Alan Wilfred "Gerry" MOORE
“You’re not leaving me here with four kids”--!! Mum’s anger, frustration & despair, was obvious to me as I stood on the back verandah. Our Dad was going for his medical --, England was in trouble & he HAD to join up ---.
My father, A.W. “Gerry” Moore, arrived from England in 1929, looking for a fellow Queens Scout who had migrated & lived in the wheat belt town of Merredin W.A., Dad found work on a farm 80 km further south at Muntadgin.
At the Saturday night dance, my mother asked her employer who the good looking stranger was – the one with the leather patches on the elbows of his sports coat -- (poor fellow, they thought—not knowing it was the latest Harris Tweed). –It was, - ‘love at first sight’ - & they were married in two weeks.
All was bliss until the “Depression” arrived; Dad had built a house in Muntadgin with a shop front, where he’d cut hair & Mum made pies & pasties (where the local cricket team would gather after a game). But soon, with no money about, things were getting desperate & so Mum, my sister Jaqui & I, came down to North Fremantle on the back of an old Ute, to stay with our “Nanna’ Merrillies, while Dad did everything possible to send money to us. He built two houses with the help of an Italian Stone Mason (for little money), still cut hair, anything, but soon, he too had to retreat to Condon Street North Fremantle where – ‘All’ – of the extended family now lived – times were tough.
Dad took a job as a Fettler; laying railway track between Norseman & Esperance. We joined him, arriving by train at a place called Higginsville – (“Bloody Higginsville” – as Mum always called it). There’s nothing there!!!!!!, – just a place name on a map--. Imagine it, - Mum gets off the train in a suit, hat, gloves, stockings & high heels; there were tears, but she was determined to be with Dad & stayed to live in tents with flies & ants for extra company.
As the line extended south, ---- every 25 km we packed, -- throwing whatever we had up into open wheat wagons, then travelled down to the end of the line, pitching the tents & starting all over again, still with the bush, flies & ants. The only thing that made life bearable, were the people with whom you worked, lived & shared those privatious conditions.
Next was the – ‘Collie Line’ -, I remember the little town of Allanson --, pretty country. Mum used to say they were some of the happiest days of her marriage, still in tents, sitting around the evening campfire, solving the world’s problems with men of high intelligence, who could find no better job, --- than working for the Government – “on Sustenance”.
By 1937 Dad had a job as a green-keeper, at the Royal Fremantle Golf Links – he loved Australia & working outdoors; -- A workers home (Govt. Housing) became available in Mosman Park, -- our dreams were becoming a reality (house & land – 500 pounds -- =$1000).
Then war broke out, ------ England was in trouble & he had a family he had to fight for.
Dad enlisted at Claremont on the 18 th of October 1940 at age 35. It didn’t take Mum long to be proud of her man --, he looked great in uniform, ---- tall, - with a deep tan, - quiet & non aggressive.
He had two great mates he brought home at times (Arthur King & Bill Clemesha – (Soldier Bill)). – Well, they turned up one day with a story to tell; ------ Dad still had some of his educated English accent & was taunted & ridiculed by another in his unit, this didn’t worry Dad – ‘until’ – this bloke started throwing things at him, -- so Dad –up & “dropped him” --, everyone in the unit was over the moon at this ------ And I was as proud as punch!!!!
The seven months training at Ascot was over & pre-embarkation leave was granted, Dad swept the chimney & cut a huge pile of wood, -- I’ll “NEVER” forget our last evening meal together, nor the words he left with me.
The next thing I knew, we had mail & photo’s from Singapore, describing the culture, monkeys & children, parcels of exotic gifts in rubber, bamboo & wood carvings.
As time went on, we read the news reports, we knew things were not going our way, especially when the Prince of Wales & the Repulse were sunk, & then came devastation, -- when Capitulation was announced on the 15 th of February ’42.
The next couple of years, news from Dad consisted of a couple of months old post cards, ------ with YES/NO – &, GIVE MY REGARDS TO ---------------------- questions on them.
One printed statement on the post card was, --- my health is GOOD/EXCELLENT; Well Dad crossed out GOOD & at --- “GIVE MY REGARDS TO--------------------“, --- he put, --- “The Man O Hoyts”, ------- (a coded message meaning, --- Don’t tell me all that ‘Bull’ – tell the Man Outside Hoyt’s Movie Theatre, the bloke in the Top Hat & Tails ‘spruiking’, for customers) --- & we still have that much treasured post card.
So, while these post cards came, we knew he was at least alive, -- if nothing else. Then late in 1945, the dreaded telegram came to our front door. Murray & Marilyn (8 & 6) were home from school for lunch & of course, ran to see who was knocking, -- from then on it was ‘bedlam’, (those memories – never fade). For you see, the ‘gram’ said that Dad had died of ‘illness’, on the 29 th of March 1945.
The army would tell us nothing --, for without the help of people like author Lynette Ramsay Silver, we would never have known that our father was identified by his wooded Japanese POW Identity Tag & was buried in number 2 compound at Sandakan, but who now lies unidentified, somewhere in Labuan Cemetery, --- a marvelously kept beautiful place (all credit to the dedicated Malaysian family who still tend those grounds).
We will always be grateful to the author – Lynette Ramsay Silver.
My brother Murray & I, together with about 100 others, (including Bill Young), made the pilgrimage to Borneo on the 50 th anniversary of the end of the war, in 1995 & were at last – able to bring closure to our tragedy.
Though my memories of Dad are sketchy at best, I grieve for my brother & little sister, who have far less to remember of our father than I. He was an English gentleman, who became a ‘Dinky Di Aussie”, but sadly died for his family & his country ------------------------ R.I.P. Dad
Gerald Moore – Morwell, Victoria.
As a rider to the story about our Dad,
I remember the telegram and the chaos it brought to our home, plus the childish anger I displayed at school in Mosman Park, whenever anyone mentioned the word - "Japanese". But really my life was "normal". I had a wonderful childhood, although my Mum, I recall, remained a homebody, always sending us kids to do the shopping with her list of things to get.
Then at school one day, maybe around 1947 or so, some new kids were introduced to our school assembly- they were the Thurstons- Janet, Diane, Ken and 3 others- 6 young kids in all. Well we were told to be especially kind to these kids, for their Mum had sadly been killed and their Dad had died in the war - little did I know that their Dad had been killed with mine in Sandakan.
The girls were very attractive I do recall (even at my young age) and they had to pass our house on their way to their new home up the hill at "The Coopers" in Wellington Street - their aunties. My sister Marilyn teamed up with Diane and they became good friends.
My point in relating this small tale is that - how did "those kids" cope with losing both parents so early in their young lives and the effect that it has had on them, - ever so more that the "effect" on us, losing only our Dad in those atrocious conditions in Borneo.
Just wonderful to see Ken and his wife, plus their extended family at the groups activities!
Murray Moore – Busselton, Western Australia
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