Vale W.T. (Bill) Castles WX8792
On Christmas Day 1991, our long standing Committeeman Bill Castles passed away.
With Bill’s passing a long association with ex-members of our Battalion and all Jap POWs ended and the Hay Street ‘Office’ closed.
Bill had a long association with the ‘Borehole Bulletin’ in the early years of publication he wrote about different members he met in various places around the state and in the Eastern states. He was employed at Hollywood Hospital and never missed callimg on battalion members. When he retired he still visited Hollywood and reported progress on the different men who were admitted. Bill used to make a country run every now and again and call on all the various members in all the towns he could.
Each year with a couple of mates, he would travel to Tasmania to the 2/40th Btn. Reunion and bring back a lot of news from the Apple Isle.
For many years be resided at the Savoy Hotel – full board, with meals – and the office was located on several PCC seats outside the Savoy. When the Savoy closed, Bill was forced to find alternative accommodation. He moved to one of the hotels in Beaufort Street. But life was never again the same for Bill.
He passed away soon after.
All interstate and country ex Japanese POWs were able to get information from Bill in the Hay Street Mall, our Perth ‘Office’. Bill was a mind of information on members, what they were doing and where they could be found. He will be sadly missed.
There was a large contingent of 2/4th and other POWs at his funeral in January (1992).
Rest In Peace – Bill
(included in Borehole Bulletin April 1992)
The Hay Mall, Perth Office – a gathering in the Mall outside the Savoy Hotel -Bill Castles and McGhee were to be found here daily. Sometimes there would be half dozen men and other times three or four. They would meet, exchange news and updates about former POWs.
His parents Albert Thomas Castles and Elizabeth Kennefick married 1915 Dubbo, NSW and Bill was born 1917 Subiaco. Bill’s mother died when he was about 6 years old. He grew up in Kalgoorlie, knew Ron Badock and other boys from Kal.
Bill never married.
He enlisted October 1940 and joined 2/4th and became scout with ‘B’ Company. Prior to enlistment he was working in Kalgoorlie as a miner. He returned here after the war for several years before moving to the city.
From Selarang, Singapore he was selected with ‘‘ Force Burma Geeen Force No. 3 Battalion to work on Burma end of A Thai-Burma Railway. ‘A’ Force comprised of 3,000 POWs was the first work party to leave Singapore embarking 14 May 1942 to sail to south west coast of Burma. Green Force made up of about 1,000 men, disembarked at Victoria Point, where their main task was to repair and extend the aerodrome before making their way to northern point of the rail link.
Green Force No. 3 Battalion included the largest number of men from 2/4th – as did ‘D’ Force S Battalion. For this reason Billy was in good company – many men he had known since October 1940.
Green Force No. 3 Battalion was the first work party on the Burma end of the rail, their first work camp was Kendau 4.8 km commencing work 1 Oct 1942. Thanbuzayat became Japanese HQ and later one of their largest hospital camps holding 3,000 sick POWs (with no medical supplies and no medicines). It was also located at a major railway junction with workshop and supply depot (to assist Japan’s thrust deep into Burma and fight the Allies). ‘Thanyby’ as it became known, would be bombed by the Allies on several raids killing and injuring sick POWs including 2/4th boys.
In early July 1943, after nine months slaving on the railway, Billy was evacuated sick from Aunggangaung 105km Camp to Khonkan 55km Hospital Camp. Khonkan was also without any medical supples and equipment. When the railway was completed, the Japanese at the end of Dec ordered all the POWs working on the Burma end of the railway, travel south to Thailand to one of about 4 or 5 very large camps. They travelled by train and barge. The very sick were left to die in Burma – unable to travel they were looked after by medical staff until their deaths.
Many of Green Force No. 3 Battalion were selected from these camps to work in Japan – most lost their lives when ‘Rakuyo Maru’ was sunk by American submarines in South China Sea in September 1944. Billy was obviously not sufficiently fit to be selected and was initially delivered to Tamarkan Hospital and fortunately remained in Thailand to work. From Tamarkan – then sent onto Kanchanaburi Hospital camp before being selected for work party to Hindato, Chungkai, Ratburi, Petchaburi, Bangkok and was at Nakom Nayok Camp when the war ended.
At Ratburi POWs were operating ferry services as the bridge had been bombed. They ran a relay service transferring goods from one train to another. Others were put to work on road and rail maintenance.
At Ratburi, Petchaburi and Bangkok the POWs were subjected to Allied bombing raids. The men arrived at Nakom Nayok about 7 July 1945 having marched/staggered 45 kms persuaded by bayonets and Japanese boots.
The end was near but they didn’t know when. They feared the worst, the Japanese were nervous and tension filled their days – the totally exhausted POWs were now forced to dig dugouts, ammo dumps, trenches, tunnels into the side of the hill, etc. 8 kms away to store supplies and what was thought to be aviation fuel.
The hours were long and the work hard. The camp was constantly under water with storms and conditions could not have been more harsh.
The Australian POWs organised themselves into three groups planning to escape in different directions if it became necessary.
It became evident about 17th August that something had happened. A plane dropped men and supplies on 1st Sept and this was repeated over several days. Their war was finally over!