The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘A’ Company, No. 5 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Collie, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Not Known
- Mothers's Name:
- Not Known
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Poultry Farmhand and Orchard Worker
- Selarang Camp Changi; Johore Baru; Adam Park; Selarang Barracks Changi
- ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Chungkai, Kanchanaburi, Nikhe‐Nikhe‐Sonkurai area
- 2/12245 and 8776
- Return Details 1945:
- Thailand-Singapore by aircraft; Singapore-Fremantle, HM Hospital Ship Karoa
Basil Fitzgerald and John Gilmour, Woodside SA 1941
Standing: Left-right C. Vidler, B.Fitzgerald, H.E. Saw, N.H.E Thompson, L.M.C. Murray, L. Armstrong.
Front Row: Left-right D.F. Sterrett, John Gilmour.
At Window: C.J. McDonald. 1941 Woodside SA.
Photograph taken by John Lane, donated AWM.
Fitzgerald was born in Collie and 38 years old when he enlisted AIF 8 Oct 1940. He joined ‘A’ Company 5 Platoon.
During the fighting at Singapore, Basil suffered shell shock on 12 Feb 1942 as did many soldiers.
As a POW in Singapore Basil was selected to work on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand S Battalion. This Battalion included a very large number of men from 2/4th.
While a POW in Singapore he was hospitalised a few times with illness 12.11.42 with painful feet and 30.11.42 he had dysentery.
S Battalion departed Singapore Railway Station 14 May 1943 headed for Bampong, Thailand. They were crowded into small rail wagons and took turns to sit or lie down. It was stinking hot during the 5 days and freezing cold at nights.
They stayed a day or so at Komna Transit Camp near Bampong before being trucked to Kanchanaburi where after a short stay they were marched out to Tarsau, which was HQ for S Battalion. At Tarsau the worked on clearing the way for the laying of the railway. These few weeks were not particularly difficult as the terrain was flat.
They were next moved to Kanyu II which was one of many camps to work on the Hellfire Pass cuttings. It was here POWs lived day to day in hell. Monsoon rains arrived.
With little or no clothing and mostly no shoes they worked at chipping away at the great rock face injuring their limbs and bodies with flying pieces of rock – hoping against hope their wounds would not advance into ulcers. They suffered severe tropical illnesses for which they had no medicines – malaria, dysentery, tropical ulcers and finally cholera – the deadliest of all. They worked long hours, were provided minimal food of no nutritional value and beaten by their guards without provocation.
From Kanyu II men were sent to one of the Hintok camps or other nearby camps such as Konkoita. When the railway was completed at end of December 1943, all the POWs were sent to one of several large Camps. We believe Basil was sent from Kanchanaburi to Nikhe-Nikhe Defence Line from May 1945 as was Briggs.
Before arriving Kanchanburi Basil was evacuated with a large number of sick S Battalion men to Chungkai Hospital. He was recovered from Thailand at the end of the war and returned onboard ‘Karoa’ Hospital Ship 29 October 1945. Following disembarkation he was hospitalised at Hollywood Hospital.
The above notices provides a little background information about the Slee family with whom Basil Fittzgerald returned to live with after the war.
Alf Slee enlisted in WW1, joining the 44th Battalion.
Before enlisting and in 1931 Electoral Roll Basil resided at Third Avenue, Kelmscott and was employed labouring (poultry Farms and orchards )and operated a poultry farm.
Below in 1950, Basil was working at Kelmscott Hotel – at that time managed by Ted Cosson and his family. Cosson was in 2/4th.
After the war and in 1953 Electoral Roll he again resided at Third Avenue, Kelmscott with the Slee family. During 1970s and 1980s Basil resided at Mt Lawley.
Basil married Florence Robertson about 1953. Florence was divorced with daughter Margaret Rose. In 1968 Electoral Roll Florence and Basil are residing 127 Star St, Carlisle. Basil’s occupation was chainman.
Florence Fitzgerald died in 1969 at Carlisle aged 49 years.
Basil died West Perth 15 October 1985 aged 83. Both Florence and Basil were cremated at Karrakatta.
Florence Robertson (nee Pinner) had married about 1941, and with her husband Robert Smeaton Robertson had two daughters. Their marriage became unhappy, with the two separating. Robert Robertson attempted to kill his two daughters and himself in his vehicle with exhaust fumes. Tragically the Robertson’s youngest daughter aged two died, Margaret survived following hospitalisation and Robertson himself survived.
Thereafter followed a tragic court case in 1947 accusing him of killing his two year old daughter. The newspapers had a field day folllowing the proceedings, detailing the marriage break-down and Robertson’s mental health at the time.
Florence eventually won access of her daughter Margaret.
Robert Robertson died South Australia.
Several years later in 1953, ‘Florrie’ married Basil Fitzgerald. Born in 1920, she was 18 years younger than Fitzgerald then a bachelor aged 51 years. He had not had the privilege of a childhood growing up with his own family. He was very likely a ward of the State, possibly fostered. We are unsure of his relationship with the Slee family, he possibly met them later in life.
Sadly Florence died 16 years after marrying Fitzgerald, however they appear not to have been living together at the same address other than in 1968.
Basil passed away 15th October 1985.
- Adam Park Camp - Singapore
- Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Serangoon Road Camp - Singapore
- Chungkai, 60k - Thailand
- Kanchanaburi, 50k - Thailand
- Nikhe Wood Camp, Ni Thea, 131 Kilo, 284k - Thailand
- Songkurai 294k - Thailand