The Soldier's Details

First Name:
William Robert Samuel
Nick Name:
WRS or Bob. His family called him Joe.
Regimental #:
'B' Company, 7 Platoon
Place of Birth:
Esperance, Western Australia
Father's Name:
William Edward Johnson Baker
Mothers's Name:
Lulu Esther Rouse
Pre-war Occupation:
Epitah, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 25
'Blackforce' attached to 2/3rd MGB
Camps Thailand:
Java Party No. 4 Black Force
Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No 38
Cause of Death:
Lost at Sea
Place of Death:
South China Sea
Date of Death:

General Description

Bob Baker married Ethelwyn Margaret Madge Smith on 23 April 1939 at Esperance. It is believed the Baker’s had two children.
Pte. Baker was residing at Norseman prior to his enlistment in 1940.  He was AWOL from ‘Aquitania’ when it sailed for Singapore from Gauge Roads, Fremantle on January 16th, 1941.
Bob Baker was one of about 93 men of 2/4th who was unable to re-board their ship, and later sailed for Singapore via Java.  During the voyage it became obvious Singapore would fall to Japan and the party of men remained in Java to reinforce the Allied Forces and later were imprisoned as POWs at several Camps in Java, including Bicycle Camp.
Baker was with ‘Blackforce’ Java.  Please read further.
Bob/Joe Baker was selected in Java with ‘A’ Force Java Party No.4 Black Force to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  It is thought he became part of Williams Force and survived the terrible hardships of slaving and starving on the railway.
Read about Java Party No. 4 Black Force
He was selected by the Japanese to be considered fit for work in Japan and was to tragically lose his young life when ‘Rakuyo Maru’ was hit by American torpedoes.  He was 25 years of age.
Please read the story of Rakuyo Maru


Pte W.R.S. BakerWX8682 and Pte Joe Starcevich WX8758
Pte W.R.S. Baker WX8682 and Pte Joe Starcevich WX8758


Joe Starcevich had lived and worked in Grass Patch/Norseman/Esperance area – Starcevich and Baker would have known each other prior to enlisting.  Joe Starcevich returned home from working at the Mitsui Omuta Mine, Japan at the end of the war.
Grass Patch is 48 kms to Esperance – not far at all! Driving distance from Grass Patch to Norseman is 78km.



Above: newspaper October 1943


This message was supposedly sent by Bulldog Drummond in which he mentioned Bob Baker being with him.  Drummond  and Baker tragically did not survive the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru.      


Baker and Drummond failed to board  Aquitania prior to departing  Fremantle on 16 January 1942 and were included in a party of  about 90 men from 2/4th who sailed a week or two later with plans to tranship the group to Singapore.  However by the time they sailed near Java, it was realised Singapore would fall and the men joined the Allied forces to fight the Japanese, becoming POWs about 2 months later.
John Baker was with ‘Blackforce’ please read for further information





Bob married 1939 at Esperance to Ethelwynn Margaret Madge Smith and they had two children. He was the eldest son to William Edward Johnston Baker  Esther ‘Lulu’ Rowse who married Esperance 1916.

Bob was known as ‘Joe’ to his family.

Below: his mother Lulu Rowse was mentioned for her recipe entrance in 1917.


Lulu and William Baker had 5 sons and one daughter.  They lived in Norseman for a few years before returning to farm at Dalyup (about 45 km west of Esperance) and where Lulu had grown up.  She was the daughter of William and Caroline Rowse born in 1904.


Below:  Joe’s parents receive the dreaded news he wont be returning home (delivered by the few WA men who survived the sinking of Rakuyo Maru)




William Baker was buried at Esperance Cemetery.



Joe’s younger brother Jack Edward b. 1923 Esperance was with 10th Light Horse reinforcements, transferred Jul 1942 to  AIF WX2284.  He did not serve overseas and was discharged after 2 1/2 years 28 Mar 1944 as medically unfit.
Jack returned to farming at Dalyup, Esperance however died in 1958 aged 34 years.  He was buried at Esperance as was his brother Arthur Henry who was next born in 1925 and who died in 1966 aged in his early 40’s.
Lulu Baker remarried in 1958 to Frederick William Eggeling also from the Dalyup area.    She died in 2002 aged 98 years.

Please read further with the Esperance Historical Society