BIG BELL MINE & TOWNSITE
Above: Railway which ran from Big Bell to Cue.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1904. Ownership changed several times of this very big low-grade ore mine 24 km north west of Cue on the Great Northern Highway and about 620 kms north of Perth. It produced 730,000 ounces of gold up until 1954.
The town of Big Bell was developed 1936 to support the mine and house the workers. It had a hospital, post office and shops and sold 130 blocks of land. The WA Government constructed a railway line from Cue to the townsite. There were sporting groups, churches and community organisations and events.
Today, the ghost town it is of considerable historical interest as a mining settlement. The mine closed between 1943 and reopened in 1945. By 1952 had a population of 1,000 people after which the mine became unprofitable and was closed 1955.
We know of three 2/4th men who enlisted at Big Bell in 1940.
Private Herbert Alfred Thomas CHILVERS WX8123
Enlisted AIF 16 Aug 1940 and later joined 2/4th’s ‘D’ Coy 14 Platoon.
Chilvers worked Youanmi and enlisted at Big Bell Aug 1940. He had moved to Youanmi Mine from Byford after his marriage in 1937 to Doris Elliott.
(After the war Doris Chilvers remarried to WX9557 ‘Fred’ F.J. Dorrington of 2/4th)
Bert died at Sandakan 31 Mar 1945 aged 33 years.
He sailed from Singapore with ‘E’ Force Borneo
WX8138 John William Haynes NEEDHAM born Broome 1913. John had four sisters.
Enlisted 16 Aug 1940 and joined 2/4th’s ‘C’ Coy Headquarters under commanding officer Capt Colin Cameron.
Needham left Singapore on ship for the first work party out of Singapore ‘to work with ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force No. 3 Battalion on the Burma end of the Burma-Thai Railway.
He was evacuated from the railway with ulcers on his right foot to Khonkan 55km Hospital, Burma. Hardly a hospital, it had no medical supplies and hundreds of sick men. Now in a weakened state from lack of food and medicines Needham died of pneumonia on 5 Dec 1934 aged 30 years.
Needham had previously been working in Collie and his name is included on their WW2 Honour Roll. You can read further about Needham.
Lance Corporal Alfred Daly WINTER WX8110 born Vaulle, Ceylon 1914 to William and Annie Winter. Alf Winter enlisted 16 Aug 1940 and later joined 2/4th’s ‘D’ Company 14 Platoon same as Chilvers.
Alf left Singapore May 1941 with first work Force – A Force Burma and would work on the Railway from the Burma end. Please read further
Once the Railway was completed at end of 1943 the Japanese brought all POWs from Burma and Thailand concentrating them in several large camps and hospitals to improve their health. They selected those they considered ‘fit’ to work in Japan. Alf Winter was selected with what would become known as ‘Rakuyo’ Maru Party. The Rakuyo Maru sank in the South China Sea in Sept 1944 after being torpedoed by American Submarines. The loss of life was enormous but Alf was one of the lucky ones – he miraculously survived 4 days in the sea to be picked up by USS Pampanito submarine – one of the submarines which had days earlier attacked their convoy.
Below: Youanmi Gold Mine 1914
Youanmi Gold Mine 1940s – the mine closed in 1942