Alvin Cedric WILLMOTT
Script written and spoken by Anita Willmott for Anzac Service at Mercy College, Koondoola in 1995
My experience of the Second World War began on 18 December 1940 on the day that my father enlisted in the Australian Army. I was six years old. You will notice that I refer to this man as “my father”. At the time I only knew him as “Daddy”, and have never had the chance to call him by the older name of “Dad”.
In reply to one of his cousins who asked him why he enlisted, my father wrote:
I was never really aware that there was a war on, or that my father had enlisted. All I knew was that our family life changed. The boys were sent off to a country boarding school. I was taken to Perth to stay with family friends in West Leederville. My mother stayed in lodgings in Perth while she was waiting for my father to complete his Army training in Northam. In this way, although at the time I was not aware of it, I was the last member of my family to see my father alive – a precious memory.
Five months after enlistment, in April 1941, WX10178, Driver Alvin Cedric Willmott, a private in the Australian Infantry Force (AIF) was sent overseas in a troop ship to Malaya. His letters merely said “ABROAD” with no address. He worked as a dispatch rider taking messages by motorbike from one section of the Army to another. Technology was not so well developed in those days.
At the capture of Singapore on 15 February 1942, my father was taken prisoner by the Japanese. The last letter my mother received from him was dated 26 January 1942. In that letter, he said the bombs were getting closer, the night skies were filled with searchlights, and that it was hard to write “things uncensorable that he could tell us”. They could not disclose their whereabouts. My mother heard nothing more for over five months, during which time my father was reported “missing – whereabouts unknown”.
From information that has come to light since then, my father had been in the prisoner-of-war camp based at Sandakan, Borneo. He died from dysentery and malnutrition. Their total food supply for the day was a handful of rice. Apparently he was too weak to go on the first march from Sandakan to Ranau, but all the sick prisoners-of-war who were left behind on the first march were forced to go on the second so-called “death march” which took place during May and June 1945. My father did not survive, but died somewhere before they reached Ranau, Borneo. There is no grave to visit.
All during my childhood, I always expected to see him come around a street corner at any time, and I would recognize him. It was hard to believe that he had gone forever. It always made me sad to sit on a beach and watch the ocean. You see, - my father went overseas and didn’t come back.
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