The Soldier's Details

First Name:
Chester Herbert known as John
Nick Name:
Regimental #:
Attached 2/4th, 88th Light Aid Detachment
Place of Birth:
King William Town, South Africa
Father's Name:
Herbert Henry Westcott Randall
Mothers's Name:
Florence Maria Randall (nee Banks)
Church of England
Pre-war Occupation:
Blacksmith and Mechanic
River Valley Road Transit Camp (awaiting to sail Awa Maru),
‘Blackforce’, attached to 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion
‘A’ Force Burma, Java Party No. 4, Williams Force
Camps Thailand:
Nikhe Wood Camp 282k, Kami Songkurai 299k,
Camps Burma:
Tanyin 35k, Kun Knit Way 26k, Anakwin 45k, Taungzun 57k, Mezali 72k, Apalon 77k, Kyohdaw 95k, 122k, Changaraya 113k, Augganaung 105k,
Camps Java:
Bandoeng, Tjimahi
Awa Maru Party (remained behind at Singapore due to illness)
Return Details 1945:
Saigon-Bangkok‐Singapore by aircraft; Singapore-Fremantle, 2/1st H.M. Australian Hospital Ship Manunda

General Description

John (Jack) enlisted AIF 4 Dec 1940 and later trained with 88th Light Aid Detachment attached to 2/4th becoming a Corporal to CO Captain Odlum.
Sailing with  2/4th MGB on the ‘Aquitania’ from Sydney to Fremantle on their way to Singapore, Jack was one of 100s of men from the Battalion who ‘jumped’  ship at Gauge Roads to see their families – perhaps for the last time as they left for War.  A large number of these AWOL men managed to return to the ‘Aquitania’ as it sailed the next day on 16th January 1942 for Singapore.  Jack was one of more than 90 men who were unable to board ‘Aquitania’ in time.
This group of about 93 men sailed out of Fremantle a few weeks later, but were left at Java and not Singapore as was the initial plan.  Please read the story of ‘Blackforce’.
He was a POW at Bandeong and Tjimahi Camps, Java.
Jack Randall was selected in Java to work on the Burma-Thai Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma, Java Party No. 4 Party, Williams Force.  Please read further. 
When the Railway was completed, the Japanese brought all the POWs working in Burma south into Thailand, to one of 4 large Camps where they could received medical treatment if necessary or simply to recover their health.  From one of these camps, Jack was deemed fit by the Japanese and selected to work in Japan with ‘Awa Maru’ Party.    Please read further.
When the ‘Awa Maru’ party arrived in Singapore to await their ship to Japan, Jack remained behind due to illness.
He then joined ‘Both’ Party supposedly on a journey to Japan!  However on the ship’s journey, the ship reached no further than Saigon, and that is where Jack Randall worked as a POW.
Randall was sent to French Indo-China with ‘Both’ Party leaving 2 February 1945.  He was recovered from here at end of war.
Read further about Both Party and Saigon.
As there are no records of which camps the POWs worked at particularly in Burma and Thailand on the railway (unless they were sick) we have to assume their movements according to general records of where work parties were assigned.




The above was included in ‘Daily News’ 12 Sep 1945.  There were numerous messages in this newspaper article.



John was born 1905 King William Town, South Africa to Herbert Henry Westward Randall and Florence Maria Banks – his birth name is CHESTER HERBERT.   He was the eldest of seven children. It is unknown when the family moved to WA however they first resided in Victoria.   John married about 1925 to Elsie Allison in Victoria.  Their children were born in Victoria prior to moving to WA. During the war Elsie was residing in Wickepin.





Below:  Jack’s mother Florence Maria Randell was 64 years old when she died in Katanning in 1947.

Above:  John’s father Herbert remarried 1948. He died in Katanning 1960.


Above:  John is hospitalised 1948 Katanning.

Below:  John’s daughter Claire married in 1949.

In 1949 Electoral Roll Elsie and John are residing Daping Street, Katanning. John is working as a blacksmith.
John and Elsie had a family of four children – Claire, Keith, Shirley and Joyce.

IN 1958 John is residing Claremont working as a blacksmith.

Elsie died 1952 aged about 46 years in Katanning and was buried there.
In 1968 Electoral Roll John was residing Kenwick, blacksmith.
John died 25 June 1992 in Perth and was cremated Karrakatta Cemetery.



Above:  Oliver Ernest Randall, Service No. 9216

Below:  John ‘Jack’ Randall on left.  He was the eldest of four sons followed by Bertram Basil and Rupert Buckley.  Below on the right is believed to be the youngest Oliver Ernest who joined the RAAF as a mechanic. There were two surviving sisters Ethel and Lilly.


Below:  Today it is difficult to understand the importance of an Axe – it was an essential tool throughout Australia.  This profession earned John the nickname of ‘Axe-Handle’ Randall.


Camp Locations:

  • River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
  • Nikhe Wood Camp, Ni Thea, 131 Kilo, 284k - Thailand
  • Kami Songkurai, 299k - Thailand
  • Aungganaung,105Kilo - Burma
  • Bandoeng - Java ***
  • Tjimahi, Cimahi- Java ***
  • Saigon - French Indo China
  • Changaraya No. 5 - Thailand
  • Tanyin 35 Kilo Camp - Burma
  • Anakwin 45 Kilo Camp - Burma
  • Mezali 70km Camp - Burma
  • Nikhe, Ni Thea, 133Kilo Camp, 281.80km - Thailand
  • Kyondaw 95 Kilo Camp – Burma