The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Clarence John
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
Battalion Headquarters
Place of Birth:
Mount Helena, Western Australia
Father's Name:
Joseph Archibald Sawyer
Mothers's Name:
Mary Sawyer (nee McArthur)
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Djakarta War Cemetery, Plot 3, Row H, Grave 14, Age 34.
Cause of Death:
Place of Death:
No. 1 Allied General Hospital, Bandoeng
Date of Death:
Grave No. 62, Dago Weg, Bandoeng

General Description


Clarrie Sawyer enlisted AIF 13 Aug 1940 and later joined 2/4th MGB’s Battalion Headquarters.
Clarrie Sawyer married in 1933 Perth to Elsie Ada Dargie.
In the 1936 and 1937 Electoral Rolls, Clarrie and Elsie were recorded living at Kwelkan, east of Nungarin, share farming.  They had one daughter Margaret.  It is thought Clarrie’s brother William Archidbald was also living at Nungarin.  It is possible the two brothers were share farmers.  William was recorded marrying whilst he was at Nungarin.
It is highly likely the cropping venture was not successful when Clarrie enlisted. There were many families walking away from farms because they were not viable due the depression, low prices and bad seasons.
He joined HQ Company and went to SA and NT with 2/4th MGB for further training.  When the Battalion was urgently requested to leave Darwin for Sydney and Fremantle, the 2/4th men on board ‘Aquitania’ hoped for leave to see their families before leaving for war. At this point in time, the men had not been informed of their destination.  All leave was out of question.  Hundreds jumped ship against orders, they knew this was their only opportunity to see their families, possibly for the last time.   ‘Aquitania’ anchored one night at Gauge Roads and departed early afternoon the next day on 16 January 1942.  About 100 men were unable to board in time. Clarrie was one and were all sent a few weeks later, with the intention of joining the Battalion at Singapore.  Just a day or two out of Singapore the powers to be realised Singapore was about to fall to the Japanese.  The 90 of so 2/4th men, all well trained machine gunners were dropped at Java where they joined forces with the Allied Forces and Dutch East Indies troops.  They were all taken Prisoners of the Japanese within 2 months.
Read further about Java and AWOL Fremantle.
Tragically Clarrie was unable to return home to his wife Elsie and daughter Margaret.  He died of dysentery in April 1941 at Bandoeng Allied Hospital, Java aged 34 years.  It is believed Elsie did not learn of his death until later in 1945.
Please read about the 2/4th men who died Java.



Pte CJ Sawyer deceased

Funeral service was conducted by Chaplain F. J. Camroux on 2.4.1942.


SAWYER, Private, CLARENCE JOHN, WX7939, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 1 April 1942. Age 34. Son of Joseph Archibald and Mary Sawyer; husband of Elsie Ada Sawyer, of West Perth. Western Australia. Grave Ref. 3. H. 14.






Clarrie’s parents Joseph Archibald ‘Archie’ Sawyer and Mary McArthur married in 1900 at Boulder.  Their first child, a daughter Susannah was born 1901, their second child a son William Archibald was born 1903, the third child Christina May was born 1905 and lastly Clarrie was born 1907 at Mount Helena.
Clarrie’s father ‘Archie’ Sawyer is older brother to Ephrain ‘Thomas’ Sawyer – father of Thomas ‘Keith’ Sawyer WX7256 of Menzies.
Their parents are WILLIAM FREDERICK SAWYER (SNR)  d. 1914 and SUSANNAH, known as ‘NACIDA’  (nee MCCLAREN) d. Menzies 1921.

Clarrie and Keith Sawyer are first cousins.

Joseph Sawyer worked for the railways, and in 1903 was recorded in the electoral rolls living with Mary at Gilgai, as a fettler.  Gilgai  near Coolgardie, was the site of No. 7 Pumping Station (for pipeline).  It was also a stop on the Great Eastern Highway and became a base for a railway gang.  Three or four fettlers under the supervision of a ganger (supervisor) lived in WA Government Railway built houses set apart and away from the Pumping Station workers’ houses.  The gang had the responsibility of looking after a certain section of the railway.  Other gangs would be billeted further along the line.
In 1910 electoral roll the Sawyer family had relocated to Lion Mill –  Joseph once again, a railway employee. Lion Mill had a name change in 1924 and became Mount Helena.  The Sawyer family had moved before 1910, as Clarrie was born Mt Helena in 1907.
In 1910 the family was devastated by the untimely death of Mary Sawyer who was aged about 30 years.


When Mary died, her four children were very young.  Clarrie was about 3 years of age, and the eldest daughter Susannah would have been no more than 9 years with the others aged 7 years and 5 years.  It is not known what arrangements were made for taking care of the four children, perhaps Susannah managed one or two, but three others?
In the 1916 Electoral Roll Joseph Sawyer was recorded working for WAGR as a ganger, living at Carbarup, which is near Mt Barker.  In 1941 Joseph died in Perth as a retired railway employee.
Please read further about the Sawyer family

And the Nungarin War Memorial

Camp Locations:

  • Bandoeng - Java ***