WX9229 Walter Edward ‘Bill’ Breed – Former POW of Japan, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, man with big personality returns farming Gnowangerup







25 June 1902 to 11 October 1996



Bill was born in London to Agnes and Alfred Breed and one of three children with older brother Bert and sister Agnes.

His first job was working in the undercarriage section for Deport General Aircraft Company that built Sopwith planes for WWI.

At the end of the war in 1919 Bill started work as a fitter’s mate building gas hot water system for Ajax Gyser Company. Money was very scarce. Bill’s older brother had already enlisted so at 19 years of age in January 1921 Bill also enlisted with the Yorkshire Regiment based at York Barracks.

As children Bill and his brother always dreamt of going to Australia for the warm weather. There was always news about the gold rush. The army was for them the first step in this direction.

Recruit training was at the York Barracks and the end of 1921 saw Bill posted to Ireland to a place called Kisdale, just south of Cork. His job was to guard the Old Head lighthouse.


From Kisdale he went back to York enroute for the Rhine, Germany and spent 2½ years in the British, American and French occupation Forces. **

He returned to York and transferred to 2nd Battalion, located in India. Following three years in India Bill was given the opportunity to return to England or immigrate to Australia.

** Part of the Armistice signed 11th November 1918. The details, including zones of occupation, were worked out by French Marshal Foch and the British were allocated the city of Cologne and surrounding area.

Bill arrived at Fremantle January 1928 and took a job chopping trees and clearing new land for Jim Green at Yealering. He became good friends with Hyram Scott who offered Bill a contract to clear his ‘selected land’ at the Creek in Newdegate. At the end of the contract Bill had money and Hyram had none!

They agreed to become partners and Bill became a farmer.

After several years Bill had enough money to go his own way and took over the abandoned farm of Andersons.

In October 1940 Bill enlisted, claiming he was a farm labourer not an owner. Other Newdegate locals who also enlisted included John Waddell, Alan Brooker and Charlie Roberts.

Harold Bryce took over running Bill’s farm while he was in the army. Bill was taken prisoner of war in Singapore and spent time at Changi and the Burma Railway.

He returned to WA in 1945 and was back farming in 1946. Being a POW of Japan was a very distressing period about which Bill preferred not to talk. He was part of the community and played badminton at the South Newdegate Hall and later took up golf.

Bill developed a reputation for having a good time at the Club, pub or anywhere else. Quite often these good times led to disasters on his way home! Many times Bill had difficulty negotiating the bends on the road near Lake Hills. His last serious motor accident occurred on the bend south of Belman’s gate. This accident slowed Bill down considerably and soon after in 1974, he sold his farm to Vern Hall.

Bill had developed a love of fishing and Hopetoun. In the early 1950’s Bill arranged for Des Cuff’s father to bid at auction in Lake Grace for a block of land at Hopetoun. It cost 25 pounds. Progressively the original shack developed into his last home.

Many a good time was had at Bill’s playing cards, having a drink or having a chat. As the years went by Bill’s home became the meeting place for what was referred to as ‘elevenes at Bills’.

The writer of the above is unconfirmed however, it is believed to be Mary Saunders.  The below was included in a Borehole Bulletin,  written by the then elected President, Ted Wallin.

Ted wrote ‘on behalf of the members of 2/4th MGB we wish to extend our thanks to Mary Saunders (daughter of Polly and Tom Finlay ) for the care she has given to Bill Breed over many years.   A job well done, Mary.’