Albert William (Bert) KERIN

KERIN, Albert William

Service Number: SX7822
Enlisted: 4 July 1940
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: Burra, South Australia, 10 January 1920
Home Town: Burra (SA), Goyder, South Australia
Schooling: Burra Public School, South Australia
Occupation: Shed Hand
Died: Died at sea (Tamahoko Maru), East China Sea, Pacific Ocean, 24 June 1944, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Burra Fallen Soldiers Memorial, Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery
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World War 2 Service

17 Mar 1939: Imprisoned Interned Java Camp
4 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SX7822
4 Jul 1940: Enlisted Adelaide, SA
4 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX7822
Date unknown: Involvement

Thoughts Fly back to Burra

Albert was born in the mid north town of Burra where three generations of his family lived. His parents were Donald John Kerin, and Ellen Gertrude. Albert was born on the 10th January, 1920, and had an older brother, Don Jnr and two sisters, Muriel Jean and Doreen.
The children were still very young and living at Kooringa when their 30-year-old father, who was working on the Lord’s ‘Oakvale’ Station 150 miles out of Burra, drowned in a lagoon on May 9th ‘21. The lagoon was a mile wide and situated quite close to the homestead. The circumstances surrounding the drowning were unusual as Donald Snr had been in good spirits for the mid-day meal, asking where the lagoon rowboat was kept. Following a rest during the heat of the day, he did not reappear for the evening meal. A search in the dark revealed the boat was missing but a concentrated hunt was unable to commence until daylight. The boat paddles were found first before the stern of the boat was seen sticking out of the water on the far side of the lagoon. A challenging operation to drag the lagoon followed in the ensuing days with Donald’s body eventually being found seventy yards from the boat in over six feet of water. The Manager of the property, Mr Billings, organised for a coffin to be made. The funeral, conducted on the Station was attended by all employees, who later fenced the grave site and laid a slab. The Burra Record summarised the tragic result; ‘Great sympathy is felt for the young widow and four little children, who, we understand, are left totally unprovided for.’
The Rector of Kooringa placed a plea in the local Burra Record the following week. ‘May I appeal to the public of Burra and District, through your valuable columns on behalf of the widow and family of the late Donald J. Kerin who was drowned at Oakvale station last week. The widow is left absolutely unprovided for and there are four young children the eldest is not five years old and the youngest is only one month. Owing to unemployment through the strikes at Broken Hill, even the lodge has had to lapse. Mrs Kerin is a daughter of Mrs Hobby of Kooringa, and the case is most deserving. I hope sir that you will open your columns and accept subscriptions publishing them from week to week. I have interviewed the Mayor of Burra Mr E. W. Crewes, and he has kindly arranged to call a meeting of citizens on Wednesday evening to take further steps.’
In a wonderfully generous gesture, the Mayor of Burra E Crewes wrote to the local Burra Record: suggesting ‘getting up a concert in aid of the widow and orphan children’. He generously opened a subscription list in the newspaper with £1 to start the Fund.
Despite the Depression and many families also struggling, the community immediately supported the appeal with individuals and groups collecting or organising public functions and fund raisers. The local Burra Brass Band that was striving to find a conductor and members for a full complement of a band, paid off their own debts and contributed the whole of the remainder of their savings to Ellen and her young family. There was also a well-attended dance, a sixpenny concert given by members of the Redruth Methodist Band of Hope, held in the Kooringa Methodist Lecture Hall and countless personal contributions with the final amount raised over two months being almost £230.
A letter of thanks appeared in the Burra Record at the end of July ’21.
“Sir, — Some months ago an appeal was made through your columns on behalf of this very deserving case, and I write now at the request of the Committee to thank the public of Burra and District for their very generous response. The sum of £227 18s 3d has been subscribed and this amount will be paid to Mrs Kerin at so much per week. The object of the Committee in doing this is that Mrs Kerin will have a small income covering a period of nearly five years. Again we thank all who have helped in any way. On behalf of the Committee, I am, yours, H. H. Hopton.”
The family were well supported and able to lead active and productive lives as youngsters. All four children were regular attendees at the St Mary’s Sunday School, with each regularly being awarded a prize for their attendance. Albert and his sister Doreen were also part of their Burra Public School’s fundraising in ’32 with both a Pet Show and fancy dress with Doreen and her friend dressed as orphans and Albert as a baby. Their widowed mother, Ellen remarried Edgar Kemble and they had two young sons of their own, George and Ross.
Post school, Albert followed in his late father’s footsteps, becoming a station hand near Mannahill, working for a Mr McDonald. However, with the outbreak of WWII, a very strong recruiting campaign was conducted for the A.I.F. with enlistment stations at nearby Burra and Clare as part of a huge drive aimed at encouraging fit young country men to join the army. Older brother, Don became SX7642 in the 2/48th Battalion with several other young men from the Burra area. 20-year-old Albert enlisted the following day on July 6th 1940 and became SX7822 in the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion.
Prior to being sent overseas, Albert married Ethnee Marie Hewitt from Pinnaroo on the 27th January ’41 at Merino. The next month, he and Ethnee returned to Burra where the Community held a social in Albert’s honour in February ’41, his entry being greeted with a standing ovation. Patriotic singing of the National Anthem and the Song of Australia followed as did other popular songs. Besides farewelling Albert, there were also general celebrations over the fall of Benghazi. Reverend Seacombe proclaimed that “Our armies there have accomplished an amazing task in amazing time. The speed with which it was done constitute one of the marvels of military history. In fact the amazing speed and the almost fantastic stories of Italian surrender suggest that even the brilliant leadership and heroic endurance of our armies and the poor generalship of the Italians are not enough to explain it.” A further speaker, Mr Hawker likened the war to date as being like the world was faced with a huge bushfire that had to be actively fought. He added that “Men like Pte. Kerin were going to put out the bush fire.” Mr. Jennison in referring to Pte. Kerin spoke words of approbation to the guest in offering his services for the Empire and hoped on the cessation of hostilities he would be spared to return home. The F.F.C. Fund later made a presentation of comforts to Albert before the Mayor presented him with a wristlet watch, congratulating him on joining the Army. The Mayor also noticed Albert had brought a bride with him but being a married man himself, the Mayor laughingly said he would with-hold his congratulations for a time. Fastening the watch on to the guest's arm, he said he hoped that every time Albert looked at the watch his thoughts would fly back to the town where people were watching his work and waiting for a speedy return. Pte. Kerin very sincerely, expressed his thanks for the watch, to the members of the F.F. C. F. for their parcel and to all the speakers and others for their good wishes. Mr. Hawker gave the usual invitation to Pte. Kerin to come around to the club room. A final rendition of Auld Lang Syne concluded the meeting.
Albert left for overseas in November and was soon sailing for Java whilst Don headed for Tobruk. By February ’42 Albert battalion were ordered to make a stand in Java with the force being named ‘Blackforce’. Despite fierce fighting over two days, Dutch forces surrendered and the Blackforce were ordered to follow suit. It was not until much later that the fate of those men were revealed. Most prisoners were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. Of the prisoners from the 2/3rd 139 died while in captivity.
By May 1942 worrying reports were received by Ellen and Ethnee that 22-year-old Albert was reported missing in Java but no other details were made public. Two months later Ellen received news that Don was wounded in Egypt. Don quickly cabled to reassure her that he ‘was doing well’. Two months later, the news again arrived that Don had been wounded for the second time. He wrote from hospital soon after, explaining he had ‘recovered from his wounds and was re-joining his Battalion.’ This was not quite accurate as a further cable was received late in November ‘stating that her eldest son, Pte. Don Kerin, who was recently reported wounded, has been placed on the seriously ill list. Brighter news of Don is hoped for.’ He recovered.
Don recovered, but the news about Albert was worrying. Having been reported missing, by June ’43 Ethnee, living in Panitya, received the updated news that he was a prisoner of war and interned in a Java Camp. Two other Burra soldiers, Dennis Harris SX11617 and Bob Lee SX7350 were similarly interned in the same Camp. Both survive the war and were discharged in ’46. Albert’s mother also heard from him via a short postcard from his prison camp in Java, as did Dennis Harris’ family. Both families took this as a sign their sons were alive and well.
Don arrived home on leave for a month in March ’44 with a number of others and was welcomed with a Social and dance to show the boys that Burra people appreciate their efforts in making Australia safe. Soon after however, distressing news came from the International Red Cross and confirmed by Tokio that Albert, who was known to be missing, then a Prisoner of War in Java was ‘now reported missing believed deceased on or after 20th June. 1944. Pte. Kerin enlisted with the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion in July. 1940 and saw service in the Middle East and Syria. He was taken prisoner in Java. Before his enlistment he lived at Burra. He was the second son of Mrs. E T. Kemble.’ He was 24 years old and had been a POW for three years since the fall of Java.
That horrific news about Albert was followed by a further update that Don had, for the third time, been wounded in action in Tarakan with the 9th Division.
It was not until much later that distressing details about Albert’s death emerged. He was listed on the Japanese owned Tamahoka Maru ship as a ‘passenger’. Some less complimentary descriptions of the ship called it a hell ship. It sailed on the 20th June with 772 Prisoners of War on board, 258 being Australians and the remainder being British, Dutch and American, plus Japanese soldiers. Four days later the vessel was torpedoed by the United States Submarine Tang and was described as sinking in less than two minutes. 72 Australians survived but a total of 560 prisoners died. They were not searched for until the following morning.
Albert’s name and those of 24,000 others who served but have no known grave, are remembered at the Kranji War Cemetery. Many of those from Albert’s Battalion died during the construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway. Others were with Albert, being transported as slave labour to other destinations. Albert’s name is recorded on Column 138 under the list of 27 names of those who served with the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion.
His family and in-laws continued to remember him in the ensuing years.
Advertiser Friday 22 June 1945, KERIN. —In loving memory ot our beloved son and brother, Albert William, who lost his life on a P.O.W boat on June 22. 1944. Resting where no shadows fall. inserted by his loving mother, stepfather, sisters Jean and Doreen brothers Don (AIF.). George and Ross.
Burra Record Tuesday 25 June 1946, KERIN — In loving memory of our dear son and brother Private Albert William Kerin, who died a Prisoner of War in Java, June 1944. May the sunshine he missed on life's highway, Be found in God's garden of rest. —Always remembered by his loving mother, stepfather, brothers and sisters. KERIN. Pte. A. W.— In revered and loving memory of our dear son-in law. Bert, who died whilst POW — Ever affectionately remembered by H. and N. Hewish. Panitya, Vic.
Burra Record Tuesday 17 June 1947, KERIN (PTE A. W.) — Our dear son in law Bert. — Ever affectionately and reverently remembered by H. and N. Hewitt. Panitya. Victoria.
Burra Record Tuesday 22 June 1948, IN MEMORIAM. KERIN—Loving memories of our loved son and brother Albert, Lost his life as a P.O.W on June 22, 1944. Sleeping where no shadows fall — Always remembered by his mother, Mrs E. Kemble, dad, sisters and brothers. KERIN— Pte. A. W. He will always be the dearly remembered son-in-law of H. and N. Hewitt, Panitya, Vic.
Advertiser Wednesday 22 June 1949, KERIN. —In loving memory of our dear brother Alby, died while a P.O.W, June 22, 1944: A treasured memory we will always keep. —Ever remembered by his sisters Jean and Doreen and brother Don. KERIN In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Pte. Albert Kerin. died a P.O.W, June 22. 1944. Resting after weariness. —Lovingly remembered by his mother, Mrs. E. Kemble, dad, brothers and sisters.
June 1950, KERIN—In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Albert, who lost his life, a P.O.W, in Japanese hands on June 22nd, 1944. In perfect peace he awaits us all. —Always remembered by his loving mother, Mrs E. Kemble, stepfather, sisters and brothers. KERIN, PTE. A. W.—Our dear son-in-law and brother-in-law, who awaits us on the other side. —Ever affectionately remembered by H. & N. Hewitt, and Bill and Kath, Dower. KERIN. —Cherished memories of our beloved son and brother, Pte. A. W. Kerin (Alby), who died June 22, 1944, while a P.O.W. of Japan. Too dearly loved to be forgotten. —Inserted by his mother, father, sisters and brothers. KERIN.—In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Albert, who lost his life a P.O.W. in Japanese hands, June 22, 1944. In perfect peace he awaits us all. —Always remembered by his loving mother (Mrs. E. Kemble), stepfather, sisters and brothers, Burra.
June 1951, KERIN —In fondest memory of our dear son and brother, Albert, who lost his life a P.O.W. in Japanese hands June 22nd, 1944. —Lovingly remembered always by his mother, dad, sisters and brothers. KERIN, Pte —Our dear son-in-law, Bert. —Ever remembered by H. & N. Hewitt and brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Kath Dower. KERIN. — In fondest memory of our dear son and brother Albert, who lost his life a P.O.W. in Japanese hands. June 22. 1944.— Always lovingly remembered by his loving mother (Mrs. E. Kemble), dad, sisters and brothers. KERIN. — In fond and loving memory of our dear brother Alby. who died while a P.O.W. Japan. June 22. 1944. Down the road of memory, our thoughts go back today. Always remembered by his sister Jean and brother-in-law Ben.
June 1952, KERIN, Pte. A. W. — Our dear Bert who will always be the dearly remembered son-in-law of H. and N. Hewitt and brother-in-law of Bill and Kath. Dower. KERIN.— Treasured memories of our beloved brother and brother-in-law Albert, died while P.O.W. Japan. June 22. 1944. Though absent you are ever near, still loved, still missed and ever dear. — Fondly remembered by Jean and Ben.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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