The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Norman Leslie
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘C’ Company, 10 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- York, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Thomas Henry Ablett
- Mothers's Name:
- Linda Doris Ablett
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Builder’s Labourer
- Selarang Camp Changi
- ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
- Camps Japan:
- Fukuoka sub‐Camp No.17, Omuta
- Awa Maru Party, Kumi No. 41
- Return Details 1945:
- Nagasaki‐Okinawa‐Manila, USS Cape Gloucester, Manila‐Morotai‐Darwin PBY Catalina aircraft A24-306, Darwin‐Perth by aircraft 10.10.1945.
Norm was the eldest of three children born 1918 to parents Harry Ablett and Iris Martin who lived in Subiaco. Harry Ablett was a telegraphist for GPO. Norm’s paternal grandfather was a wharf contractor who took his wife and 12 children from Adelaide to Fremantle in 1901.
Sadly Iris Ablett died before Norm was 10 years old. His father subsequently remarried to Linda Eacott from Mandurah.
Norm spent most of his childhood years with his siblings in Osborne Park where they worked on a poultry farm their father ran in Main Street to starve off the effects of the Depression. The children lived a hardy upbringing between farm work and play.
In 1937 his father Harry was transferred to Bunbury as postmaster. Norm who was employed as a plaster-fixer remained in Perth until he enlisted AIF 1940. He later joined the ill-fated 2/4th MGB’s ‘C’ Coy No. 10 Platoon with C.O.’s Lt. Wilson and Lt. Ambrose.
Once a POW in Singapore Norm was sent to work on the Burma end of the Burma-Thai Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion.
When the Rail was completed the Japanese began moving all the POWs in Burma, south to Thailand to one of about 4-5 large camps and hospitals. It was here the Japanese considered Norm fit to work in Japan.
He was selected with the ‘Awa’ Maru Party Kumi No. 41 and in Japan was sent to Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17, Omuta. He was recovered from Omuta at the end of the war.
Norm Ablett for many years, in fact right up until his death owned and operated a hardware store in South Fremantle. He was always happy to receive a visit from his 2/4th mates and enjoyed a chat.
Norm remained a bachelor and died in 2010 aged 92 years.
Norm spent his POW years on the Thai-Burma Railway and in Japan.
He spoke little of his ordeal after he returned to WA except to say the coalmines provided good air-raid shelters when US attacked Japan. Also the constant malnutrition left Norm with permanent eye damage which began in 1941 at Changi. He required spectacles having never previously worn them.
This did not stop him from establishing himself as a shopkeeper and entrepreneur.
He once sold 2.4 ha (6 acres) of land for Alcoa to build an industrial plant in Kwinana. In about 1964 Norm paid 365 Pounds ($730) for the block which fell within Alcoa’s proposed scheme. He accepted $60,000 for it in 1966.
The deal was typical of those defining Norm’s successful business career, which began shortly after he returned from war in October 1945.
He started a concrete manufacturing business with his mate Jack Fitzgerald (a former German POW). Because they required plumbing fittings and other hardware for troughs and tanks they made they opened Swan Hardware in 1948, in Hampden Road, Beaconsfield in what had been Kirk’s Blacksmith shop, opposite St Paul’s Anglican Church. The business expanded and Norm purchased neighbouring land and properties including racehorse stables because the high-strung animals were affected by the cement dust. He bought out his partner in 1966 with the proceeds from the sale of the Kwinana land.
Initially Norm relied on free accountancy services from his qualified brother Eric.
Norm was such an unassuming man few shoppers realised the man cleaning the floors and/or shuffling through nuts and bolts was in fact the storeowner.
Norm was always a generous man and wanting Swan Hardware to continue, he gifted Swan Hardware to the shop manager Maria Sciano.
‘Normie’ who remained a bachelor all his life, passed away aged 92yrs, August 8 2010, at a Nursing Home North Fremantle, WA.
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Omuta Miike, Fukuoka #17-B - Japan