 1942 (except of course the several hundred soldiers who jumped ship at Gauge Roads, about 100 of whom were unable to reboard before ‘Aquitania’ sailed without them.)



Above:  From Newspapers, October 1943

HELSIN, Corporal, JOHN FREDERICK, WX10095, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 12 September 1944. Age 25. Son of John and Edith Emily Helsin, of Palmyra, Western Australia. Panel 18.
Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.




Helsin J F


Edith Emily Mitchell (nee Helsin) died in 1995.
John’s sister ‘Molly’ married Edward Williams, and died Midland 2009.


Kings Park Avenue of Honour



Dedicated by Family on 16 February 2013

Biography presented during plaque dedication:

‘John Frederick Helsin was the only son of John and Edith Helsin. Edith, whose husband, Corporal John M Helsin MM died of wounds received in France in 1918, came to Perth with their two children in 1919 and later remarried and lived at Hammond Street, Palmyra.
Prior to his enlistment John worked as a warehouse hand.
He initially enlisted in the militia in July 1940 and transferred to the AIF in December.
He was posted to 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion which had been formed in November at Northam as part of 8 Division under the command Lieutenant Colonel Anketell [who also has a plaque in the park].
Just before Christmas they received their distinctive black and gold triangular colour patch.
In July 1941 the battalion was considered ready for deployment and moved to Adelaide by ship and rail.
They then moved to Darwin via Alice Springs, arriving there in October. They spent some time in preparing for the defence of Darwin before embarking for Singapore, arriving there in January 1942.
They were deployed in defensive positions on the island and fought bravely with heavy losses. After the surrender came in February those that were left were taken prisoner and sent to Changi prison.
John was sent to the Burma-Thailand railway and then returned to Singapore in March 1944 and boarded the Rakuyo Maru bound for Japan. The ship was sunk by the submarine USS Sea Lion unaware that it was carrying prisoners of war, as the ship was not marked with the red cross to signify they were on board.
Corporal John Frederick Helsin, service number WX10095 of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion, died as a prisoner of war in the South China Sea on 12 September 1944. He was twenty-five years of age.
His plaque is placed next to that of his father he never met, Corporal John M Helsin MM, who died of wounds in 1918.’


Photo of plaque M66

Service number
Decorations:   Military Medal
Unit:   16 Battalion
Cause of death:   Died of Wounds
Place of death:   Rouen, France
Date of death:   3 September 1918
Age:   33
Plaque number:   M66
Dedicated by Family on 16 February 2013
Biography presented during plaque dedication:

‘Corporal John Malmo Helsin MM was born at Footscray, Melbourne, in September 1885 to John and Elizabeth Ann Helsin. He had two brothers and two sisters.
Their father died in 1889 and the family moved to Western Australia. They initially lived in Norseman, then later moved to Perth.
John Malmo was employed as a timber worker in the goldfields in the mines and on the railways.
He enlisted at Kalgoorlie in August 1915 and commenced training at Blackboy Hill Military Camp with 12 Reinforcements of 16 Battalion.
The unit embarked on HMAT Ajana at Fremantle in December 1915 and arrived at Tel el Kebir in March 1916. After further training they left Alexandria and arrived at Marseilles in June.
He was hospitalised during September in England and, while there, met Edith Fields. They were married in London in February 1917.
John had two children with Edith; Dorothy, born in 1918 and John Frederick, who arrived seven months after his father’s death.
He returned to duty and was awarded the Military Medal for actions in battle. The citation states:
‘Private John Helsin is brought under notice for the very gallant manner in which he carried out his duties during operations near Zonnebeke on 16 September 1917. He was attached to company headquarters as a runner and his duties carried him through areas that were continually under the heaviest barrages. During one period of the operations he voluntarily carried forward SOS flares to the front line through a heavy barrage and under machine gun fire. On his return he had to penetrate a heavy enemy barrage and brought back valuable information. He is recommended for distinction.’
During late 1917 and early 1918 he was promoted to corporal and attended officer training courses at Codford and Tidworth. He returned to duty in August 1918.
Corporal John Malmo Helsin MM, service number 3918 of 16 Battalion, died of wounds received in France on 3 September 1918. He was 33 years of age.
His plaque is placed next to that of the son he never met, Corporal John Frederick Helsin of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion who died as a prisoner of war in September 1944.’




Camp Locations:

  • River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Tamuang, Tha Muang 39k - Thailand
  • Aungganaung,105Kilo - Burma
  • Kendau, Kandaw, 4 Kilo - Burma
  • Khonkan, 55Kilo Hospital 360k - Burma
  • Meilo, 75 Kilo, 340k - Burma
  • Saigon - French Indo China
  • Victoria Point, Kawthoung - Burma. \'A\' Force, Green Force No. 3 Btn
  • Thetkaw 14 Kilo - Burma