Basil Fitzgerald

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Basil Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald Basil.jpg
Personal Information
Date of Birth 30 Sep 1902
Place of Birth Collie, Western Australia
Death 15 Oct 1985, aged 83
Place of Death West Perth, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 38 years old
Description 5'7" (1.70m) tall ; ; fair complexion ; blue eyes ; light brown hair
Occupation Poultry farmhand & Orchard worker
Religion Church of England
Address Third avenue, Kelmscott, Western Australia
Next of Kin Friend , Mrs Mary Ann Slee later changed to Mr A Slee.
Military Information
Reg Number WX8586
Date of Enlistment 18 Oct 1940
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 5 Platoon, A Company, 2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 30 Dec 1941 ‒ 24 Jan 1942
Transport Details HMT Aquitania Darwin to Singapore via Port Moresby, Sydney & Fremantle
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 6 Oct 1945 ‒ 6 Oct 1945
Transport Details plane Thailand to Singapore
Journey Dates 29 Oct 1945 ‒ 7 Nov 1945
Transport Details HMHS Karoa Singapore to Fremantle
Post War Details
Fate WIA (Shell shock) 12 Feb 1942
POW Feb 1942
Returned to Australia
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Pre War

Electoral Roll entries: 1931 - 1943 Kelmscott, labourer

War Service

While Basil had his medical on 19 Jun 1940 and was found to be fit for Class I service, he did not enlist at the Claremont camp until 18 Oct 1940. On 22 Oct 1940 he was sent to the Ascot camp, and then on 25 Nov 1940 to the No 1 Depot Battalion at Northam. There, on 5 Dec 1940 he was taken on strength by the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. Between 1 and 8 Jul 1941 he was granted leave and the unit then embarked on HMT Duntroon for Adelaide on 21 Jul 1941, arriving there and disembarking on 25 Jul 1941. Following further training the 2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion travelled by train to Darwin, leaving Adelaide on 11 Oct 1941, and being taken on strength by the Darwin based defence force on 19 Oct 1941.

Fitzgerald B % Pl.jpg.jpg

Basil along with the rest of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, embarked in Darwin on 30 Dec 1971, and while his records say it was for 8th Military District, which covered New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the New Hebrides, the real destination was Singapore. They had gone to Port Moresby to join an escorted convoy. Given that the Japanese had recently attacked Rabaul, despite the urgency, the convoy was rerouted to Singapore via Sydney and Fremantle. On 27 Jan 1942 the battalion and Basil disembarked in Singapore. On 8 Feb 1942 the Japanese attack on Singapore Island commenced and it was all over by 15 Jan 1942.

His records were noted on 16 Feb 1942 as Missing in Malaya, and later Missing believed POW. Basil was held for some time in Singapore, with POW Number 2/122245 in the Selarang Camp, Changi, the Adam Park camp on Johore Bahru (now known as Santosa Island), and the Selarang Barracks at Changi. Basil was sent as a member of 'D' Force, S Battalion with POW Number 8776 to Siam (Thailand). While a POW in Singapore he had been hospitalised several times with illness, on 12 Nov 1942 with painful feet, and on 30 Nov 1942 with dysentery.

S Battalion departed Singapore Railway Station on 14 May 1943 headed for Bampong, Thailand. They were crowded into small rail wagons and took turns to sit or lie down. It was stinking hot during the 5 days, and freezing cold at nights. They stayed a day or so at Komna Transit Camp bear Bampong before being trucked to Kanchanaburi where after a short stay they were marched out to Tarsau, which was HQ for S Battalion. At Tarsau the worked on clearing the way for the laying of the railway. These few weeks were not particularly difficult as the terrain was flat.

They were next moved to Kanyu II which was one of many camps to work on the Hellfire Pass cuttings. It was here that the POWs lived day to day in hell. Monsoon rains arrived, and with little or no clothing and mostly no shoes they worked at chipping away at the great rock face, injuring their limbs and bodies with flying pieces of rock – fearing their wounds would advance into ulcers. They suffered severe tropical illnesses for which they had no medicines – malaria, dysentery, tropical ulcers and finally cholera – the deadliest of all. They worked long hours, were provided minimal food, of no nutritional value, and beaten by their guards without provocation.

From Kanyu II men were sent to one of the Hintok camps or other nearby camps such as Konkoita, and possibly from Sonkurai to the Nikhe-Nikhe Defence Line from May 1945. It appears Basil was ill and was included in an evacuation of the sick to Chungkai. He was in turn sent to Kanchanaburi.

Basil was granted Proficiency Pay from 15 Aug 1945 so that may be the day he was freed, but on 20 Aug 1945 Basil was recovered from Thailand and returned to Singapore by plane on 6 Oct 1945 where he was admitted to the 2/14th Australian General Hospital. On 29 Oct 1945 he was well enough to embark on HMHS Karoa for Fremantle where he disembarked on 7 Nov 1945 and entered the 110th Australian Base Hospital Perth (Hollywood Repatriation Hospital) until 27 Nov 1945. Not yet fit enough to be discharged he spent time at the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot at Point Walter, with several brief periods in hospital until he was discharged on 11 May 1946.

Post War

Electoral Roll entries: 1954 Third avenue, Kelmscott, labourer; 1958 - 1972 at 127 Star street, Carlisle, chainman; 1977 - 1980 at 3/576 William street, Mt Lawley, retired


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