Ray Kelt recalls the last time he saw his father WX9151 Robert James MacIntosh Kelt in 1941.
Kelt left Singapore to work on the Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand, V Battalion. This work force endured shockingly high numbers of deaths including Kelt, who when the rail link was completed was evacuated to Non Paduk Camp where he died of beri beri January 1944 aged 36 years.
Above: High Street, Fremantle 1940’s
‘When the war broke out we were living in Palmyra. Dad was trying to earn a quid as a house painter but was battling a bit as things were very tough in those days and eventually he joined the A.I.F.
Mum and I left Palmyra and moved into the Town Hall apartments. We only had one room where we slept, cooked our meals and dined. I can remember looking out the window across St John’s Church and watching the trams go past and listening to the Salvation Army play outside Nicholson’s music store.
The last time I saw my dad was outside the entrance of our apartment building in High Street. He said to me
“Dad’s got a job to do, now you’re in charge so look after your mother until I return.”
He then marched down High Street turned and waved, then disappeared down towards the Round House at the end of the street. I was 12 years old, my mum died at 95 years of age. We were always close and good mates through all ‘the years ’.
Four years later towards the end of 1945, this 16 year old boy learned of his father’s 1944 death from illness as a POW of Japan aged 36 years in Thailand where he had been working on the Burma-Thai Railway.
Five years later in 1950 this boy has grown to become young man of 21 years. He announces his engagement to his future wife and soon marries.
Three years later this young man with his wife and baby daughter pay homage to his father, Scottish born Robert (Bob) Kelt who sailed alone, as an 18 year old to Western Australia in 1926 to start a new life.
Below: Non Paduk Camp 1944
The young boy who always remembered saying goodbye to his father in 1941 recently died on 9 Sept 2022 aged 92 years!