The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Frank Dawson
- Regimental #:
- Australian Army Ordnance Corps
- Place of Birth:
- Ravensthorpe, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Ralph Arthur Thaxter
- Mothers's Name:
- Barbara Elsie Thaxter (nee Smith)
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Selarang Camp Changi, Johore Bahru, Adam Park, A. G. H. Roberts Barracks Changi, Selarang Barracks Changi.
- ‘D’ Force Thailand, V Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Tarsau, Kinsaiyok, (evacuated to Chungkai), Non Pladuk, Tamajao Wood Camp, Tamarkan, Nacompaton, Prachuab Kirikhan‐Mergui Escape Road, Petchaburi.
- 4/15469 & 2298
- Return Details 1945:
- Thailand-Singapore by aircraft , Singapore‐Kuching-Labuan-Morotai-Maruka‐Biak‐Townsville‐Brisbane by DC3 aircraft, Brisbane-Perth by troop train.
Frank was working at Laverton when he enlisted AIF 1 August 1940. He was sent to Melville Training Camp and later joined 2/4th MGB. On 26 Sept Frank transferred and trained Australian Army Ordnance Corps as a fitter TG1 (Geelong). He entrained to Darwin 1 Dec 1941.
When ‘Aquitania’ anchored off Fremantle at Gage Road on the morning of 15 January 1942, Frank was bitterly disappointed the 2/4th boys were to be given no leave to see their families. Like many many others, Frank jumped ship and spent night with his pregnant wife and family. Frank was fortunate to reach ‘Aquitania’ before she sailed the next day on 16th just after midday.
He recorded his mother Mrs E.E. Wilson of Victoria Park as his NOK. This was updated following his marriage in 1941 to Doris Thaxter (nee Brockwell) Mandurah.
He entrained Darwin 1 Dec 1941.
Sydney the ‘Aquitania’ with reinforcements for 8th Division. in Singapore, anchored off Fremantle for one night 15 January 1942 to pick up reinforcements and supplies. The 2/4th were ordered ‘no leave’ to see their families which caused great angst and fury amongst the men who had been away training for several months. Thaxter was one of more than 100 men who went AWL. His record’s say from 1400 on 15 January to 0900 hours the next morning 16 Feb 1942 – he was fined 40/- ………….we are sure Frank thought it was worth it, he would have seen his wife! The Battalion did not know their final destination at that point in time – just that they were headed to the frontline and may never see their loved ones again!!
Following the fighting to save Singapore between 8-15th February 1942, Frank wrote just a few words regarding Ted Hopson’s escape which took place on during Sunday 15 February:
“5 or 6 of us decided to make a break with Tom’s (Bunning) blessing.”
From the above, we estimate Frank was in the party attempting escape but was unsuccessful.
Ted Hopson of ‘B’ Coy 7 Platoon reached Sumatra where he was not so long after, captured by the Japanese. He very tragically died at Tenal Gajoe hospital with appendicitis – unable to be operated on due to the fact Ted also had dysentery. Ted was a very popular bloke and the men in Sumatra were affected by his death on 26 April 1944.
On becoming a prisoner of war Frank was sent to Selarang Barracks, Changi where he spent some time digging ‘boreholes’. He with others from 2/4th was sent to Johore battery in March 42 and after in April to Adam Park where the POWs were building a road and a shrine for the Japanese.
Frank was then assigned to D Force V Battalion under Major Alf Cough. Departed Singapore by train 17.3.1943 and travelled for 4 days by train to Non Pladuk / Bampong, Thailand through to Kanburri 23.3.1943 and then Kinsayok 1.4.1943 where they were building railway embankments with the ‘hammer and tap’ method and also driving piles in for bridges. It was here Frank contracted diptheria and was put into isolation for six weeks. He then had bad bouts of malaria so stayed with Dutch. Only to develop yellow jaundice, he was evacuated to Chungkai by barge, this took three days and three nights.
(It appears Frank did not continue with D Force V Battalion following his evacuation from their first work camp at Kinsaiyok. This was fortunate for Frank – the loss of life with V Battalion was terribly high, with appalling conditions at Kuii and other camps. Many of those who survived were then sent to Japan and worked at Omuta, which was one of the worst Japanese camps.)
In March 1944 Frank was in Non Pladuk number 2 camp 4 March 1944 and then sent on up country to Tamajo to cut wood (there were elephants here). He again became sick and was evacuated to Tamakan. Nacompaton Camp where things didn’t improve and he developed Blackwater Fever then Beri-Beri.
Initially he was chosen fit enough for work in Japan but was later taken off the list.
On improvement he was sent to help build the 20km Nong – Hin Mergui Road along the Malay – Thai railway past the town of Ratburi. The work party sent to this project were already in very poor health following several years of incarceration. To say it was a terrible time for the POWs is an understatement. When finished they then walked north for three days towards Burma to build another escape road. They finished up at the British camp just inside Burma. Once completed, Frank with the men walked 1 day south where he met Wilkinson from the 2/4th.
He was flown from Thailand to Singapore at the end of war.
He finally arrived back in Perth on 13 Nov 1945 by train from Melbourne having flown to Brisbane. Frank was soon after admitted to hospital.
He was discharged from AIF on 15 March 1946 and from his records we know his address was North Beach.
In July 41, 2/4th was shipped to South Australia to train at Woodside. Doris had relatives in SA and managed to travel to SA to stay with them and see Frank. In October 41, the Battalion was entrained out of SA and on their way to Darwin.
Height 5′ 11 1/2″
The men working on Mergui Road had a pretty torrid time. Already weakened by 3 years in captivity they were now working in worsening conditions, minimal food and guards who were just as tired and fearful of the worsening war for Japan.
Frank was born Ravensthorpe to Ralph Arthur and Barbara Elsie Thaxter – he was the eldest of three children. Sadly Ralph died in 1937 aged 45 years. Frank was about 19 years of age.
Frank and Doris Thaxter were one of the first to take up 5,000 acres of virgin sand plain country 12 miles west of Dalwallinu in 1948, later adding another 4,500 acres which they called “Bell Bird Plains”. Doris came up from East Fremantle in 1950. The land was cleared and farmed for wheat. Later when reliable water was found they bought sheep, cattle and pigs. They had four children Margaret, Ralph, Stuart and Susan. The farm was sold in 1969 owing to Frank’s poor health, and they retired into Dalwallinu with Frank caring for the bowling greens and Doris taking up painting.
We don’t know when Frank learnt of his first child Margaret’s birth (April 1942). This would have been an excellent reason for Frank being AWL from ‘Aquitania’ in Feb!
Above: Doris and Frank’s son is born and named after Frank’s father Ralph who died so young.
Doris and Frank would experience a very ‘trying’ time with Frank’s involvement in a motor vehicle accident.
Frank farmed at Dalwalinu until 1970 when he sold the farm taking a long earned holiday Frank and Doris sailed to England.
Frank died October 2000 at Dalwalinu.
Above: Meg Waddell – daughter of Frank and Doris Thaxter. 11 Nov 2022 Medina RSL Remembrance Day on the occasion of 2/4th’s Bryan Manwaring’s Hall Dedication by RSL Kwinana Sub Branch.
Meg came to meet with Harry Tysoe and Cheryl Mellor from 2/4th to bring her father’s Newspaper Cuttings Collection and other precious items – now in the care of Frank’s family.
Below: A condensed version of Frank’s memories.
- Adam Park Camp - Singapore
- Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
- Roberts Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Kinsaiyok Main, 170.2k - Thailand
- Mergui (Myiek) Escape Road - Thailand
- Nacompaton, Nakom Pathom Hospital - Thailand
- Non Pladuk, 0k - Thailand
- Petchaburi - Thailand
- Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
- Tamajao, Tha Mayo, 238k - Thailand
- Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand