Saturday, 19 September 2009

Prisoner of War

William John McIlhagga

My recent reference to the M.V. Krait as a vessel which had been captured from the Japanese in 1941 and used to raid Singapore Harbour in 1943 and 1944, has reminded me of our clan World War 2 Japanese Prisoner of War. His older brother Robert was born in 1895 and by dint of giving his birth year as 1892 served in the First World War. I had occasion to write about him on 23rd June. Sadly he was killed in 1917. His younger brother William John was then 16. He was born on 5th October 1900. I wonder how much his brother's death influenced him to join up in the Second world War? Their parents, Daniel and Annie E. McIlhagga had moved from the Ballyweaney area of County Antrim in Northern Ireland to mid-central Scotland. William John was born in the town of Bathgate near Livingston, West Lothian.

William John emigrated to Australia and joined the Australian Army at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. He served in the 22nd Infantry Brigade and became one of over 2000 Prisoners of War held in the Sandakan POW Camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore. The 1494 POWs that made up 'B Force' were transported from Changi on 7th July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18th July 1942. William John died "of illness" as a prisoner of the Japanese on 19th June 1945, aged 44. He is commemorated on the Luban Memorial, Malaysia. This is on a small island in Brunei Bay off the North West coast of Borneo. This information is on the web-site of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, together with the photograph of William John from his pay book which I have produced above. Permission was granted by the War Memorial to print this photo in our Clan Newsletter in 2006 and fortunately no permission is required for reproduction for non-commercial purposes such as this blog. I will write more about this family later.

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