The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Robert Leighton
- Nick Name:
- Blucher or Bob (or 'Spud' to his family)
- Regimental #:
- ‘B’ Company, Platoon 8
- Place of Birth:
- Norseman, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Thomas William Smith
- Mothers's Name:
- Sarah Jane Smith (nee Leighton)
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Truck Driver
- Kranji War Cemetery, Collective Grave, Plot 6, Row E, Grave 13-16, Age 33.
- Cause of Death:
- Killed in Action
- Place of Death:
- West Mandai Hill
- Date of Death:
Bob was KIA 11 February 1942 when fighting with 8th Platoon under the command of Lt. MacKinnon.
Bob was one of four men from this platoon to tragically die that day, the others were – Sgt Richard Sandilands who was second-in-charge, Don Day and Raymond Carruthers.
Bob’s brother Tom, was also in 8th Platoon. Younger brother Tom went with ‘E’ Force to Borneo, died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Beri-Beri December 1944 aged 32 years.
Thomas William Smith born 1874 Victoria married 1904 Bendigo to Sarah Jane Leighton who was born 1885 Victorian goldfields.
Tom and Sarah moved to Norseman where their seven children were born, one daughter and six sons.
William Alfred born 1905 – oldest brother Bill was only son not to enlist.
Robert (Bob) Leighton born 1908 – 2/4th KIA 11 February 1942
Myrtle Jean born 1910
Thomas Ernst (Tom) born 1912 – 2/4th died Sandakan December 1944
James Henry born 1914 WX13475 – also 2/28th survived the same crossing September 1943 at Busu River by being pulled across by a mate who was a stronger swimmer. He RTA.
Leonard Richard born 1916 WX26648 – Enlisted Dandarragin, also with 2/28th survived the war and RTA.
Edward John (Ted) born 1918 – WX11520 2/28th Battalion, died 9 September 1943, Busu River, New Guinea. Ted was one of 13 soldiers ‘missing’ at the Busu River crossing. Being a Goldfield’s boy he was unable to swim and was swept away. His body was never found.
Bob’s father Thomas William died 20 March 1920 at Wooroloo aged 46 years. There was a Sanatorium at Coolgardie for TB Patients however it closed about this time and patients with silicosis were relocated to Wooroloo. The Coolgardie Sanatorium had been the first in Western Australia to treat TB Patients.
Bob’s widowed mother was left with 6 children whose ages ranged from 2 years to 15 years.
Sarah remarried in 1924 to George Blythe Jones. Sadly George died four years later in 1924 aged 42 years.
Sarah died at Norseman in 1963 aged 78 years, having never left the goldfields of WA.
She had to endure the news her three sons would not be returning to Australia from WW2 – Robert KIA February 1942, youngest son Edward drowned September 1943 New Guinea and Thomas Ernst died illness Sandakan, Borneo December 1944.