The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Arthur Joseph
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- Headquarters Company
- Place of Birth:
- Coolgardie, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Arthur Cornelius Baker
- Mothers's Name:
- Ellen Maria 'Nellie' Baker (nee Vowels)
- Roman Catholic
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Truck Driver
- Epitaph, Labuan Memorial, Panel 18, Age 30.
- Selarang Camp Changi
- 'A' Force Burma, Green Force, No. 3 Battalion
- Camps Burma:
- Victoria Point, Kendau 4.8km, Thetkaw 14km, Meiloe 75km, Aungganaung, Reptu 30km Camp
- Rakuyo Maru Party, Kumi No. 37
- Cause of Death:
- Lost at Sea
- Place of Death:
- South China Sea
- Date of Death:
Joe Baker was selected in Singapore to work on the Burma end of the railway with ‘A’ Force Green Force No. 3 Battalion.
By December 1943 when Burma Thai Railway was completed the Japanese began moving all POWs in Burma south to one of the larger camps. The very sick remained in Burma with the passionate care of POW nursing staff.
Joe was more than likely at Tamarkan Camp and selected by the Japanese as being fit to work in Japan. This group, referred to as the ‘Rakuyo Maru’ Party were moved by train from Thailand through Bangkok to Saigon in French Indo-China (known as Vietnam today). Whlle they were waiting to take a ship from here to Japan the men were accommodated in Saigon and worked around the docks. Eventually the Japanese realised the American blockade of Saigon and surrounds was so effective, there was little or no chance of further shipping successfully leaving this coastal area. The POWs were then moved again by train via Bangkok back to Singapore, where they were billeted at River Valley Road Transit Camp and were again working mostly at the wharves waiting for a ship.
Joe was one of many young POWs who drowned in South China Sea on 12 September 1944 following the successful American submarine attack on the Rakuyo Maru and the convoy she was part of. He was 30 years of age.
The elation felt above when the family learned Joe was alive in October 1943, became grief when they learned of his young death in November 1944.
Joe was the fourth of five surviving sons born to parents Arthur Cornelius Baker and Ellen Maria Vowels known as Nellie who married 1905 Coolgardie. A large Coolgardie family, Joe also had three sisters.
The Baker family also endured the tragic loss of a child.
Joe’s father known as ‘Muddy’ was employed by Coolgardie Water Board, and he was also involved in mining leases.
Below: We have absolutely no idea if the Arthur Baker mentioned is connected to Arthur Cornelius Baker!
In about 1920 the Baker family purchased the ‘Residency’ for 150 pounds. This home was built about 1895 of local sandstone for Warden Finnerty, the first Magistrate and Mining Warden of Coolgardie. The house stands today as a historical building of great interest.
Joe Baker married in 1941 to Mavis.
He participated in the local Rifle Club.
Joe’s father Arthur Cornelius died in 1950 and Ellen died in 1954. Both are buried at Coolgardie Cemetery.
Dedicated by Family Relations on 15 August 2015
Biography presented during plaque dedication:
‘Private Arthur Joseph Baker of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion was born in Coolgardie Western Australia on 13 January 1914 to Ellen and Arthur Baker.
In his growing years, Arthur attended St Anthony’s convent and in his out-of-school time enjoyed tennis, rifle shooting and motor bike racing.
He was very mechanically-minded, to the point where he built an aluminium race car body and installed a used motor cycle engine in it.
He successfully applied for a position with the Goldfields Public Works Division and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 23 October 1940, following the declaration of war.
Posted to the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion their initial training was carried out in Blackboy Hill Military Camp before a move to Northam camp.
With war looming in the Pacific, the battalion executed their famous march from Northam to Fremantle to join their troop ship bound for Singapore.
The Japanese swept through Malaya to Singapore in 70 days and, despite a desperate last stand, the survivors of the 2/4th were taken as prisoners of war.
In 1944, after years building the Burma railway under the Japanese it was decided they were needed in Japan and they were loaded aboard the Rakuyo Maru which sailed for Japan.
With no identification that she was a POW ship, the Rakuyo Maru was attacked by an American submarine on 12 September 1944.
Sinking rapidly, the crew saved themselves leaving the POWs locked in the holds.
Private Arthur Joseph Baker, service number WX8720 of 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion, died as a prisoner of war in the South China Sea on 12 September 1944.
He was 30 years of age and is listed on the Labuan Memorial, Labuan.’
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Tamarkan, Tha Makham 56k - Thailand
- Aungganaung,105Kilo - Burma
- Kendau, Kandaw, 4 Kilo - Burma
- Meilo, 75 Kilo, 340k - Burma
- Reptu, Retphaw, 30Kilo 385k - Burma
- Saigon - French Indo China
- Victoria Point, Kawthoung - Burma. \'A\' Force, Green Force No. 3 Btn
- Thetkaw 14 Kilo - Burma