William Laurence George Bell - City of Joondalup Laurence... · PDF file...

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Transcript of William Laurence George Bell - City of Joondalup Laurence... · PDF file...

  • 1:01:57

    William Laurence George Bell

    Gillian O’Mara


    E0103 – E0106

    Disc 1 1:00:29 - Disc 2 45:48 Disc 3 1:01:29 Disc 4 21:47

    Robyn Sutherlin


    City of Joondalup

  • GO: April the 8 1995. I am interviewing William Laurence George Bell who was born on the

    23 June 1923. I am interviewing him for Australia Remembers.

    GO: Bill would you please tell me how you got into the army?

    WB: Well it was a bit of a fight at the start of because dad want didn’t want me to join the

    army and I had just turned 18 and so I says well alright you will have to sign a form or I will

    have to say that I am a little older otherwise well whatever happens I’m going to get into the

    army so eventually I got, I got down to the recruitment area in Royal in the Melbourne Town

    Hall and signed up and that was on the 30th day of June in 1941.

    GO: What number were you given?

    WB: I was well it took a couple of days before I got that but I was BX58668 and we got that

    by going down to Royal Park where we went through all the necessary issuing of uniforms

    and so forth and then just as we were about to get our photo taken one fella who was in the

    line threw a fit so there he is someone says well you’re supposed to fix them up by putting a

    rubber something rubber in their mouth so that they don’t grind their teeth, so someone put a

    pencil in between his teeth so he bit the end of the pencil off and there he is writhing around

    chewing a pencil.

    GO: So you signed up in Melbourne and you were shipped out you’re a private at this


    WB: I was a private yes and from there we did a course at Swinburne Technical School as

    a motor mechanic MT that’s Motor Transport and that was around about 3 ½ months. I

    passed as a Motor Mechanic MT and then we went up from there we were moved from

    Caulfield we were at Caulfield Racing Course at that stage or racing ground what would you

    call it race course that’s right and from there we went up to Puckapunyal because I was in

    the armoured division as a mechanic you see and they gave us all fully five minutes

    instruction on how to start a Bren Gun Carrier and then I spent the next week doing washing

    dishes as a, on kitchen duty and then at the end of that week we they asked for volunteers

    who wished to go away to, to or overseas. So during this period I managed to get time to go

    on the rifle range where we fired say that again fired fifteen rounds with this 303 rifle that

    was the extent of my firing of a 303 rifle, so I had plenty of training before going overseas as

    you can see. Well I was accepted as a driver a driver mechanic into the 2/10th Ordnance

    Field Workshops so we were then all transported the ones who had volunteers any how

    volunteered we went down to Caulfield Race Course again and from there we got our selves

    organised into a unit which was to leave Australia on the 10 January in 1942. Now we left

  • well after all that rigmarole we managed to get ourselves off and on to a train which took us

    up to Sydney and from Sydney we got on to this boat called the Aquitania and that was a

    very good boat it was it’s something like 26,000 tons very large vessel and so we got on

    there and we sailed away the same days I think. So off we went then all the way back to

    Western Australia here where we parked outside Fremantle and took on the 2/4th Machine

    Gunners from Perth. They put quite a few fellas on and then after they got themselves

    settled down they realized that they had too many reinforcements because they had

    something like 4th and 5th reinforcements for the 2/4th Machine Gunners so they took some of

    them back off again, one of these fellas was a fella called Jim Bell he was no relation but in

    the years to come we were to meet his son who was the boyfriend of our eldest daughter.

    With this then we can were now going to say we sail off because Jim doesn’t do anything

    more for a while. So we then travelled to Sumatra where we transhipped to three or four

    Dutch vessels with Indonesian crews, from there the whole journey to Singapore took three

    weeks so we left on the 10 January arrived on the 24 January that’s only two weeks isn’t it

    and just maybe I’m getting a little out of focus somewhere but then we had three weeks in

    Singapore, one week was trying to find a place where we could camp. We got on a train

    which this day that we got on the train was the only day that the Japs hadn’t come down and

    bombed Singapore for around about three weeks so we managed to get started off and off

    we went up to Johor Bahru when we got up there the situation was a little grim because the

    people up there they said ‘What in the heck are you people doing up here, after all were just

    getting rid of our people back down to Singapore itself and the Japs are only 50 miles up the

    road.’ So the next morning, first of all on the day that we arrived there my vaccination took

    effect so I passed out in the chow line you know so there’s me laying down on the ground

    there unconscious but off we went then from that we stayed overnight there then we went

    back down to Singapore again to a to a valley behind the Ford works where we proceeded to

    set up camp. It took us a week to set up camp and then we had a week in the camp settling

    ourselves down and generally getting to know what we were doing there and then the Japs

    decided to bar to bomb our camp so we spent the next week dodging Japanese bombs all

    the way around all the way around Singapore Island. And then the war was over for us as

    because we were now guests of the Imperial Japanese army now.

    GO: How did that come about?

    WB: Well General Percival he was what they call Malayan Command and he surrendered

    the all of the people all of the soldiers to the Japanese because he reckons that, that there

    wasn’t much room for anyone there to, like there were so many people there in Singapore

    and there wasn’t much room for anyone to do any fighting around Singapore town so he

    thought well better to get the thing over and done with than to have all the civilians killed off

  • by the Japanese and so forth. So we were then made a, made guests you see I think we

    were at the down near the golf course at this time and that’s where everything was supposed

    to sort of finalised there’s more room there for fighting and so forth we had been told around

    about one hour before the before it was wrapped up but well the Ordnance Battalion will be

    going into action to face the enemy and help to rid him of the shores of Singapore yes it’s

    alright to say these things now but those times it was very dramatic. Now you look at it and

    you laugh at because you knew darned well that they’d never really been taught any

    rudiments of warfare as far as fighting for my life against another person with a rifle using

    bayonets and things like that so I was thinking, well it’s going to be a short battle, so then of

    course from that we had to we bedded down just about where we were laid down on the

    ground and in the morning we had to go down to this area that had been fixed up and we

    piled our rifles in a heap and our bayonets in a heap and then we had to march from there

    out to Selarang Barracks which was something like about 22 miles from that point it was

    fairly good for us because we hadn’t, hadn’t done too much so we hadn’t done like we

    weren’t really what you call worn out from battle because all we were worn out from was

    dodging, mean Ordnance is a non-combatant unit anyhow. So then we started on our march

    at around about 10’clock in the morning and we got to well after our march which was a bit of

    a straggle rather than anything else but we landed at this Selarang Barracks which made up

    was made up of quite a number of offices, officers’ quarters which each house was

    supposed to house one officer and his family but there were about 50 of our unit in the

    house that I was at which was house number 47 so you didn’t think that I was going to

    remember that did you. So a little bit later on I was moved around to house number 50 I think

    it was, but we had to get settled down there all we had to sleep on of course was just plain

    straight concrete because all the floors of the, of the house it was all concreted so it wasn’t

    quite comfortable because you couldn’t dig a hole and put your hip in so but eventually we

    managed to settle ourselves down to something I helped another fella and we built ourselves

    a double decker bunker bunk in which we used the palm, palm fronds and pieces of string

    and stuff like that which we tied the thing together with and then the trouble was of course

    that you get, you get worries and things like mites and things that get in with you. Even the

    first night we got there a fella gave a bit of a yell in the middle of the night cause we were

    sleeping out on the lawn out front the first night and in the morning we said ‘What are you

    yelping around,’ he turned his head around and he h