The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Laurence Daniel
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- 'E' Company, Special Reserve Battalion
- Place of Birth:
- Mintaro, South Australia
- Father's Name:
- Daniel David Kearney
- Mothers's Name:
- Anna Louise Kearney (nee Jungfer)
- Roman Catholic
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Selarang Camp Changi, River Valley Road Transit Camp
- 'A' Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Camps Burma:
- Victoria Point, Kendau 4.8km, Thetkaw, Meiloe, Augganaung
- Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 37 (rescued by USS Sealion II)
- Return Details 1945:
Laurie Kearney is no doubt was of luckiest men sent to war in Singapore!!
Kearney enlisted AIF 27 Oct 1941 and later joined 2/4th MGB’s ‘E’ Company which was followed by being entrained from Northam to Fremantle, where the Company boarded the ship ‘Aquitania’ anchored at Gage Roads on 15 January 1941. As they boarded, 100s of 2/4th soldiers illegally departed by any means possible, knowing this was their last chance to say goodbye to family. They had been away several months training firstly in SA and then Darwin, N.T.
‘E’ Coy Special Reserve Battalion was formed on Singapore Island with Commanding Officer Bert Saggers being moved from his original Battalion.
During the chaos of the battle to save Singapore – ‘E’ Coy SRB was not informed to evacuate and was making a dash for freedom when they walked into a Japanese ambush at south-west Bukit-Timah on 11 Feb 1941. (not being informed the rest of the Forces had evacuated, was not the first time in Singapore. They were without communications and to say the campaign was in chaos is an understatement) The Company suffered huge loss of life during the ambush.
Kearney received a GSW through his back near his spine which exited through his left chest.
According to Kearney he witnessed about 5 out 7 men wounded by a mortar shell. During their escape to safety, he then caught up with Marsh who had received GSW to his stomach and thigh. Marsh who had enlisted underage on 12 November 1941 was only 18 years old. Kearney was 9 years his senior.
The two men would have had little idea of where they were and where to head to safety, or find the rest of the unit and their Allies. There were Japanese soldiers all over the Island and little chance of finding food or medicines.
The two men hadn’t known of the Allied surrender which took place on 15 Feb 42. They remained ‘at large’ and were found by the Japanese on 7 March 42, three weeks later. Both soldiers were in a bad way having been exposed to the elements and without medical care, however Marsh was seriously delirious. He was taken to AGH Roberts Barracks, Changi where he was not expected to live. It is believed Kearney was initially taken to a hospital with civilians, a Seaman’s Retreat (we have not been able to identify or find this location) and did not see a doctor until he arrived on 16 March at Changi. He was discharged to his unit on 20 March 1942.
Read the story Members of 2/4th nominated for Medal but not awarded.
Laurie was selected as POW in Singapore with the first work party to leave Singapore – ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion.
3,000 POWs sailed from Singapore to the south west coast of Burma – Green Force remained at Victoria Point where they worked for several months repairing and enlarging the existing airport. By 1 October 1942 Green Force which included a large number of men from 2/4th arrived at northern most point of Burma-Thai Railway and started work at Thetkaw 4.8km Camp. ‘A’ Force would remain working on the Burma end of the rail until the end of 1943, when the Japanese began to move all the POWs south to Thailand. Laurie was sent to Tamarkan.
And the story Surviving the Sinking of the Rakuyo Maru written by Roy Cornford NX44955 of the 2/19th Battalion, courtesy of Peter Winstanley.
Read Laurie’s description of departing Thailand for French-Indo-China from where the POWs were to be shipped from to Japan. After a few months they were returned to Singapore via Bangkok to wait for their ship ‘Rakuyo’ Maru which finally departed Singapore Harbour 4 Sept 1944.
Laurie was certainly was one of the LUCKY POWs to be rescued by the American submarines four days after their ship sank in South China Sea.
38 men from 2/4th perished.
This year September 2019 is 75th Anniversary of the sinking of ‘Rakuyo’ Maru.
Below: Spelt Carney – we believe the name should be Kearney – however it may have been a deliberate misspelling as the war was not over. The AIF had instructed those who returned from ‘Rakuyo’ Maru not to speak of their experiences – in particular with other families who may be seek information about their sons had they known Laurie was safely home in WA.
Laurie’s father Daniel David Kearney died Clare, South Australia in 1943. His mother Anna Louise (nee Jungfer) died Glenelg in 1967.
Laurie had moved to south west WA before the war and was recorded living/working Trenton before he enlisted.
After returning from the war and his incredible rescue from South China Sea in 1944, Laurie returned to South West and married February 1945.
Below: Laurie returned to enjoy playing cricket.
Electoral Rolls have Laurie and Margaret living/farming at Cowaramup from at least 1949 through to 1963. By 1972 they are living in Busselton and Laurie appears to be retired.
Laurie passed away aged 87, April 21 2001 at Busselton WA.
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
- Aungganaung,105Kilo - Burma
- Kendau, Kandaw, 4 Kilo - 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