The Soldier's Details

Surname:
Attenborough
First Name:
Arthur Richard
Nick Name:
Bill
Rank:
Private
Regimental #:
WX7444
Classification:
Driver
Company:
‘D‘ Company, 15 & 16 Platoon
Enlisted:
6.08.1940
DOB:
16.03.1917
Place of Birth:
Warragul, Victoria
Father's Name:
Reppon Attenborough
Mothers's Name:
Maude (Jean) Mary Jane Attenborough (nee Bailey or Bailly)
Religion:
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Tractor Driver
Memorial:
Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 28.
Singapore:
Selarang Camp Changi, Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp), River Valley Road Camp
Force:
'B' Force Borneo
POW#:
392
Cause of Death:
Acute Enteritis
Place of Death:
Ranau No. 1 Camp
Date of Death:
12.04.1945

General Description

Attenborough enlisted AIF 6 Aug 1940 later joining ‘D’ Company No. 15 Platoon.  At Singapore, a further Platoon was created and Bill moved to No. 16 Platoon.

Please read about 15 Platoon

Bill Attenborough left Sandakan in early Jan 1945 with the First Sandakan to Ranau March.  He reached Ranau when so many died on this treacherous mountainous jungle track.  There were five 2/4th men who survived to reach Ranau  –
Ron Page WX4934 died on 17 Feb 1945,
Tom Dorizzi WX12884 died on 11 March 1945,
Reg Ferguson WX7999 died on 23 March 1945 (both Dorizzi and Ferguson came from Toodyay),
Claude Nash WX17363 died on 23 March 1945 same day as Reg Ferguson.
Bill Attenborough WX7444 died on 12 Apr 1945.
For those who reached Ranau they faced further enforced ‘marches’  carrying heavy loads for the Japanese to locations near Ranau. With the Allies bombing Sandakan daily, the Japanese in January 1945 sought to have all evidence and records of Sandakan and its POWs erased.
ATTENBOROUGH, Private, ARTHUR RICHARD, WX7444, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 12 April 1945. Age 28. Son of Reppon and Jean Maud Attenborough, of East Perth, Western Australia. Panel 18.
Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.

Bill enlisted from his last known address – Belmont.

He was born 1917 to Rippon Attenborough and Maude Mary Jane (Jean) Bailey who married 1916 Warragul, Victoria.
Jean Bailley born Wiata, New Zealand was of Scottish ancestry.  When Jean’s father Campbell Bailley died in New Zealand, for reasons unknown to descendants, her widowed mother Eliza Bailley (nee Stewart) with her four children (including Jean) moved to Australia, settling in Warragul, Victoria.   
According to Bill’s niece Bernadette, daughter of his sister Beryl Attenborough “I am unsure when they moved to Western Australia, but I do recall Nan (Jean) telling me they came across with the bullock trains with her Mother Eliza.   Jean had 2 brothers in Perth somewhere, their names were John and James Bailley.  Jim Bailley married Dolly”. 
We know John and James Bailley enlisted WW1.  John enlisted first and was sent to Gallipoli but became ill and was soon after evacuated back to Australia before end of 1915 with heart problems.  James Bailley enlisted and fought with 11th Battalion. He received GSW at least twice during his time in France.  James died Maylandss 1964.
Bill’s parents divorced about 1928.  Rippon Attenborough remarried in Victoria in 1934.  He died in 1938.

Please read about Bill’s mate Tommy Lewis

As a young lad Bill Attenborough had met with Tommy Lewis at Nilup School.  Bill with his sister Beryl and mother had come to Karridale (now Alexander Bridge) to live.  His mother was the only wage-earner in the family and a soul parent.  It would have been a challenging role for Jean, particularly in those times.  The Lewis family had migrated from England and taken up land under the Group Settlement Scheme. Theirs was also a ‘tough’ life.
The Lewis family left their farm and relocated in Perth.
It wasn’t until the two young men were enlisting did they meet up again.  They were lining up to enlist at Claremont.
During Tom’s serious illness at Changi –  the doctors gave little chance of Tommy surviving when his lay seriously ill at hospital.  Bill was selected with B Force to go to Borneo.  Bill thought he didn’t want to be around to see his best mate die.  He left to go to Borneo.  The Japanese offered incentives  –  a better life with more rations!  The best friends were never to see each other again.  Bill died in Sandakan and Tom miraculously survived to return to WA.

Please read the list of relics found at Sandakan.

Bill’s identity disc was recovered from Ranau No. 1 Camp after the war by the War Graves Party.  He died at Renau No. 1 Camp (near the airstrip) of  acute enteritis according to Japanese Records and buried at the Ranau Main Cemetery used from approx. 16 March to 29 April 1945.

 

 

 

In 1947, his grandmother died at Guildford.

 

Jean never learnt the details of her only son Bill’s death in Borneo.  None of the families did because the Australian Government had placed a code of silence on the media and the few survivors.  The world, and Britain did not begin to learn the terrible truth until 1980s.
Jean Attenborough always carried Bill’s war medals in her handbag. At the aged care home she was residing at in Leederville, Jean was horrified to find somebody had taken everything of value from her handbag, including Bill’s medals (whic
She was devastated at the loss, her link to her only son.  It could only have been one of the staff or visitors.  Her family reported the loss, and details continue to be included on ‘Missing Medals’ but to this day (May 2020) the medals have never been recovered.
Bill’s mother ‘Jean’ Attenborough returned to Victoria in the 1970s and died 22 Dec 1977 Wandin, Victoria aged 86 years. Jean’s request to her family was to be buried at Lilydale Cemetery – where Nellie Melba was buried.
LOST MEDALS FOUND March/April 2021
14 March 2021 – We are delighted to write Bill Attenborough’s medals have been located.  Sold at auction in 1980’s the medals have sat in a family home until recently discovered by grown children who are clearing out before their parents move to high care.
Their parents regularly attended auctions.    Many small items would be placed into cartons for auction – one never knew what would be discovered in the bottom!  They were never military collectors and the medals were discovered below in this condition by their sons who agreed to generously to return them to the Attenbough family.

Below:  Bill’s medals discovered in 2021.

 

Bill’s Medals arrive at his neice Bernadette Cowley’s Melbourne home, April 2021 kindly returned from children of family who had purchased in 1980’s auction box of loose items, Perth. WA.

 

Above photo sent 2/4th April 2021.

 

‘I wanted to share yesterday’s Waverley RSL Commemorative ANZAC service with  local councillors, Waverley Welsh choir, the local high school brass band, laying of wreaths and guest speaker Lord Michael Baydon Powell.
It was indeed lovely day and a wonderful tribute to wear with much pride, my Uncle’s original medals. I will do so again next week for the official ANZAC day.
A huge thank you again Colin.
Kind regards
Bernadette’

 

Camp Locations:

  • River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp) - Singapore
  • Ranau - Borneo
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