The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Robert Sydenham
Nick Name:
Thirsty Bob
Regimental #:
‘E’ Company, Special Reserve Battalion
Place of Birth:
Fremantle, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Robert Francis Williams
Mothers's Name:
Blanche Williams (nee Dixon)
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Selarang Camp and Barracks Changi, A.G.H. Roberts Barracks Changi, Changi Gaol Camp.
1/9729 and 3/10001
Return Details 1945:
Singapore‐Melbourne, l st Netherlands Military Hospital Ship Oranje, Melbourne-Perth by troop train, evacuated to 1109(P)MH with beri-beri and malaria.

General Description

Williams enlisted 8 Oct 1941.  He joined 2/4th’s ‘E’ Coy as a reinforcement.  He was 33 years old when he enlisted – maturity was his advantage when fighting with ‘E’ Coy –  most reinforcements were very young and too many had only 4 – 12 weeks training at Northam before being shipped to Singapore.  More than half ‘E’ Company was killed in a Japanese ambush at Bukit Timah 12 Feb 1942 including a large number of officers who had transferred from other 2/4th Companies.
Bob remained Singapore throughout the war, unfortunately we do not know the reason although he was at AGH Roberts Barracks, Changi and did not leave on work parties confirming he was ill.  The men who remained Singapore usually included those with health issues or invaluable skills.
He sailed from Singapore to Melbourne 1st Netherlands Military Hospital Ship, ‘Oranje’, from Melbourne to Perth by train and evacuated to Perth Military Hospital with beri-beri and malaria.
Returning from war, 1954 through to 1958  Bob was living Rose Street, South Fremantle with wife Vera Mavis Brindley.  They had married in 1947.
Robert Sydenham Williams died 8 Nov 1969 Victoria aged 60 years.
Robert Francis Williams, jockey, born Mittagong, NSW enlisted WW1 20 Jul 1915, aged 30 years 10 months, joining 32nd Battalion, his service No. 1393. Blanche was living Hampton road, South Fremantle. Once overseas, Robert Williams transferred to Camel Corp 24th January 1916 becoming Trooper R Williams.
Trooper Williams was returned to Australia to recuperate 6 months from gunshot wound to his foreman.  It appears Private Williams was severely injured by a “Defective Cap” which caused a “Compound Fracture of Radius…B. W. Forearm” whilst on duty with the Camel Corps on the 15th March 1916 at Assuit. A military inquiry found ‘Williams accidentally shot himself whilst cleaning his weapon whilst on duty’.
Robert Williams was returned to Subiaco Hospital via Melbourne from Middle East 24th June 1916. He died unexpectedly on 18 Feb 1917 of heart attack having contracted cerebrospinal meningitis aged 33 years.  He was buried at Fremantle Cemetery.
As his death was war related and as he was still serving this is a rare example of a soldier receiving a Death Plaque even though his died in Australia.
Bob (Junior) would not have been about 8 or 9 years of age, however he would not have seen his father since his enlistment July 1915.
It is not known if there were other children.
His mother Blanche born 1888 died 29 December 1982 at Bicton, aged 94 years.
In 1937 Bob was residing with his mother Blanche at 174 Hampton Road, South Fremantle.  His occupation was meat worker.
Bob’s four medals  – 1939/45 Star, Pacific Star. War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939/45 were sold at Burridges several years ago.




Camp Locations:

  • Changi Gaol Camp - Singapore
  • Roberts Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore