John Alfred Leslie CARTHEW
My father was born at Broken Hill NSW on 27 th October 1907. He was the eldest of five children born to Leslie John Alfred Carthew and Edith (nee Carnie). The family moved to Newcastle in mid 1920 where John worked at various jobs. His primary occupation was a cabinet maker which he hated but finished his apprenticeship to appease his mother. It was when he was at BHP that he was appointed to the First Aid Post where he apparently learnt the skills which would ultimately entice him to the 2/10 th Field Ambulance.
In 1929 he married Cepha Madeline Ham and they had five children; John Maxwell born 11 November 1929, Brian Leslie Joseph 29 May 1932, Pamela Edith 12 August 1935, Ian Gregory 6 August 1939 and myself on 26 January 1942. Around 1937, Jack, (he was calling himself now) joined the 16 th Hunter River Lancers who were based at Rutherford, west of Maitland. It was a reserve unit and a part time job for my father. This was a unit whose origins went back to the NSW Cavalry Troops of 1854 and later formed part of the 2 nd Light Horse Brigade in the Boer War.
On 22 nd July 1940 Jack joined the permanent army at Newcastle as did a lot of the 16 th HRL. He was attached to the 2/10 th Field Ambulance, which was formed that same month with a total of 292 men, many of whom came from the Newcastle and Hunter Valley Region. This unit was formed by Col. E McArthur-Sheppard, who personally selected his soldiers from the Newcastle Recruitment Centre, which totalled about one hundred men.
The unit left Sydney on 29 th July 1941 aboard the MV Johann Van Oldenbarneveldt headed for Perth where they and other ships from Melbourne and Perth sailed for Singapore. The capitulation of Singapore by the Commonwealth Forces in 1942 is now history and Jack Carthew and his unit were now Prisoners Of War.
Jack later travelled to Borneo with ‘B Force’ where a total of 112 men of the 2/10 th Field Ambulance died at Sandakan or on the Ranau track. The finality for Sgt Jack Carthew NX47042 came on the 12 th February 1945 at Sandakan Number One Camp when he perished of malnutrition. Official Japanese records nominate his cause of death as acute enteritis. There has been no closure for the family as his remains were never identified and his grave is known to God alone. My father is commemorated on Panel 25 at the Labuan War Cemetery.
I never knew my father as I was born six months after his departure and only two weeks prior to the fall of Singapore. My mother never discussed my father at all to me……no stories…...his name was never mentioned. My mother worked hard at the local golf club to raise her family and later remarried in 1956. My brother Brian recalls some moments during those war years…..”I still remember all the people standing on Broadmeadow Railway Station the day the troop train took them away for the last time and as everyone sang “Auld Lang Syne” as the train pulled out and disappeared behind the high level bridge on Lampton Road. I was only young at the time but that song will still bring a tear to my eye”. Also from Brian…”About August 1945 a telegram arrived at the Charlestown Post Office where Mrs Marlin, the Post Mistress, handed me an unsealed envelope. She looked at me and I am sure that she had a tear in her eye. There appeared a number of similar telegrams in the boxes behind the counter and she had no doubt been handing these out for many days and knew that there would be many more to come”.
This article has been compiled from generous contributions from my brothers John and Brian. Thanks also to my new friend, Fred Goode of Maitland NSW. RIP Jack Carthew
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