Jasper Nelson SCHWERDT


SCHWERDT, Jasper Nelson

Service Numbers: SX10989, S32442
Enlisted: 17 January 1941
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: General / Motor Transport Company/ies
Born: Fords, SA, 5 February 1907
Home Town: Payneham, Norwood Payneham St Peters, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Blacksmith
Died: Cardiac Beri Beri - POW, Japan, 11 June 1945, aged 38 years
Cemetery: Rookwood Cemetery & Crematorium
D B 2
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Renmark District Roll of Honour WW2
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World War 2 Service

17 Jan 1941: Involvement Private, SN SX10989, General / Motor Transport Company/ies
17 Jan 1941: Involvement Private, SN S32442
17 Jan 1941: Enlisted Adelaide, SA
17 Jan 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN SX10989, General / Motor Transport Company/ies
Date unknown: Involvement

PoW who never returned from war

PoW who never returned from war
April 21, 2021

Brendan Simpkins

In Sydney’s War Cemetery, in the Rookwood Cemetery, lie the remains of Private Jasper Nelson Schwerdt.

Private Schwerdt was born on February 5, 1907, in the small locality of Fords, between Freeling and Kapunda, on the Thiele Highway.

Enlisting in the Australian Army in January 1940 and deployed to Malaya with the 2/2 Reserve Motor Transport Company, Schwerdt was reported missing and presumed dead in February 1942 after the surrender of Singapore. His last correspondence was written on January 30, 1942.

Private Schwerdt was taken to the Sendai prisoner of war camp in Sakata, Yamagata Japan.

A message from Schwerdt was broadcast over Japanese propaganda radio station, confirming he was alive two years after he was reported missing. “A cheerio call to mother, father and sisters from Jasper,” it read.

“I am in good health, hoping you are all the same. Best of love to all.”
He would die from acute cardiac beriberi while still interned in the camp almost exactly a year later at the age of 38.

Private Schwerdt posted his final telegram to Australia on May 27, 1945. In it, he said his health was “fair” and that he was hoping to see his family again soon.
He was cremated and his remains brought back to Australia on a hospital ship on October 16, 1945.

His ashes were interred in the Sydney War Cemetery two days later.

Of the 736 soldiers whose remains are at the cemetery, Private Schwerdt is believed to be the only Australian soldier who died as a PoW in Japan to have a headstone at the cemetery.

The information came to be discovered after a series of letters from Private Schwerdt addressed to his sister Edna were handed over to the Gawler RSL sub-branch.

Nineteen letters from Private Schwerdt spanning from his training in Alice Springs in 1940 to his final telegram from Japan in 1945, and a handful of telegrams addressed to his parents after his announcement was discovered on the radio, were discovered on the side of the road between Port Wakefield and Virginia.
The documents were first handed in to the police before being turned over to the RSL because of it containing military matters.

Gawler RSL public officer Wayne Clarke said that it was a “unique situation”.
“There just isn’t any other like that…a Prisoner of War that died in Japan and having a memorial in Australia, that just doesn’t happen,” he said.

“We have checked with the Commonwealth War Graves and they don’t know of any other.”

Mr Clarke said he was hoping to reconnect the documents with the descendants of Private Schwerdt.

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Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Advice from the Office of Australian War Graves regarding the presence of a gravesite in Sydney

"You are correct in stating that it was not Government policy to repatriate remains of casualties of the First and Second World Wars.

We can only speculate that perhaps one of his fellow prisoners of war was able to obtain his ashes and bring them back to Australia upon his return.

Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) records confirm that Jasper Scherdt’s  ashes were received from Hospital Ship, Pjigjalengka on 16 October 1945 and were interred in the Sydney War Cemetery on 18 October 1945. No other details are recorded. The grave registration card for Jasper states his next of kin at the time was his father, Mr G.A. Schwerdt.

The OAWG is unaware of any other cases similar to that of Jasper Schwerdt."