WX10793 Acting Corporal Edward John Rowell, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Second Australian Imperial Force.
KIA 12 February 1942
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 27 September 2016
Today we remember and pay tribute to Acting Corporal Edward John Rowell, who was killed while serving in the Second World War.
Born in Fremantle on 9 August 1916, Edward Rowell was the son of George Thomas Rowell and Gertrude Alma Rowell of Bayswater, Western Australia. On 15 January 1941 he enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force. He was posted to the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, a support unit for the 8th Australian Division. The battalion came together at Northam military camp, east of Perth, where it carried out its training. In July 1941 the battalion moved to Adelaide, and then to Darwin in October.
Following Japan’s entry into the war in early December 1941 the Malayan peninsula was invaded by Japanese forces. At the end of the month the 2/4th Machine Gun battalion was dispatched from Darwin to join the main body of the division in Malaya, via Port Moresby. However, following a Japanese attack on Rabaul, New Britain, the convoy was turned back to Sydney to take the long way round, via Fremantle. It finally reached Singapore in January 1942.
From mid-January, the units of the 8th Division were involved in fierce fighting against the Japanese forces on the Malayan peninsula, and it was not long before the 2/4th Machine Gun battalion was in action.
By the beginning of February, British and Commonwealth forces had been pushed back to the island of Singapore, and on the night of 8 February Japanese forces began landing.
Almost 1,800 Australians were killed in the month-long campaign in Malaya and Singapore – 900 were killed in just one week of fighting on Singapore Island. The 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion suffered more than 200 casualties during the battle of Singapore, one-third of its total strength.
On 12 February, 30 members of the battalion were killed in action, including Acting Corporal Edward Rowell. He was 25 years old.
His name appears on the Singapore Memorial at the Kranji War Cemetery. His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Acting Corporal Edward John Rowell, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Historian, Military History Section