Alwyn Douglas CADWGAN
Written by Non Cadwgan Meston
My father as you may have guessed was a Welshman – they called him' 'Taffy'. He was born at Pontycymmer in South Wales in 1901. His family came from a farming background, but with his father, he and his brothers were for a time coalminers and were involved in the bitter strikes of the 1920s. He was training as a surveyor preparatory to becoming an underground manager, but he had contracted silicosis and in 1926 became very ill and was advised to migrate to Australia for the sake of his health. He successfully took up farming in Morawa – he played football with the local team – and had freehold title to his farm in 1933. Accordingly my mother (they had been engaged for ten years) left her career as an accountant in Wales to join him. They were married on the day she landed and left immediately for Morawa, where she learnt new skills of making her own bread and soap.
Life in Morawa did not turn out to be idyllic, through no fault of their own. Like others in the district they experienced seven successive crop failures from disease (rust and smut), drought, and plagues of emus and kangaroos that destroyed the crops. A spark from a passing train caused a fire that wiped out their home when I was 7mths old. When a moratorium on farm debt was declared in 1938 in recognition of the dire financial situation of these farmers. they walked off the farm and came to Perth.
Because of his mining background my father sought work in Kalgoorlie, but because of his lung problems was barred from working underground. Apart from this he was a very fit and active man. I believe he was in Kalgoorlie when war broke out, and he enlisted. He was in the first contingent of the 2/6 th to be sent to Malaya.
Following news that he was a POW at Sandakan my mother went with other relatives of POW’s desperate for information, to a meeting where she was able to contact two other 2/6 th wives, Mrs Tom Hoffman and Mrs (Ann) Taylor. They formed a support group, 'The 2/6 th Field Park Coy. Relatives Association', which met regularly throughout the remaining years of the war and for some time after the survivors had returned. This group provided enormous support to my mother, alone as she was in Australia.
I was delighted to meet Mrs Hoffman again recently, and to see that she had kept all the minutes of these meetings, and her correspondence with the many members.
After the war my brother remembers a visit we made with my mother to Hollywood Hospital to see some of these returned men, and especially remembers one who was nearly blind. He had a little vision, so that he could just see his watch on his right wrist. He was hoping to go to St Dunstan's in UK for special training. Mrs Hoffman tells me that this was Wally Whitehurst – who did get to St Dunstan's – and is still an active member of the Ex-POW Association that she also attends.
The interest and kindness shown to us by these men, which so impressed my brother, answers a question asked by all of us whose relatives did not return and whose history is not recorded – 'What happened to this deeply beloved man, and was he with friends?' I believe that my father, who died at the 19 mile point on the track to Ranau on June 2 1945, would not have been able to survive so long without the company and support of such close friends as his ‘Aussie’ mates at Sandakan. I am satisfied that this is true.
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