The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Richard William
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
‘B’ Company Headquarters
Place of Birth:
Perth, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Alfred George Ridgwell
Mothers's Name:
Myrtle Ivy Ridgwell
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Mechanical Fitter
Selarang Camp Changi, Johore Bahru, Adam Park, Sime Road Camp, Selarang Barracks Changi
‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Kanu II , Hintok Road Camp, Kinsaiyok, Konkoita, Tarsau, Tamarkan, Chungkai, Nakon Nayok, Bangkok
4 /6544 and 8834
Return Details 1945:
Thailand-Singapore by aircraft; Singapore-Morotai-Wewak-Townsville by aircraft; Townsville-Sydney-Melbourne-Perth by train

General Description

Ridgwell enlisted AIF 11 June 1941 sent to Northam where in Dec 1941 he was selected as one of 146 reinforcements for 2/4th.  The men were entrained from Northam to Fremantle to board ‘Aquitania’ anchored at Gage Roads off Fremantle.  Their ship sailed for Singapore the next day. Half of the 146 would form E Coy SRB and the other half would reinforce other 2/4th Platoons.  Dick  joined ‘B’ Coy 8 Platoon under CO Lt MacKinnon.   He was fortunate not to with most of the reinforcements who made up ‘E’ Coy who were KIA, MIA or injured at a Japanese ambush at SW Bukit Timah on 12 Feb 1942.
Dick had previously be working as a mechanical fitter at Sons of Gwalia Mine, in the Goldfields.  Please read further about the men who enlisted from there.
Prior to joining 2/4th Battalion Dick was linked to the Regimental Training Depot holding the position of Corporal, on signing on to the 2/4th he reverted to Private.
He left Singapore to work on the Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand S Battalion.  Please read about this work force which included a large number of 2/4th men.
He was recovered from Nakom Nayok Camp when the war ended, taken to Bangkok, flown to Singapore.  He flew Singapore-Morotai-Wewak-Townsville.  Then was entrained from Townsville-Sydney-Melbourne-Perth.

Ridgewell Bangkok


Dick Ridgwell and Bob Dunnell, Anzac House
Dick Ridgwell and Bob Dunnell, Anzac House









RSLWA Presentation Ceremony - Premier's Anzac Student Tour 2017. John Gilmour and Dick Ridgwell front row.

RSLWA Presentation Ceremony – Premier’s Anzac Student Tour 2017.
John Gilmour and Dick Ridgwell front row.

Dick Ridgwell
Dick Ridgwell
Ridgwell Dog Tags
Ridgwell Dog Tags

L-R Dick Ridgwell, Ernie Zappa's brother, Unknown

L-R Dick Ridgwell, Lou Zappa and Reg Alsop. These were the guys Dick signed up with from Sons of Gwalia.
Below:  L-R Beryl Beattie, Trevor James Centre Alma and Right Dick Ridgwell.

1987 Anniversary Dinner – Beryl Beattie, Trevor James, Alma & Dick Ridgwell (Beattie Collection)


Jack Kyros contemplating at Changi Chapel
Jack Kyros and Dick contemplating at Changi Chapel opening 15.02.2002



At 98 years of age, Dick Ridgwell is our oldest attending Committee member.  He is most highly regarded.  We admire his forthrightness!
The three Musketeers, Ridgwell, Badock & John Gilmour
The Three Musketeers – Ridgwell, Badock & Gilmour 2015
Dorizzi Bernie, Ridgwell Dick
Bernie Dorizzi & Dick Ridgwell c. 2015
Service commemorating 65 years since VJ Day - 2010
Service commemorating 65 years since VJ Day – 2010
Dick, Jim, Bernie Dorizzi at the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore 12th February 2017
Dick, Jim, Bernie Dorizzi at the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore 12th February 2017


Watch the video interview of Dick Ridgewell, WX14197, with Peter Winstanley.

Read the stories,  Dick’s encounter with a Sikh in Singapore

and Never assume Japanese do not speak English

Listen to an oral interview with Dick in February 2001. recorded in Singapore

Please read about Dick at Tarsau Camp Hospital.   A sick man himself, he helped mates in a worse state than himself.
From Tarsau Dick was sent to Tamarkan, Chungaki and Nakom Nayok.    When the war ended he was transported by truck to Bangkok where the POWs were flown to Singapore.
Read of Dick’s return to Perth. (presently under construction)

Dick was a Member of Buffaloes Lodge, Changi

Dick was working at Sons of Gwalia when he enlisted.  It was here Dick met his wife-to-be Alma.

Below:  Dick with John Gilmour

Above:  Dick with Peter Dimopolous and Mrs Barbara Dimopolous.


Below:  Earlier days – Dick with group at Kings Park Anzac Ceremony.
2/4th Anzac Day March


Above:  Toodyay Memorial – Ron Badock & Dick Ridgwell with Bernie Dorrizi, nephew of 3 Dorrizi brothers.

Below:  Ridgwell in Centre



2/4th social event. Ron Badock standing 5th from right.


Below:  Dick with Phil and Ron Badock


2012 Anzac Day Luncheon
L-R Ron Badock, John Gilmour, Peter Dimopoulos, Dick Ridgwell



Borehole Bulletin October 1992
The following letter was addressed to Ted Wallin, (editor of Borehole) written by John Waddell from Newdegate.
‘Just a note to say good’day and some information on Bill ‘Jeep’ Breed’s 90th birthday in June.  Hoping all is well with you as it is with Beth and I, we are shifting to Mandurah next month so may get to a few more shows.
Bill is keeping well and has a marvellous spirit for his age.  His party, organised by Poll Findlay’s daughter Marg and husband Merve Saunders, was very well done.  Plenty of food and drinks all day and plenty of chance to talk.
Around 35 people turned up over the day and included Bill’s friends from Perth and Newdegate, also many cards, etc. a very nice one from Dick Ridgwell which was very much appreciated by Bill.  ‘Cowboy’ Matthews rang him but I was the only 2/4th present.
Bill also had a phone call from a doctor who treated him for a few years, from Cocos Island where he is now on holiday and said he’ll be back next year to see Bill.
Everyone enjoyed the party, especially Bill, who was as bright as a button at 10 o’clock at night when we left.”


Below: Snow Fairclough & Arthur Leggat from POWS Assoc with Ron Badock & Dick Ridgwell from 2/4th.


Below:  Dick would be proud!
His son Jim Ridgwell, current 2/4th MGB Committee Treasurer, assists Bernice Thomas during 14 Aug 2022 VJ Service, Kings Park.  ‘Bernie’ has been attending 2/4th Services and events for many decades.  She is the youngest sister of WX9828 Arthur Adams who was KIA Singapore 1942.




Above:  Jim Ridgwell Right with Graham Johnston


Above:  Jim assisting Marion Matthews


Jim Ridgwell, younger son of Dick & Alma Ridgwell is the Treasurer and Committee Member of 2/4th MGB ex-Members Assoc.  During the past years Jim has given time to the Premier’s School Student Anzac Tour Group.



‘The 2024 Premier’s Anzac Student Tour will travel to Singapore in April to commemorate the 82nd anniversary of the fall of Singapore. 
The successful student ambassadors for the 2024 Premier’s Anzac Student Tour are:
  • Caitlyn Willis, Guildford Grammar School
  • Avery Flint, Applecross Senior High School
  • Milla Lobik, Applecross Senior High School
  • Mazlyn Membry, Manjimup Senior High School
  • Tahlia Watson, Geraldton Senior High School
  • Aja Kondo-Morcom, Mount Lawley Senior High School
  • Keona Latiff, Canning Vale College
  • Freya Hicks, Christmas Island District High School
  • Tim Kania, Aquinas College
  • William Temby, Margaret River Senior High School
The Premier’s Anzac Student Tour is an annual competition open to all Western Australian students in Years 8 to 11.’
The following is Jim’s address to the Student Body for 2024:
My father was Dick Ridgwell, WX14197
He was born in 1918
To put that in perspective;
Aeroplane flight had only recently become a reality
WWI ended in 1918
The world’s first three-color traffic lights are introduced in New York City.
Nelson Mandella was born in 1918.
Dad joined the army on 11th June 1941 and became a member of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion.
This unit was to comprise of 965 men who bar a couple were all from Western Australia. There were only 450 000 people in WA at the time, the 2/4th were a considerable proportion from this population. There is a very strong possibility that some of you had relatives in the unit.
The 2/4th landed at Singapore on Dad’s 24th birthday and they were all thrust into war and a future they never could foresee.
I was exposed to National Conscription into the Australian Army when I turned 20 in 1970. There are many accounts of 16-17-year old’s enlisting in WW1 and WW11. The youngest record I could find was a boy of 12 years old who fought in WW1 at the Somme in France. (take a moment to think how that would affect you, and your family if you were in their place.)
 Australia and Britain capitulated about a week after Dad landed in Singapore and they were all taken Prisoners of War for the next 3 ½ years.
Today, I want to talk to you about some qualities which helped these men survive and in fact are uniquely Australian.
Those qualities are;
Mate ship
Passive resistance
And I will give you examples by way of short stories and anecdotes of men displaying these qualities under extreme hardship and violence.
One might think all nations have these qualities, but there is much evidence where these qualities have been lacking in adverse situations and men have suffered as a result. Australians display these qualities regularly and naturally.
Some of the vernacular used in these stories is from the men themselves and may not be appropriate by today standards. So, I apologize for that in advance.
The first of these qualities would come under the heading of RESILIENCE, DETERMINATION and perhaps MATESHIP
Soon after the 2/4th were taken prisoner in Singapore the Japs didn’t know what to do with us so we were accommodated in private houses taken from their owners. Where a house would have accommodated a family of perhaps 4, there were about 50 of us in each of these houses. The houses were almost bare of furnishings and possessions, having been looted before we got there. The few items, such as fans etc., left we sold to locals to buy food. There were 4 houses, and about 100 yards from the houses was the jungle.
During the days we were split into working parties. My lot were forced to build a shrine for the Japs to their Emperor. At night we were pretty much left to our own devices.
One day 3 of us, I, Roy Nybo and Shorty Jefferies crept out and found a coconut plantation, which prior to the outbreak of war, was owned by a Chinese family. They were allowed to stay and work the plantation for the Japanese army. We planned to steal coconuts and take them back to our accommodation. Roy went up the coconut palm and threw down coconuts while Shorty and I collected them.
The Japs had assigned Sikh prisoners the responsibility of guarding various installations and armed them with golf clubs.
One of the Sikhs spotted us in the plantation and came over to stop us. We refused and an argument ensued. Eventually he attacked us with his golf stick. He struck Nybo over the head leaving the golf stick the shape of Nybo’s head and shoulders. The Sikh and I fought and during this he grabbed my dog tags and tore them off me. To try and get them back I made a grab for them but grabbed his comb and string he wore in his hair. Thinking I had been successful I headed for home. The other 2 had already headed off with the coconuts.
When I got back and realised what I had in my hand. I was worried sick the Sikh would turn my dog tags into the Japs. This could have resulted in a beating at the least or death at worst.
I went to Capt Smith-­Ryan and told him of the events. I asked him if he could vouch that I was in the camp at that time but he said “Serves you right. You have been looking for trouble” and refused to help. Lt Don Lee followed me out and said he would cover for me.
I hadn’t had a shave or haircut since being taken prisoner weeks ago so I was looking pretty scruffy. I went to Len Armstrong, our barber, and got him to give me a half shave and haircut to hopefully change my appearance.
Surprisingly there were no repercussions from our little venture that day.
Months later I got a message that the Chinaman from the coconut plantation wanted to see me. I crept out and made my way to his house undetected. As it turned out, the Sikh had turned my dog tags into him and he just wanted to return them to me. I still have them to this day.
A lucky escape indeed!
THE next story demonstrates PASSIVE RESISTANCE.
A large contingent of 2/4th POWs were sent to construct a shrine for the Emperor of Japan. As this was being constructed, out of wood, Dad and others used to catch ants before they headed out in the morning and release them within the wooden structure in the hope the ants would destroy the shrine in time. Now we all know how futile that would have been but it’s a good example of “passive resistance”
The 3rd and last story I want to share with you is a good example of MATESHIP.
Some years ago, my wife and I, accompanied by my father, did a tour of the “Burma Railway.” There was approximately 40 people on that tour, and we were fortunate to have 5 ex POW’s accompany us. One of them of course was Dad. Each of these men told us stories and some funny anecdotes from that time.
One story I vividly remember was told on the side of the road at an old POW camp site. Bill Haskell, was an amazing orator, He told us the story of the old camp we were sitting in. He explained where the men slept, where the sick were attended to, location of the latrines and where the cholera camp was. Most camps had an isolated area for these men so cholera didn’t infect others.
Bill explained how all but the critically ill were sent out on work parties. Only the sickest remained, and it was from those sick men one was assigned as camp cook for the day.
He described how the work party, at the time, was working over 2 mountains away and walked there and back over an 12-15-hour days. Many of these “Fit” men had dysentery, malaria, tropical ulcers, and suffered from severe malnutrition.
The camp cook was aware these men had no water for the day and if they didn’t have access to water they would perish. So, this man, and remember he was one of the sickest in camp, carried 2 large glass demijohns of water over the 2 mountains twice, and sometimes 3 times a day just so his mates didn’t perish of dehydration.
So, let’s review those qualities I mentioned earlier.
Mate ship
Passive resistance
Can I suggest all of you have demonstrated these qualities by struggling and studying to become part of this group of young Australians representing our country. This experience will stay with you all your lives now.
You are a credit to your schools and a credit to Australia.
Congratulations to you all!
Now, as I understand it one of the aims of this tour “is to ensure the ongoing legacy and recognition of Anzac Day as an important National Day of Commemoration”
In my view, the greatest legacy which has been left to us is the freedom and democracy our soldiers, men, and women, from all the conflicts we have been involved in, have left us. There is turmoil in other countries around the world we are involved in even now, but our Australia remains stoic. We must remember, freedom and democracy are not free and we must never take them for granted. That is what I consider Anzac day is about.
We will remember them!
Finally, Dad’s advice to longevity was to live healthily, don’t hold a grudge and love your family.
He passed away 7 weeks before his 100th birthday.

Camp Locations:

  • Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Sime Road Camp - Singapore
  • Chungkai, 60k - Thailand
  • Hintok, 154k - Thailand
  • Kanu II, 152.30k - Thailand
  • Kinsaiyok Main, 170.2k - Thailand
  • Nakom Nayok, Nakhon Nayok - Thailand
  • Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
  • Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand
  • Konkoita (Brigade or Cholera Camp) - Thailand
  • Bangkok - Thailand