The following former Six Wesley College students were soldiers with 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, AIF, WW2 and lost their lives during the battle for Singapore in February 1942 or were Prisoners of War between February 1942 to August 1945 who died:
WX239 John Roughton ABERLE
Corporal with ‘C’ Company was KIA 12 February 1942 aged 21 years.
WX7504 Desmond ‘Bruce’ CHAPMAN
Staff Sergeant, taken POW Singapore. Shipped from Singapore to north-west Burma with ‘A’ Force to work on Burma-Thai Railway. He died Khonkan 55km Hospital Camp with tropical ulcer, malaria and dysentery 11 September 1943 aged 27 years.
He was evacuated to Khonkan Hospital with an irregularly large 8 inch by 8 inch tropical ulcer, exposing bones and tendons on his right foot. Soldier’s right leg was amputated below his knee. The surgical re-amputation of stump was conducted due to gangrene.
Already ill with tropical ulcers and dysentery, Des was unable to recover from his amputation and died on 11 September 1943.
WX8389 Henry Francis DE MOULIN
Lieutenant KIA 11 February 1942 aged 21 years. Served with ‘E’ Company in Singapore. In 1946 Moulin’s sister married Ken Tucker from 2/4th.
WX10994 Norman Allen GIBSON
Private wounded in action with shrapnel to back, became POW Singapore. Shipped from Singapore to Sandakan with ‘B’ Force Borneo. Died Sandakan-Ranu Track, 26 June 1945. Aged 25 years.
WX7998 Philip ‘Arthur’ GIESE
Corporal, wounded in action with shrapnel to right leg, became POW Singapore. Sent by train from Singapore to Thailand with ‘D’ Force V Battalion. Died dysentery Brankassi Camp, Thailand September 1943 – working on Burma-Thai Railway aged 25 years. He was one of 8 men from 2/4th Machine Gunners to die at Brankassi out of a total of 27.
WX7645 William James NICHOLLS
Private. Shipped from Fremantle to Java 1942 ‘Blackforce’. Died bacillary dysentery Bicycle Camp Hospital, Batavia on 13 October 1942 having fallen sick on 30 September 1942. Aged 32 years. There were five machine gunners who died at Java. They all died of dysentery during 1942 as did Nicholls.
John Aberle grew up in a home where there was much activity revolving around the RSL, his father’s commitments to this as well as the community. John enlisted a few days after he turned 19 years old (the minimum age at that time).
He was at school with Henry de Moulin who was also KIA Singapore. John would have also known of Gibson and Giese who were to die of illnesses as POWs and were former Wesley students.
Bruce Chapman’s parents William George Chapman and Hilda Harriett Crowder married 1914 in South Australia. They were both born in Tasmania. Hilda died in Tasmania in 1922. Bruce would have been about 6 years old. He had one sister.
Bruce was a student of Wesley College, South Perth.
Bruce Chapman married Nellie Batt in 1940, a few months after enlisting. Bruce and Nellie had a daughter Janis Anne Chapman.
Bruce’s father William George Chapman died in 1957, Perth.
Nellie Chapman remarried about 1948 to Alan Westerberg.
Allen died in June 1945 on Sandakan-Ranau Track aged 25 years. The last months were horrific for POWs – so very little food using what they had stockpiled as the Japanese no longer provided for them. We now know Japanese guards had been ordered to ensure no POWs survive – from the end of 1944 the Japanese starved the POWs to death or to die of illness.
Gibson was selected for the Second March Sandakan to Ranau. 356 POWs began leaving Sandakan in groups of about 50 with their guards, loaded up carrying munitions, rice and sometimes Japanese personal belongings. The track was tortuous – muddy and slippery, through swampy areas, up and down steep slopes always prodded by their guards. Allen died on the Track 28 miles from Sandakan on 24 June 1945 aged 25 years.