Carlyon, Bill – Changi Veteran recalls POW hell

See the past: Mr Carlyon remembers his days on the infamous Burma railway
See the past: Mr Carlyon remembers his days on the infamous Burma railway



By Karen Brown

The West Australian Newspaper, April 1995

After 90 years, Billy Carlyon’s eyes are starting to dim, but the memories of the time he spent as a prisoner of war building the infamous Burma railway remain vivid.

The aboriginal bachelor, a member of the 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion, was captured by the Japanese in 1942, within weeks of landing in Singapore.

“My war was over before it had started. They captured the lot of us,” he said yesterday. For the next 3-½ years Mr Carlyon lived on his wits and his luck.

He survived internment at Changi and watched scores of his mates suffer at the hands of the Japanese army and fall victim to starvation and disease as they worked on the railway, which was to claim 2600 Australian lives.

Mr. Carlyon suffered severe bouts of malaria, dysentery and beri beri and his weight dropped to 44.5 kg during his internment.

Australia’s POEs were honoured at the National War Memorial in Canberra and Government House in Perth yesterday, the 53rd anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.

Mr Carlyon who lives in Onslow, is recovering from an eye operation in Hollywood Private Hospital.

Prime Minister Paul Keating said Australians Should never let the outrage of Would War II atrocities committed by the Japanese forces fade from memory.

Speaking as Canberra celebrated the opening of the Australia Remembers commemorative year, he said the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II was a time to pay tribute to the 27,000 soldiers who had died in it.