The Soldier's Details

First Name:
William Howard
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
‘B’ Company, 9 Platoon
Place of Birth:
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Father's Name:
William Howard Earnshaw
Mothers's Name:
Faith Daisy Earnshaw
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Rigger‘s Mate
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 25.
Selarang Camp Changi, Johore Bahru, Adam Park, Selarang Barracks Changi
'E' Force Borneo
4/6092 and 1684
Cause of Death:
Place of Death:
Sandakan No1 Camp
Date of Death:

General Description

Pay book photo taken on enlistment
WX6262 Private William (Bill) Howard Earnshaw, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Australian Infantry.  Bill was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of E Force. The 500 Australian and 500 British POW’s who made up E Force, left Changi on 28 March 1943, on board the S.S. DeKlerk arriving at Berhala Island (adjacent to Sandakan Harbour) on 15 April 1943. The POW’s were held there until 5 June, when they were taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were transferred to the 8 Mile Camp, which was about half a mile from the B Force compound. Private Earnshaw, aged 25, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 15 March 1945. He was the son of William Howard Earnshaw and Faith Daisy Earnshaw, of Kalgoorlie, WA. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 18. (Photograph from AWM232. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)


Please read about ‘E’ Force.



Studio Photo before departure



Closeup of Bill B Company 9 Platoon


Bill 2nd back row 3rd from right


Bill Earnshaw and Tom Buscombe, Richmond Hockey Ground, 27 Aug 1940


Bill, and Jack Willams, Fremantle. Jack died when HMAS Sydney was sunk WW!!


Bill, and Jack Williams
Bill, Mr Williams and Tom Buscombe
Jack Williams, Mr Williams and Bill
Bill (L) apprentice pastry cook at Tippets
Sandakan Memorial, Avenue of Honour, King's Park
Sandakan Memorial, Avenue of Honour, King’s Park


The tree in the avenue of Honour in King’s Park, Perth is shared with George Lane Taylor WX14775.  At the ceremony to add Bill’s plaque, Bill’s sister, Laura was approached by George’s niece, who said that initially she thought the references being made were of her uncle, George Taylor – so similar is his story to Bill’s.  They were both born in 1919, both attended Christian Brothers College, Kalgoorlie and both died aged 25 in 1945 as POW in Sandakan.












Bill’s sister, Laura, wrote the following which was read at a ceremony to add his name and 2/4th colour patch to a tree in the Avenue of Honour, Sandakan Memorial in King’s Park, Perth, WA:

“My eldest brother, William Howard (Bill) Earnshaw, was born in Kalgoorlie on 20 August 1919. He was the first child of William Howard Earnshaw and Faith (Daisy) (nee Copland). My father and mother had married the previous year after my father returned from the First World War. He was a  brewery employee at Kalgoorlie. Dad saw service with the famous 11th Battalion which was formed and recruited in Western Australia. He landed at Gallipoli and later saw service in France and Belgium. Dad suffered after the war from the mustard gas burns to his feet sustained in the European trenches.

After the birth of Bill in 1919, I was born in 1921 followed by my sister, Jean in 1923 and Frank in 1925. Bill was a wonderful older brother and the whole family was very close. We lived next door to the Christian Brothers College in Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie. Although we were not Catholic the boys attended the college and my sister and I attended St Mary’s Convent.

Bill was a good and popular student at school and was a Patrol Leader at the C.Y. O’Connor Scout Troop. He also played cricket and as a member of the Eastern Goldfields Cycle Club won trophies for races, which I still have in my possession today. Bill was great mates with the Norris brothers of Kalgoorlie who were cycle champions.

When he left school, Bill commenced an apprenticeship at Tippetts as a pastry cook in Kalgoorlie. He later worked on the goldmines as a riggers mate, most likely as the pay would have been better. We were a very happy and contented family.  Bill enlisted in the Second World War on 13 July 1940. He was just twenty years of age when he joined the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion and I was eighteen. The battalion spent some time at Northam and were later to march from Northam to Perth prior to departure overseas. Bill managed to return home to Kalgoorlie on leave a few times to see the family before he went overseas. I was staying with a cousin in Perth on holidays when Bill called in for a few hours prior to his pending departure. I was so proud of my brother in uniform – but it was the last time I would ever see him.

We received letters from Singapore and I can recall at least one card that came from him after Singapore fell. His best friend in the 2/4th was Tommy (Billy) Buscombe and his closest mate was Jack Williams who went down on HMAS Sydney.

Mother always had great hope and belief that Bill would come home and was so excited when the war came to an end. It was so devastating to all of us when the telegram boy came four o’clock one afternoon with the news of his death. My parents never knew what actually happened to Bill. A letter received from Lieutenant Don Lee O.C. Number 9 Platoon ‘B’ Company dated 16 November  1945 shed no further light on the circumstances surrounding Bill’s death. The letter did, however, give tribute to Bill and praised him as a loyal, exemplary soldier and “one of the finest men in the battalion”.

It was not until I obtained the book, Colour Patch by Murray Ewen, which was published in 2003, that I was aware of the extent of the horrors and suffering of the POWs in Borneo. Bill died on 15 March 1945 at Sandakan aged just twenty five years. His nominated cause of death was Malaria. This terrible day was also the birthday of his brother, Frank.”

Bill with some of his cycling trophies.


Earnshaw children L-R Laura, Frank, Bill and Jean.
Earnshaw family L – R Frank, Mum, Jean, Bill, Laura and Dad
CYO’Connor Scout Group. Frank is in the front row, Bill is 3rd from the right second back row.
Bill teaching his brother Frank to ride
Boyup Brook Sandakan memorial
Bill’s sisters, Jean and Laura and brother Frank at Sandakan Memorial Boyup Brook
2019 ANZAC Day lunch for 2/4th MGB Ex-members association.    Standing:  Jodie and David Earnshaw (nephew to Bill and Laura C/F) seated centre front: Laura Anderson, sister of Bill, with her granddaughter Jennie and daughter Betty.


The following newspaper notices appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner and The West Australian between 1st and 6th November 1945 when the family was advised that Bill had died on 15 March 1945.









Bill’s father William Howard Earnshaw, was born in Bendigo enlisted at Blackboy Hill and fought in WW1, Service No. 777.
Below:  Prior to their marriage, correspondence between Bill’s mother Faith Daisy and the Army regarding Bill Earnshaw (Snr) –  we believe he was with several Battalions.


Bill’s mother, Faith (affectionately called Daisy) was born in England.  At the age of 5 she took her stepfather’s surname, Scott, and was thereafter called Daisy Scott. The Scott family travelled to Australia when she was 9.



Bill (Snr) and Daisy married September 1918 at East Coolgardie and continued residing in the Kalgoorlie region.  Bill (Snr) fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front in the 11th Battalion. The Earnshaw family resided in Wilson Street, Kalgoorlie in 1943, Bill was employed as a brewery hand.










Frank Earnshaw a member of the RAAF

Camp Locations:

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  • Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
  • Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Sandakan - Borneo ***
  • Lintang Officers Camp, Kuching - Sarawak