The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Ronald Duncan
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
Headquarters Company
Place of Birth:
Narrogin, Western Australia
Father's Name:
James Owen McCracken
Mothers's Name:
Dorothy Kathleen McCracken (nee Holdaway)
Roman Catholic
Pre-war Occupation:
Radio Dealer
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 24.
Selarang Camp Changi, River Valley Road Transit Camp
'A' Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Camps Burma:
Victoria Point, Tavoy, Kendau 4.8 km, Thetkaw 14km, Meiloe 75km, Aungganaung 105km.
Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 37
Cause of Death:
Lost at Sea
Place of Death:
South China Sea
Date of Death:

General Description

Ron enlisted AIF 11 Dec 1940 and later joined 2/4th MGB’s HQ Coy No. 1 Platoon Signals under CO Lt Curnow.  Ron trained as a signaller.
During the fighting in Singapore between 8 and 15 Feb 1942, McCracken was involved in the bayonet charge at Hill 200, Ulu Pandan where he was wounded in action. Admitted to 2/10th Australian General Hospital with a gunshot wound to his right foot. Discharged to unit on 28.2.1942.
Ron left with the first work force out of Singapore ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force No. 3 Battalion – to begin work on the Burma end of the Railway.  Their transport ships took them to ports in SW Burma where they had to repair three airfields abandoned by the British and bombed by the Japanese.  They began work on the Railway 1st October 1942.
Please read further about Green Force 3 Battalion
Towards the end of 1943 and the Railway’s completion the Japanese began to move all the POWs working in Burma and those in Thailand, to one of several large camps or hospitals in Thailand.
In early to mid 1944, the Japanese began selecting ‘fit’ POWs to work in Japan,  they were terribly short of man power.  Ron was selected in this group.  The Force set off for French Indo China to sail to Moji, Japan.  Saigon was the main sea port for shipping between Japan and the SE Asia.  It was the shortest distance and was the main route for the Japanese to supply their troops who now fighting in northern Burma.
Whilst the work party was in Saigon they were used in wharf work and wherever necessary.  The Japanese attempted several times to have the POWs board a ship, but failed every time because the US submarines had effectively closed the port with aggressive attacks and sinking of shipping.
The POWs were then organised to rail back to Bangkok to Singapore.  They were have to sail from Singapore.
Once again the POWs were kept busy on work parties around Singapore until a ship was available.  They were accommodated at Transit Camp.
Please read about the Rakuyo Maru and the tragedy which followed.

And the central story of Raluyo Maru

The ‘Rakuyo’ Maru was hit by two torpedoes from a US submarine pack.  Their ship was slow to sink as it was carrying cargo of rubber to Japan.  Many of the POWs survived the explosion and jumped overboard safely, the lucky ones found life-rafts or other floating devices.  It was 12 Sept 1944.   Ron remained alive on a raft until 15 Sept, three days after the attack.  He finally succumbed to the elements.










Kings Park Honour Avenue.


Ron McCracken had one brother Leonard and two sisters Vera and Betty.  Ron’s mother was born Wandering 1896 and died in 1984 aged 88 years.  She asked her family to scatter her ashes at sea in memory of her first-born son Ron who drowned in South China Sea in 1944 when the ‘Rakuyo Maru’ was hit during an American submarine attack on their convoy, and sank 12 hours later.   Her family fulfilled her wish and her ashes taken to sea by her grandson Ronald Moir (named after his uncle).
Following the end of the war and notification of Ron’s death, Dorothy received a visit from Ron’s mate Harry Pickett (who had returned to Australia about November 1944 – but was ordered not to have contact with families nor talk of his time) he was one of the very fortunate few to survive long enough in the water without water or food, following the sinking of ‘Rakuyo Maru’ and was miraculously picked up by USS submarine ‘Pamanito’. Harry returned home to Western Australia in November 1944.
Mates Ron McCracken and Harry Pickett were with Headquarters Company and both Signallers.  Sent with ‘A’ Force Green Force from Singapore to Burma, they survived working on Burma-Thai railway – and were both included in the selection of ‘fit’ men to work in Japan with what was known as ‘Rakuyo Maru’ Party.
With the Rakuyo Maru slowly sinking Harry and Ron had scrambled onto raft with 12 other POWs  – each new day the men desperate with thirst, hunger and fatigue would quickly establish which one of their mates/companions had been unable to make it through the night.  It was so easy to fall asleep and drift away.   The POWs were covered in oil, their faces and upper bodies burnt with sun, wind, salt water and oil.  Hoping and praying they would be saved the men were desperate with thirst and knew they should not drink seawater. However as the days dragged on many succumbed, others drifted into a weary sleep and slipped away from the raft. We believe Ron died on the 3rd day of this shocking incident having succumbed to his dreadful thirst.
Drinking seawater could result in hallucinations; an inability to think rationally and at worse, men could become physically aggressive to the point of endangering other lives. Finally Harry was alone on the raft.
Pampanito picked up survivors on the 4th day after their attack on the Japanese convoy.

Read Harry’s story.

Read further about ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion.


The above is from Beattie Collection.  This story was in The West Australian, 8 March 1985
Below:  Ron’s name is included on the Wagin Honour Board, along with that of Ron Ellis.
Please read about Ron McCracken recorded on the Wagin WW2 War Memorial.


Below:  Wagin Boxing Tournament May 1940 – McCracken and his mate Ron Ellis are participants.

Below:  Superior copy of above details of Ron McCracken’s boxing bout.

Wagin RSL 1945 meeting.

Camp Locations:

  • 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
  • Tavoy (Dawei) - river port - Burma
  • Saigon - French Indo China
  • Victoria Point, Kawthoung - Burma. \'A\' Force, Green Force No. 3 Btn
  • Thetkaw 14 Kilo - Burma