Oswald was originally assigned as a reinforcement for 2/16th Battalion but whilst on pre-embarkation leave he became ill and missed his draft.
WX16931 Henry Christopher aka Hugh Christopher and ‘Horse’ – he was the stowaway on ‘Aquitania’.
He had enlisted 22 July 1941 at Claremont.
Fearful he would miss all the action, the determined 19 year old Oswald got himself onboard the ‘Aquitania’ which sailed from Gauge Roads off Fremantle on the afternoon of 16th January 1942.
This would not have been too challenging to undertake – ‘Aquitania’ was anchored for one night only. The 2/4th on board via Darwin, had been ordered they ‘were not to take leave’ i.e. No Leave Granted, which distressed and angered the boys as they had been away from home and WA for about 6 months training in SA and NT. They wanted to see their families and loved ones before they went to war – not informed of their destination until they were underway from Fremantle to Singapore of course they were aware of the odds – they may not survive. This was their last chance for goodbye, for some an opportunity to see newborn babies
100 and 100s of 2/4th boys got themselves off ‘Aquitania’ while supplies and reinforcements from Northam were being loaded onto the ship from pontoons, etc. There was madness with pontoons rocking pecariously. (Most 2/4th managed to reboard before the ship sailed at midday the next day – but about 100 well-trained gunners were unable to do so, many of them locked up by local Military Police who would not release them).
The other nearly 2,000 soldiers on ‘Aquitania’ were reinforcements to top up the depleted 8th Division Battalions who had suffered heavy losses during intense fighting in Malaysia. The men were new enlistments.
He was officially transferred to 2/4th on the same day from 2/16th Battalion reinforcements. He joined ‘E’ Company and was fortunate to survive the Japanese surprise attack at south west Bukit Timah on 12 Feb 1942.
On the last day of fighting before capitulation to Japan, Oswald was shell shocked and admitted to 2/9th Field Ambulance on 15 Feb 1942. Admitted to 2/13th Australian General Hospital on 16th and discharged to unit on 21st Feb.
From Singapore, ‘Horse’ or ‘Harry’ as he was known, was selected in 1943 to work on Burma-Thai railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand V Battalion. ‘V’ Battalion had the highest death rate of ‘D’ Force, 50% of the men did not return from Thailand due to starvation, tropical illnesses, working very long like slaves in tough conditions without shoes and clothing, under spiteful and bullying guards who saw these weakened men as targets for their sadism and their appalling living conditions in muddied camps in rainy conditions.
Henry Christopher Oswald was evacuated sick from Kuii Camp, Burma -Thai Railway and died of dysentery at Kanchanaburi Base Hospital on 7 November 1943 aged 21 years.
Oswald recorded his NOK as his married sister Elizabeth Luff, 94 Onslow Road, Shenton Park. In 1953 his medals were posted to Elizabeth Luff at 24 Gill Street, Mosman Park. We believe Elizabeth may have died 1 October 1964 aged 47 years at North Innaloo. We have been unable to identify Elizabeth’s husband’s name, nor the names of his parents.
Some of the barbaric cruelty V Battalion endured:
WX8425 Leadbitter, Edward Johnathan died 10/10/1943 cholera, aged 24 years (prior to his death, Ted Leadbitter was severely kicked and beaten unconscious by ‘Black Cat’, Brutal Japanese engineer.) Photo below.
William Andrew Dwyer WX10390, D Force Thailand V Battalion
had been in a weak and delirious state thought to be brought on by cerebral malaria. He had been placed in a cholera camp. A sadistic Japanese Engineer Corporal known as ‘Black Cat’ took great delight in beating Bill Dwyer unconscious. ‘Black Cat’ then pushed bamboo sticks into Bill’s ears and eyes! Another POW witness said Bill stood up magnificently to what was an unprovoked barbaric attack on a seriously ill man. Bill Dwyer died on the night of 22 August 1943. Lieutenant ‘Scotty’ Howell, 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company witnessed this insane and sickening act – it is thought Bill Dwyer was with ‘W’ Party when attacked with such depravity. Tom Gough was also on this party.