WX16683 NORMAN WILL PLATTS 1910-1942
Bunbury boy Norm Platts enlisted AIF 6 October 1941 sent to Northam Army Camp where in December 1941, 146 men were selected as reinforcements for 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, then in Darwin, soon to be sailing to Sydney and onwards to Fremantle.
The 146 men were sent on leave, returned to Northam where they prepared to be entrained to Fremantle on 15th Jan 1942 to board ‘Aquitania’ anchored at Gage Roads off Fremantle. ‘Aquitania’ was a huge ship and was carrying 4,000 reinforcement soldiers for 8th Division in Singapore.
‘Aquitania’ set sail for Singapore the next day 16 Jan 1942, leaving behind about 90 well-trained machine gunners, most of whom had been gaoled for taking leave without permission. It is believed more than 200 men jumped ship, but most managed to reboard by the morning of 16th Feb, however MPs at the wharf were on the mission!
Half of 2/4th 146 reinforcements on ‘Aquitania’ formed ‘E’ Company and the other half reinforced the 2/4th’s other platoons, filling the shoes of those left behind who would soon land at Java as Singapore was deemed to fall.
Arriving in Singapore Norm was promoted 7 Feb 1942 to Sergeant in E Coy SRB No, 2 Platoon under Commanding Officer WX9382 Lt Jimmy Till. This Lt. was well liked by the men.
The overall Commanding Officer of SRB was WX3454 Major Bert Saggers formerly CO of ‘A’ Company HQ (his role taken over by his 2 I/C Capt Thomas) who was only informed of this new position on evening of 6 Feb 1942.
Please read Major Saggers account
The total number of men in ‘E’ Coy was 96. The Combined SRB numbered about 200.
The Special Reserve Battalion was comprised of two companies ‘A’ and ‘B’ made up of Australian Army Service Corps personnel and ‘E’ Company.
AASC personnel had already been organised into two infantry companies. ‘A’ Coy commanded by Capt. Hiddleston and ‘B’ Coy by Capt Millner. Both were AASC officers. The men were also minimally trained and arrived on Aquitania with our reinforcements.
The Japanese first invasion of Singapore occurred on the north west coast of Singapore on night of 8 Feb 1942. Thousands of Japanese troops crossed the Straits amidst heavy artillery and arial bombardments.
The SRB had been sent to support the troops at Tengah Airfield. Tengah fell quickly to the Japanese and on the night of 11 Feb 1942 the SRB with one Indian Platoon and one British Platoon, they realised in the darkness not only had they been left behind when the bulk of the Battalions had pulled out, but were now being encircled by Japanese troops.
The next morning, SRB had no option but to fight their way out with a bayonet charge and hand to hand combat with some loss of lives, but managed to kill a larger number of Japanese and the remainder ran with fright making way for SRB to withdraw and regroup with the Indian and British platoons. The three groups walked about a mile through scrubland reaching a clearing described as being saucer shaped. As they advanced towards some native huts at the other end the Japanese ambushed them with machine guns killing and injuring many, there was chaos. Particularly the frightened Indians ran amok, crossing over into the Australians and British. Eventually authority organised some order and the taking of the native huts and overcoming Japanese in surrounding area.
The survivors moved a short distance out of danger. It was here a head count revealed the SRB only had 88 men of the 200 who had started out.
Many wounded had been left behind and many soldiers had scattered to find themselves behind Japanese lines.
Tragically amongst the many dead were Lt Jimmy Till and Sgt Norm Platts. Platts had been seen attempting to pull wounded Till back to safety and it is believed Norm Platts was then KIA.
‘Jimmy Till rushed at a Japanese light automatic section, who at close range had just killed Lt Harry Green, CO of SRB 1 Platoon. Lt. Till was wounded in his shoulder and pulled back by Sgt. Norm Platts to a position where Till’s wounds could be treated.’
Lt Jimmy Till was 27 years old. Sgt Norm Platts was married with two children was 31 years old when KIA.
Prior to enlistment Norm was a super active community man, in his earlier years he was involved in scouts. Later he was part of Bunbury Rowing Club. But it was Jimmy’s beautiful singing voice that Bunbury remembered. He was referred to as Bunbury’s Paul Robeson. With his wife, Platts was often heard at local entertainment and concerts.