The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Albert Leslie
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
‘D’ Company, No. 15 Platoon
Place of Birth:
Partridge Green, Sussex, England
Father's Name:
David John Pitts
Mothers's Name:
Maria Pitts (nee Drake)
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Selarang Camp Changi
‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
Camps Thailand:
Tamarkan, Chungkai, Kachu Mountain Camp (Theatrical Party), Bangkok, Nakom Nayok, Lopburi, Nakom Nayok, Bangkok
Camps Burma:
Thanbyuzayat (sick 28.9.1942); Khonkan 55km (evacuated sick 1.7.1943 and September 1943)
Return Details 1945:
Thailand-Singapore by aircraft; Singapore-Fremantle, HMT Circassia

General Description

Pitts enlisted AIF 10 Aug 1940 later joined 2/4th MGB’s ‘D’ Company, No. 15 Platoon with Commanding Officer Lt Meiklejohn.
Pitts was wounded in action at 0200 hours on 9/2/1942 with ‘D’ Company 15 Platoon. Admitted to Field Ambulance with a shrapnel wound to left thigh. Transferred to 2/10th Australian General Hospital on 18/2/1942. Discharged to unit on 24/2/1942.
From Singapore Slim was selected with the first work Force to leave Singapore.  ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Btn. Les was involved in the organising of entertainment in the camps on the Line.
When the railway was completed at end 1943 Slim as brought south with all the POWs in Burma first to Tamarkan then to Chungkai Hospital  Camp.  From here he went with several work parties into Thailand – Kachu Mountain Camp (with Theatrical Party)., Bangkok, Nakom Nayok, Lopburi then back to Nakom Nayok – from where he was recovered at the end of war.



Fifty Years - Slim Pitts


On arrival at Woodside Camp, SA
We come from the West where the beer is best, parlez vous
Our Camp was better than all the rest parlez vous
We came over here and God knows why
Unless they brought us here to die, inky pinky parlez vous.


God stiffen the crows we bloody near froze  parlez vous
With a barking cough and a running nose parlez vous
If we stay much longer I’ll bet you’ll see
We’ll all end up in the R.A.P. inky pinky parlez vous.


They tell us its colder in months ahead parlez vous
If we don’t want to finish up all in bed parlez vous
We will be getting around in leather vests
With flannel protectors on our chests. inky pinky parlez vous


We were all so glad when we went away parlez vous
From Northam Camp in W.A.,   parlez vous
How one and all of our thousand men
Are wishing to God they were back again. Inky pinky parlous vous



At the conclusion of the war Les returned to the family farm near Busselton and after a few years sold his farm, moved into Busselton where he drove school buses, sold cars and worked in a timber mill.


In 1952 Les married Cynthia McFarlane Wise and they had a family of five children. Yvonne, Julie, Raymond, Donald and Randall. (Donald was the only one to be residing in Busselton).   About 30 years ago Les had throat cancer, lost his voice and had to learn to talk again.








Slim Pitts as Best Man at Bert Tapper’s wedding














Interview 20 November 2008 by Margaret Dawson, at the Pitts home, Busselton
Les was about 6 years and the youngest of six children  when he sailed from England to WA with his parents. They moved south to a Group Settlement Farm No 124 Falsall.  The family like most, lived in a humpy constructed with sheets of iron with dirt floors.  Initially his father was the carrier of supplies and good from town to the farms.
Later his moved the family to Group Farm 27 Kalgup which was 10 miles closer to Busselton.  There was fortunately a house on this property.
Les was unable to start school until the family moved to Kalgup – he was then 8 years old, because the school at Walsall had too many students.  He liked school and did well. He had the same teacher for 6-7 years, Jimmy Hetherinton.  He remained at school teaching younger children then worked on the farm with his Dad.  By this time his older brothers had all left home and sought work in the wheatbelt area.
Slim enlisted with the local militia when he was 18 years.  A few years later, aged 22 he enlisted in the AIF.  The local Busselton Militia had about 150 men and would meet one night weekly and then all day Saturday.  Their HQ was at the Weld Hall.
Following enlistment he spent about one month at a camp in Perth before moving to Northam.  He was familiar with Northam Camp having spent 2 weeks annual training with the Militia.
At Northam he joined 2/4th – mainly because the Militia had been a machine gun Battalion.  In fact all the men from Busselton Militia joining MG Battalions. The food was pretty good, but he got homesick as did all the boys.
Entertainment was going to the pub. Saturday nights, go to the pub and they had a canteen on the camp, we could go and have a beer and  they used to bring entertainment in various-forms into the camp that was – before I started participating in the organising of entertainment.
They were given leave and he would go home.  But leave was always a few days.  He was about 18 months at Northam –  too long. He went with 2/4th to Woodside, where he complained it was so cold.  They appreciated any given leave to Adelaide where families were very generous and friendly.  They would be invited into their homes.
The Battalion was then to Darwin where We built roads and cut roads through the jungle and all sorts of things like that. We were labourers more or less. We didn’t do any real training in Darwin.
Les was the fourth son to enlist.  Their poor mother!
After Christmas we left Darwin to New Guinea and we transferred ship in New Guinea onto ‘Aquitania’ – sailed back to Sydney then around the bottom of Australia to Fremantle. Then from there – from there to Singapore.
Ordered not to take leave in Fremantle – nearly every 2/4 boy, all except officers.  Les was on a water boat that was delivering water out to the ship. Men used all modes of transport.  Les knew it was impossible to visit his family in Busselton.   Returning  to ‘Aquitania’ the morning after Les was taken by police came and ‘chucked into gaol and  bloody near missed the boat. But got there just in time.’
Not so for nearly 100 other machine Gunners who remained behind.  They would sail to Java several weeks later.
Slim was interviewed at Busselton by a historian.  He was in his early 90s. The oral interview was transcribed, and I have taken the liberty of selecting most of his life here……….Cheryl Mellor, 2/4th Historian 2023.
‘Things didn’t look too good in Singapore’.  During the battle…
‘Well, there was more of them for a start… they just kept coming, we after we knocked them off some more came. It was just the numbers.  Eventually they got around behind us and we were buggered.’  The machine gunners were cut off, and had to try and get out. That was when Les was shot in his left thigh.  I couldn’t walk for a while. Then I gradually got better and we finally got through to our lines about 10 days afterwards. Then got to a doctor at the POW Camp.  He was fortunate the bullet had not hit any bone, and the doctors thought the walking Les did probably allowed the bullet to loosen because it was no longer there. His recovery was speedy.
Les was a Rangetaker.  He said they were just too busy to be frightened. A Rangetaker’s task was the provide the machine gunners a target to shoot at, night or day.  i.e. target centre with a distance of up to 1500 or 1600 yards.
They lost 130 men the first night.  The men were split up trying to get out of coastal positions.  Slim was behind Japanese frontline as were so many.  He remained ‘out’ for about 10 days trying to evade them.  He was only one from his Platoon, but joined up with some Indians, few Ghurkas and picked up another Australian along the way trying to do the same thing and get back to their own lines.
Les couldn’t recall when he left Singapore with ‘A’ Force’ to sail to Burma – he didn’t recall working at Victoria Point before heading to Thanbyuzayat to begin working on the rail line.  That is understandable.
He says as long as you did as you were ordered by the guards you were ok.  They were fed mostly rice.
Rail construction:  ‘We dug – we dug where it had to go down and we built upwards, built embankments where it had to go up and so forth, so we didn’t actually lay the lines then. That was just the track through and then they laid the lines – was two years afterwards.’
The Australians were still in pretty good spirits then and they had regular concerts. About every 10 days.
‘You’d be amazed [laughing]. A lot of fun and every ten –  the Japs didn’t go by weeks, only 10 days.  Every 10 days they said have a concert.’  Les was heavily involved with the concerts.  The Japanese would attend concerts.  Mostly didn’t realise the productions made fun of the Japanese.
They had a Melbourne Cup.  Les was the bookmaker.
Les didn’t seem to elaborate what the concerts involved.  But said he would sing occasionally.  ‘One place where we moved to –  I forget where it was, but it was alongside a mountain. There was big mountain… we were on the other side.   Our camp was right in the middle of a banana plantation. They cut a lot banana trees off and built huts and the Japanese said we’ve got to have a concert.  – POWs dug an orchestra pit, piling the soil high to create a stage.  There was miles and miles of banana plantations.’
‘All along the line,  POWs were at different camps.  Les mentioned  28 Kilo – how the men worked from each end, then moved.  So you’d go into another camp and do the same thing again.’
Les worked at five different camps.
Records show Les was sick at Thanbyuzyat  28. Sept 1942 – and he probably missed the first camp.  He was at  55km Hospital Camp firstly July 43 and again 28 September 1943.
The only official records to exist are those compiled by the Australian Doctors.  So we can confirm they were sick and at that very camp.
Towards end of 1943, the Japanese began to move all POWs working on the Burma end – south to one of Thailand larger camps), or Hospital Camps.  Les was first sent to Tamarkan. I suspect Hospital Camp, Chungkai (once again Hospital Camp) and then sent to Kachu Mountain Camp (with theatrical Party), Bangkok and recovered from Nakom Nayok.    Les said he had malaria and fortunately no ulcers.
His parents met him off the ship at Fremantle and were visibly shocked at his appearance.  They had no idea whether he was dead or alive throughout the war, but were notified when freed.
It was another few months before he was officially discharged from the Army, of course he spent time in Hollywood hospital, as did everybody on their return.
He returned to the farm at Busselton.  Then his father decided to sell and Slim took over before finally moving into town firstly driving a school bus, before working at Bignall’s Garage for Clem,  as a spare parts manager and then selling cars for about 8 years.
Slim then worked at  Rodell’s Timber Mill, for Douglas Jones about 12 months before being asked him to  sell Toyota cars.  Then Killerby Motors talked Les into selling Austins and Morris.  Les spent 20 years selling cars in total.



Slim got involved with concerts again.  Organising for fund raising.  Cynthia said he even got a silver cup from the Busselton Brass Band because he helped them raise so much money.
Cynthia said Slim was getting too fat so he went back to the mill again, and I worked there for a couple of years and … ‘that bloody near killed me though. They dropped a load of wood on me. … buggered me up for life, got on a pension, been a pensioner ever since.’
He wasn’t able to do anything for a long time because when the wood fell on him, his leg was broken and his back and pelvis were injured.   Taking several years to recover physically.
Cynthia and Slim had the house for 50 years which they had built in 1954.
He attended most Anzac Marches and said he nearly always got drunk.  (Slim didn’t qualify whether this was Busselton or Perth).
Slim’s father died Busselton 1970 aged 94 years.  His mother died  Nov 1952 aged 73 years.  Both are buried at Busselton Cemetery.

1985:  Les and Cynthia Pitts

Camp Locations:

  • Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
  • Chungkai, 60k - Thailand
  • Lopburi - Thailand
  • Nakom Nayok, Nakhon Nayok - Thailand
  • Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
  • Khonkan, 55Kilo Hospital 360k - Burma
  • Thanbyuzayat, 415k - Burma
  • Kachau Mountain Camp - Thailand