The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- John Barry
- Lance Corporal
- Regimental #:
- ‘A’ Company
- Place of Birth:
- Ayr, Scotland
- Father's Name:
- Hugh Gilmour
- Mothers's Name:
- Helen Knox Gilmour
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Factory Hand
- Selarang Camp Changi; Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp); Selarang Barracks Singapore
- ‘J’ Force Japan, Wales Maru Party
- Camps Japan:
- Kobe (Showa-DenkI); Kawasaki Camp-Maruyama Park, Wakinohama
- Wales Maru Party
- Return Details 1945:
- Yokohama-Okinawa by aircraft; Okinawa-Manila, B24 Liberator Aircraft; Manila-Sydney, HMS Formidable; Sydney-Fremantle, HMT Dominion Monarch
John and his brother Jim and the above mates all went AWOL from ‘Aquitania‘ when it anchored off Guage Roads, Fremantle on 15th January 1942, however all were particularly lucky to reboard before their ship departed the following day for Singapore.
John wrote in his book “All in My Stride” ……it had been more than 6 months since we left Perth. As ‘Aquitania’ prepared to pick up supplies and more troops the last straw for the 2/4th MGB was to be told there would be no shore leave.
Some orders are just too mean to be followed. The men knew it was possibly their last chance to see their loved ones before they went to war. When the barges came out we jumped ship by the dozen and in most cases it was a jump of between 3 and 5 metres. The skippers of the barges were well paid for cooperating and for them the choice was simple: either head back to the wharf or risk sinking because the longer the barge stayed alongside the more soldiers jumped aboard. Some men were climbing through the portholes to jump.
An officer pulled his revolver on us and yelled “Stop it”. He got a kick in the shins and his revolver dropped overboard into the ocean. There was no way he could identify the culprit in that seething mass of men scrambling for the opening at the side where the supples came aboard. The men were in no mood for obstruction and the officer was lucky he didn’t go overboard with his revolver.”
“My brother Jim and I jumped on to a water barge where we were soon joined by Clarrie and Jeff McDonald, Jim Elliott and Jim Dore. Once on the wharf we split up and went out separate ways knowing we had to be back the following day to sail away.
It was grand being home, even for a few hours. Perth was full of soldiers because many troops from the Eastern States had never been to Perth and they too had jumped ship to see the Western Australian capital for the first time and maybe the last time. Who could now what the future held for them in those circumstances?
“Getting back onboard the ‘Aquitania’ the next day was tricky. The military police were rounding up all the men and taking them to Fremantle Gaol. Luckily my father a Corporal was a guard at the wharf and was on duty when we returned. He helped me get on the last launch, accompanied by Jeff and Clarrie, before ‘Aquitania’ sailed. By the time we got out to the ship, she was hauling her anchor in and we had to climb aboard using a rope ladder, not any easy feat because the ship was spinning around with the drag on the anchor.
Back on board, some of the men who had been drinking decided it was time for a swim. They dived in from the deck despite a warning from the crew that sharks had been seen scavenging on the ship’s wastes. The departure was delayed while the crew coaxed the swimmers out of the water and up the rope ladder. Being somewhat under the weather this task seemed to take forever. One of the swimmers, Wally Kenny, lived in Fremantle and was a member of the 2/4th. I could understand why he took that farewell swim. Fremantle people generally have a powerful bond of affection for their home city and the clean, flashing waters of the ocean send them a cooling wind, the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ on hot summer afternoons. Wally was taking a last lucky dip in the sources of his city’s sanity during what might turn out to be his last summer. Any West Australian will tell you that such behaviour is fully comprehensible. The war would still be there tomorrow.
So many of us had gone ashore that admission of guilt was voluntary. There were people who would not own up but I wasn’t one of them, and for my sins I received the only red mark in my pay book. I was fined a few days’ pay but proud of it.
The ‘Aquitania’ took us to the Sundra Straits where we transhipped to small Malaysian freighters which took us on to Singapore.”
Following Japan’s surrender and freedom for POWs – John retold the tragic loss of life of his mate, South Australian SX10013 Corp. Jack Gilding who travelled as far as Okinawa with John. Travelling to aerodrome to fly to Manila, somebody called out to Jack from another truck. Jack went over to find it was a mate with whom he had enlisted. Jack Gilding returned to John and the group asking if they would mind him travelling back with his old friend, and he would see the all in Manila. John handed down Jack’s belongings and never saw him again.
Gilding was one of five former Australian POWs on this American Air Force flight which was lost during very heavy rain.
John said of Gilding, ‘He was one fellow who deserved to come home, for what he had done for others. He was a slashing guy and a true friend of mine. He would do anything help anyone and took many risks. “
The five men are in Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery, Hong Kong in the north-west of the Island.
(One of the other five Australians onboard this ill-fated flight NX60056 Sgt Albert Arthur James who was the father of the well-known Clive James, AO CBE FRSL journalist, broadcaster, writer and Australian critc who lived and worked UK. He died 2019) –
Keith McDonald, Bert Norton, Johnny Gilmour
Rear L – R Syd Harper (Perth), Tom Hampton, Ken Tucker, Les Kemp, Norm Ablett, Wally Lynn, Jack Kyrios, Ted Elliott.
Front L – R, Jim Gilmour, John Gilmour, Reg Miller, Ron Badock, Jim Elliot.
John Gilmour is older brother to James (Jim) Gilmour WX8623.
When he returned to WA John was sent to Lady Mitchell Convalescent Hospital as he suffered with eyesight problems brought about by lack of vitamins. Please read further.
John celebrated his 97th birthday this year, 2016. He has been a successful and determined athlete all his life and continues to run every day. He is a greatly admired veteran who attends 2/4th Committee Meetings every month. His knowledge of the Battalion remains clear and his input is more than appreciated.
John was a member of ‘J’ Force transported from Singapore to Japan to a POW Camp at Kobe mid 1943. Some of the details of Kobe House are found at the story Kobe House, Japan.
View Peter Winstanley’s video of interview of John Gilmour, WX8622
Ron Badock and John Gilmour attend 2/4th Service, Kings Park.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF WORLD WAR II VETERAN AWARDED
Oct 12, 2017
Hollywood Private Hospital recently recognised the achievements of World War II veteran, champion runner and former employee, John Gilmour
Hollywood Private Hospital recently recognised the achievements of World War II veteran, champion runner and former employee, John Gilmour.
Mr Gilmour, who worked at Hollywood from 1946 to 1979 as a gardener, was welcomed to the hospital for a morning tea hosted by Hollywood Chief Executive Officer, Peter Mott, and attended by members of the Executive, administrative and clinical teams.
Commenting on the event, Mr Mott said, “It was very special to spend this time with John at Hollywood and hear many fascinating stories about his war service, the hospital and his sporting career. John is one of Australia’s living legends and an inspiration to us all.”
Born in Scotland in May 1919, Mr Gilmour migrated to the south west of Western Australia with his family in 1923, and became one of the best long distance runners in the State.
His running career was interrupted when he joined the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion which arrived in Singapore in January 1942 and within days was engaged in the battle for Singapore Island. During his time in Changi Prison, Mr Gilmour suffered permanent damage in both eyes due to severe lack of essential vitamins.
In 1946, despite partial blindness and having been home for less than 12 months, he won the West Australian 10 Mile Road Racing Championship, one of many wins in his distinguished athletic career. In 1978, Mr Gilmour was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to sport.
Mr Gilmour presented Mr Mott with a copy of his book, ‘All in My Stride’, and a collection of photos for Hollywood’s archives.
Below: 2015 Then President Rod MacLennan accompanies the ‘old boys’ to remember their mates POW Memorial, Kings Park. The last three alive. L-R Dick Ridgwwell, John Gilmour and Ron Badock.
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Thomson Road (Caldecot Hill Estate Camp) - Singapore
- Kawasaki, Maruyama Park - Japan
- Kobe, Osaka #2-B - Japan ***
- Wakinohama, Osaka #14-B - Japan