The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Walter George
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘B’ Company
- Place of Birth:
- Norwich, England
- Father's Name:
- Walter George Nicholson
- Mothers's Name:
- Margaret Rebecca Nicholson
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 19, Age 36.
- Selarang Camp Changi, River Valley Road Transit Camp
- ‘ A’ Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Camps Burma:
- Victoria Point, Kendau 4.8km, Thetkaw, Meiloe, Augganaung
- Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 35
- Cause of Death:
- Lost at Sea
- Place of Death:
- South China Sea
- Date of Death:
NICHOLSON, Private, WALTER GEORGE, WX7940, A.I.F. 2/4 M.G. Bn., Australian Infantry. 13 September 1944. Age 36. Son of Walter George and Margaret Rebecca Nicholson, of Mount Hawthorn, Western Australia. Panel 19.
Labuan Memorial, Malaysia.
Wally worked as a farmhand for Mr Harold Albert and Mrs Lydia Alice Diver at Yorkrakine, which is part of the Tammin Shire. Harold Diver was a pioneer of the district.
Dedicated by His Nieces and Nephews on 18 May 2019
Biography presented during plaque dedication:
‘Private Walter George Nicholson was born in Norwich, England. His parents were Walter and Margaret Nicholson and he had two sisters and a younger brother. When Walter was three years of age, the family moved to Western Australia where his father was already living and working as a farrier.
Walter senior, a former British Army soldier, served with the AIF in 11 Battalion, on Gallipoli, then on the Western Front where he died of wounds in 1916.
Walter junior attended Highgate school and then was employed in the Mingenew district where he was able to work with animals which he loved and as a farm labourer.
Walter enlisted in the AIF in 1940 and was assigned to the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion. The battalion was deployed to Singapore and landed there just three weeks before the Japanese captured the island in February 1942.
Walter was taken as a prisoner of war and worked on the notorious Burma-Thai railway. On his return to Singapore he was loaded, along with over 1300 other prisoners onto the ship Rakoyo Maru, one of the transports described by prisoners as a ‘hell ship’.
Six days out of Singapore the Rakoyo Maru was sunk by the United States Navy submarine Sealion 11. Only 150 prisoners survived.
Private Walter George Nicholson, service number WX7940 of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion, died as a prisoner of war in the South China Sea on 13 September 1944. He was 36 years of age.
He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia.
His plaque is placed alongside his father Private Walter George Nicholson senior, of 11 Battalion.’
The Nicholson family with young Wally arrived in WA from England in 1911. The family included 2 daughters and 4 sons before Wally’s father left for service overseas WW1.
Wally attended Highgate School.
Margaret Nicholson gave birth to her youngest daughter Hilda in August 1916. Hilda was her third daughter and she had four sons.
Wally’s father died in 1916 in France he had previously served with British Forces in India.
Walter George Nicholson (Snr) enlisted Australian Infantry WW1 on 9 September 1914 with 13th reinforcements, 11th Battalion. His service No. was 210. He gave his previous occupation as Greengrocer. He was sent overseas however returned 17 July 1915 medically unfit. The reason: Deafness.
Nicholson returned to Duty at 5 MD 30 November 1915 – and was soon sent overseas to serve in France. On 25 May 1916 he was fatally wounded – GSW to abdomen and died later that day. He was buried in a Communal Cemetery at Estares, France. His son Wally (Jnr) was 9 years old.
Ron Lindsay (May 2019) who never knew his Uncle, however knew much about him from the older family members “Wal was a gregarious kid, he wagged school regularly and loved animals. When he was age 9, Nan took her kids to the Royal Show where she lost Wally. She was watching the ring events when she saw him leading a bull around the arena!”
At time of enlistment he was working in Wyalkatchem for a farming family by the name of Diver or Driver and was a valued member of the local cricket side.
Following embarkation in January 1942, the 2nd/4th ship docked in Fremantle and Uncle Wal was one of the naughty boys who jumped ship and went awol. He called on his Mum, then came to our house where Mum had just the day before returned from hospital with her brand new baby son, – me, his nephew! He returned to his ship and left for Singapore.“
It is interesting to learn Wally managed to get back to ‘Aquitania’ before the ship sailed for Singapore on 16 January 1945.
Uncle Wal’s and his Dad’s plaques are on the same tree.
Unfortunately we have little knowledge of Wally’s life except that he was working as a farmhand at Yorkrakine, which is 30kms north east of Tammin. At that time there would have been a district hall, possibly a general store and/or other community facilities. According to his nephew Wally was a valued member of the local cricket team.
Wally’s mother Margaret Nicholson died 1971 at Mt Hawthorn aged 86 years and was buried Karrakatta.
As a POW in Singapore, Wally was selected with ‘A’ Force Burma Green force No, 3 Battalion to work on the Burma end of the Thai-Burma Railway. This was the first many work parties to leave Singapore and 3,000 POWs sailed from Singapore on 14 May 1942 for the south west coast of Burma, where Green Force would work on repairing and improving the aerodrome for several months before making their way to the northern tip of to-be-built rail link. They were the first party of Australians to commence working on the railway, at Kendau 4.8 km Camp on 1 October 1942. They would finally finish at the end of December 1943.
Following completion of the railway by end of 1943 the Japanese brought all the POWs in Burma south into one of several large camps and/or hospitals.
Whilst at Tamarkan Wally was selected with a large number of Green Force POWs as being fit and to work in Japan.
They were entrained to French Indo-China via Bangkok. They were planned to sail from the port near Saigon and on arrival accommodated in Saigon, working mosty around the docks. Several attempts were made to load what was to become known as ‘Rakuyo Maru’ group onto a ship – but finally the Japanese realised the futility of this plan as the American submarines had successfully established a very effective blockade. There were sunken transport ships lying in and around the waters from the coast to Saigon.
‘Rakuyo Maru’ group were thewn sent by train to Singapore via Bangkok. By this time Allied bombing was targeting Bangkok and other important rail heads and stations. The men were relieved to be back in Singapore where they were housed at River Valley Road Transit Camp. Whilst they waited for a ship, the men worked at the docks and nearby it was now early September 1944.
On 12 September ‘Rakuyo Maru’ was sinking in the South China Sea from an American submarine torpedo hit. Only a few POWs survived. Tragically Wally Nicholson succumbed to the terrible conditions the men were enduring – no water, food and no rescuers. He was 36 years of age.
The great tragedy is Wally was a survivor of the Depression, firstly with his widowed mother in England, then in WA – he had little opportunity to marry and have a family.
Private Walter George Nicholson was born in 1884 at Hellesdon, Norwich, England.
He had four brothers and two sisters, and they lived with their parents Walter and Mary Nicholson at Norwich.
In 1907, he married Margaret Moore and their first baby, Walter, was born later in the year.
Prior to coming Western Australia in 1908, he served for three years with the Royal Garrison Artillery in England
He came to Australia with two of his brothers and worked as an ostler/yardman at a Perth hotel. He also trapped and broke in wild horses north of Perth.
In 1910, his wife and son joined him, and they lived at Myrtle Street, Perth. They then set up a greengrocery business.
Walter enlisted in Perth in September 1914 and, after limited training, was posted to ‘E’ Company of 11 Battalion.
They boarded HMAT Ascanius in November at Fremantle and arrived in Egypt in December.
They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. In June, Walter was deemed medically unfit due to deafness and returned to Australia aboard the Kyarra.
He didn’t leave the army and left Fremantle for Egypt aboard HMAT Borda in January 1916. He rejoined the battalion at Serapeum and was posted to ‘A’ Company.
In March 1916 the battalion sailed on HMT Corsica for France and the Western Front.
Private Walter George Nicholson, service number 210 of 11 Battalion, died of wounds received in action on 24 May 1916 at 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Estaires in France.
He was 32 years of age and lies at rest at the Estaires Communal Cemetery and Extension, Estaires, Nord Pas de Calais, France.
His son, Walter George, served in World War 2 with 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion. Walter junior died as a prisoner of war when the Rakuyo Maru was sunk by an American submarine in the South China Sea.
His plaque is placed alongside his son Private Walter George Nicholson junior, of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion.
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Aungganaung,105Kilo - Burma
- Kendau, Kandaw, 4 Kilo - Burma
- Meilo, 75 Kilo, 340k - Burma
- Kawasaki, Maruyama Park - Japan
- Thetkaw 14 Kilo - Burma