HILL, John

Service Number: WX8756
Enlisted: 23 October 1940, Claremont, Western Australia
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/4th Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Fremantle, Western Australia, 1 January 1912
Home Town: Fremantle, Fremantle, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Died of Illness (POW of Japan), Malaya, 11 March 1943, aged 31 years
Cemetery: Kranji War Cemetery
Grave Ref 2 C 20
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

23 Oct 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN WX8756, Claremont, Western Australia
8 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
11 Mar 1943: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Lance Corporal, SN WX8756, 2nd/4th Machine Gun Battalion, Prisoners of War

The Fate of Young Fishermen Johnny

This information is taken from the book Wind Tracks On The Water by Harold J. Hill, written by John Hills' brother. I would also like to acknowledge that John Hill is of Indigenous decent from the Noongar Nation in the South West of Western Australia.

Johnny joined the army on the 15th June 1940. He had a medical examination in Norsemen, but was not on duty until the 23rd of October 1940, when he reported to the recruit reception depot at Claremont. Western Australia.
Also in October that year the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion was being formed, Johnny became a member of 'B' company.

He qualified as a mechanic and motor transport driver, and was made a Lance Corporal. In July 1941 Machine Gunners moved to Woodside in South Australia for further training. They stayed until the 11th October when the battalion entrained at Oak Bank to go to Darwin. Battalion headquarters were at Winellie Camp, a few mile south of Darwin where defense beach positions where soon set established. "B" company was held in reserve doing guard duties at Adelaide River.

On the 30th of December 1941, the Battalion was moved on again. This time they embarked on SS Marilla and HMAS Westralia and sailed on the 31st December to Port Moresby. There they transhipped to the troopship Aquitania and sailed south. They arrived at Sydney on the 8th of January 1942, On the 10th of January 1942 Aquitania sailed from Sydney and arrived at Fremantle on the 15th. No leave was granted but many of the men ignored orders and went ashore anyway, Johnny was one of them.

The Aquitania sailed from Fremantle on the 16th of January and arrived at Sunda Straits in the Dutch East Indies on the 20th. The troops where transhipped to two small Dutch vessles, the SS Van Swoll and the SS Van Der Lin for the rest of their journey to Singapore. They arrive at 19.00hrs on the 24th of January and the battalion moved to the Naval Base Camp. From there they were dispersed to various defensive positions to try to repel imminent Japanese invasion.

On Sunday 8th of Febuary 1942 the invasion began and despite the fierce resistance of the defenders, the numerically superior Japanese quickly made inroads into the allied defenses. By the 15th of February 1942 the unequal fight was over, and the Japanese took control of Singapore.

Johnny who had been driving the bren gun carrier during the battle, was wounded in the head and left arm, but still, he managed to drive his vehicle, with its dead and wounded crew members back to a first aid post. After Singapore fell, Johnny became a prisoner in the Changi prison camp where he slowly recovered from his wounds. The Japanese did not supply the necessary medications to help combat the diseases that were rife among the prisoners and many men died as a result of the neglect.

Johnny died on the 11th of March 1943 and his grave was marked with a cross made by his fellow prisoners. After the war ended his grave was moved to The Kranji Cemetery and the old cross was replaced with a new headstone. At the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion reunion in 1990, Tom Hampton informed me (Harold Hill) that the old cross, from Johnny's original grave has been bought back to Australia. Enclosed in a glass case, it now stands at the introductory gallery of the Canberra War Memorial to represent the men who died as prisoners of the Japanese. Johnny did not return from the war, yet in a way, he did.

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Born 01 Jan 1912 in Fremantle WA to Arthur and Margaret Hill.

John enlisted on 23 Oct 1940 in Claremont Perth WA. He held the rank of Lance Corporal in the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion and died due to illness on 11 Mar 1943 in Malaya. 

He is buried in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore Grave Ref 2 C 20

"...WX8756 Lance Corporal John Hill, B Company, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd AIF. Lance Corporal Hill was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore in 1942-02 and incarcerated in Changi prison camp. He died a prisoner-of-war (POW) in the camp on 1943-03-11..." - SOURCE (