The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- William John
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- 'D' Company, No.15 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Bunbury, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- George Henry Joseph Beer
- Mothers's Name:
- Margarette Mary Beer
- Roman Catholic
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Not Known
- Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 28.
- Selarang Camp and Barracks Changi
- 'E' Force Borneo
- Cause of Death:
- Place of Death:
- Ranau, Second Ranau march.
- Date of Death:
Bill was the second of four sons and four girls born to parents George Henry Joseph Beer and Margarette Mary O’Neill who married at Boulder in 1910.
Bill was living and working as a plasterer in Bunbury prior to his enlistment in 1940.
WA. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of WX7636 Private William John Beer, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Australian Infantry. He 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 Beer, aged 28, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 14 June 1945. He was the son of George Henry Joseph and Margarette Mary Beer, of Bunbury, WA. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 18. (Photograph copied from AWM232, items 4 and 5. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)
Now a little story about Bill Beer dedicated by his nephew Lou Daily. Bill was born on the 7th February 1917 in Bunbury and grew up there with his three brothers and four sisters. His parents were George Beer and Mother, Margarette Beer.
The service to country was in the family, as his father, George Beer, earlier had enlisted in the 11th Battalion Australian Imperial Force and was sent to the Trenches in France in May 1917. He was severely injured and after hospitalisation, he returned home in August 1918.
In those days, Bunbury was a small country town and Bill enjoyed his childhood surrounded by a large family structure. He attended the local St Mary’s Convent School until he left at the age of 15.
Bill then worked in various shops and as a labourer in Bunbury. He was active in sports and played football for the South Bunbury Football Club and was considered a fair player.
At the age of 23, Bill enlisted AIF and later 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion on the 10 August 1940. Following the necessary training, he along with all other members of the 2/4th Battalion sailed to Singapore in January 1942.
He was with No. 15 Platoon with Commanding Officer Lt. Meiklejohn located on west coast of Singapore for Japanese invasion where the Australian forces were sparsely defending this coastline in comparison with the north east where the British incorrectly anticipated the Japanese crossing. 2/4th Machine Gunners and Australian Forces were hugely outnumbered and overran by the invading Japanese troops and there was huge loss of Allied lives, including 2/4th.
Following the fall of Singapore, Bill was sent to Sandakan in British North Borneo by the Japanese with many other Australian and British troops (total 2434). We are aware of the cruel and brutal treatment given by the Japanese troops to the Australian Prisoners while in Sandakan to build the airfield for the Japanese.
In 1945, as ordered by the Japanese high command that no prisoners were to survive, Bill along with many others, still able to walk, were murdered by the Japanese soldiers on one of the “Death Marches “from Sandakan into the Borneo jungle. The actual date of Bill’s death was the 14th June 1945 and the location approximately four miles east of Boto.
Following the completion of the war, The War Graves Commission relocated all the remains of the soldiers, including Bills, found in British North Borneo to the island of Labuan off Kota Kinabalu. Members of his family have visited his grave.
As Bill was a single person when he enlisted, therefore he did not leave a wife or children. Only his parents and siblings remained to mourn him and give thanks for his service to Australia.
As a POW in Singapore, Bill was selected with ‘E’ Force to work in Borneo. ‘E’ Force sailed from Singapore March 1943.
We believe it highly likely Bill was farming at Kununoppin with a mate. Several enlistments had taken up land to try their hand and luck at farming. Mostly it was too difficult and were sold off.
Below: Uncle of Bills, Frank Beer DOW 1918 Mouque Farm, France. Bill’s father had returned from WW1.
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Lintang Officers Camp, Kuching - Sarawak