The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- Norman Lenard
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘D’ Company, No. 13 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Subiaco, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Harry Cyril Dunnell
- Mothers's Name:
- Ruby Beatrice Dunnell
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Carpenter and Apprentice Baker
- Selarang Camp Changi; Selarang Barracks Camp; River Valley Road Transit Camp
- 'D’ Force Thailand, V Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Kinsaiyok, Brankassi, Kuii
- Camps Japan:
- Fukuoka sub-Camp No. 17, Omuta
- Aramis Party
- Return Details 1945:
- Nagasaki‐Okinawa, USS Haven; Okinawa-Manila by aircraft; Manila-Morotai-Darwin PBY Catalina aircraft A24-359; Darwin-Perth by aircraft
Enlisted in the CMF (Militia) on 6 Mar 1941 and allocated to 16th Australian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders Regiment).
Enlisted on 10 Nov 1941 and on 28 Nov 1941 identified for 2/32nd Battalion. Training was conducted by 3rd and 4th Training Battalions before pre-embarkation leave was granted 10 to 16 Dec 1941. On return Bob was transferred to 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion.
He was one of the many reinforcements who travelled by train from Northam Training Camp to join 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion on 15th January 1942 when HMT ‘Aquitania’ dropped anchor in Gage Roads, Fremantle. Bob had undergone two months training! This was weeks more than many other reinforcements.
‘Aquitania’ reached the Sunda Strait mid-morning on 21 January. The men were transferred to a number of smaller, faster Dutch ships to run the gauntlet of Japanese bombers that were attacking Allied shipping in the area. In concert with several Australian, British and Indian escorts and two Dutch Catalina flying boats, the convoy entered Keppel Harbour on 25 January 1942, disembarking in Singapore on 26 Jan 1942. Bob would not have known at the time, he was fortunate not to be grouped with ‘E’ Company – a very large number lost their lives in a Japanese ambush on 12 Feb, 1942.
Right: Bob’s mate from Kenwick – George Stone who died of illness at Kanchanaburi March 1944 aged 25 years.
Although they enlisted the same day, George joined ‘E’ Company Special Reserve Btn whilst Bob was a reinforcements for ‘D’ Company No. 13 Platoon under command of Lt Wankey.
Bob was fortunate to survive the week long battle to save Singapore and without injury. Captured, Bob spent time in the Selarang Camp at Changi, the River Valey Road camp, and the Selarang Barracks at Changi before being allocated to ‘D’ Force V Battalion. They left Singapore by train 17 March 1943. This Battalion was to endure one of highest death rates of all Australian work parties on the Railway.
He was at Kinsaiyok Main camp 170.2K, Kuii Kui Yae camp 185.6k, and Brankassi Prang Kassi Camp 208K in Thailand before Bob, along with many other POWs was sent to labour camps in Japan.
Bob was selected with Aramis Party to work in japan. On arrival at Moji he was sent to Fukuoka Sub camp No. 17-B at Omuta Miike, Japan from where he was eventually repatriated.
He had first been identified as a POW by the Red Cross in Thailand, and until then his wife and family were uncertain if he had survived the battles for Singapore. Norm was granted proficiency Pay on 15 Aug 1945.
Bob’s journey home began in Nagasaki when he embarked on USS Haven (AH-12) for Okinawa. On 22 Sep 1945 he was flown to Manila by US military aircraft, and then on 14 Oct 1945 from Manila to Darwin via Morotai on PBY Catalina A24-359, arriving in Darwin on 18 Oct 1945. The last stage, Darwin to Perth, was again by aircraft, this time PBY Catalina A24-377.
On arrival back in Australia, Norm was admitted to the 110th Australian Base Hospital. He was AWOL from 10:00am on 27 Dec 1945 until 3:00pm on 1 Jan 1946. Declared to still be on Active Service, on 12 Jan 1946 he was fined £3 with the automatic forfeiture of 6 days pay. Two days later further penalty was the loss of his proficiency pay. On 19 Feb 1946 whilst at the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot he was again AWOL, this time from 1:15pm on 19 Feb until 8:15am the next day. This time he was fined 10/- and forfeited a days pay. Finally on 29 Mar 1946 he was discharged.
Perhaps the loss of pay may have hurt – but he was a last a free man! He had been to hell and back working with ‘V’ Battalion in Thailand and then he drew the short straw being sent to Omuta – one of the worst camps in Japan (for Australians).
Bob married in 1947 to Valma Leeuwin Ashworth.
Electoral Roll in 1949 Bob was Albany road, Kelmscott, trainee; 1954 at 33 Monash avenue, South Perth, carpenter; 1958 – 1980 at Lot 2 Burton road, Greenmount, carpenter.
Below is birth announcement of their son Peter.
Bob died 20 June 2013 aged 92 years. During his last year and a half of his his life and following the death of his wife Valmai on 31 Jan 2012 at Rockingham, whom he had nursed during her illness, Bob regularly attended monthly 2/4th Committee Meetings at Anzac House. His happy face and disposition was always a welcome sight and we were very much saddened by his sudden death. His presence was greatly missed.
I had great personal admiration for Bob – he was a gentle man, always smiling and always happy. It was an honour to have known him. (Cheryl Mellor)
Anzac House L-R Peter Dimopoulos, Bob Dunnell, Dick Ridgwell, Wally Holding and Ron Badock. Seated is Graham Edwards AM, then State President WA RSL.
Below: The Dunnell family resided in Narrogin 1920. It is not known when they relocated to Kelmscott.
Bob’s name is included below as well as that of George Stone
- River Valley Road Camp - Singapore
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Brankassi, Prang Kasi, 208k - Thailand
- Kinsaiyok Main, 170.2k - Thailand
- Kuii, Kui Yae, 185.6k - Thailand
- Omuta Miike, Fukuoka #17-B - Japan