William Murdoch (Bill) PARKER

PARKER, William Murdoch

Service Number: 20343
Enlisted: 28 November 1940
Last Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Last Unit: No. 11 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: Cabramatta, New South Wales, Australia, 30 October 1922
Home Town: West Ryde, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Apprentice Electrical Mechanic
Died: Prisoner of War , New Britain, Pacific Islands, 4 November 1942, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Kokoda Track Memorial Rose Garden
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World War 2 Service

28 Nov 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, 20343
28 Nov 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, 20343, No. 11 Squadron (RAAF)
4 May 1942: Imprisoned Air War SW Pacific 1941-45, Shot down with Crew of A24-18
4 Nov 1942: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, 20343, No. 11 Squadron (RAAF)
4 Nov 1942: Imprisoned Air War SW Pacific 1941-45, Executed by the Japanese

A friend's Family Still Remembers Him

The following is part of an address made in 2019 to the Tea Tree Gully Legacy Widows Club by Legatee Ross Smith, a son of G Alan Smith who was Bill's best mate.

Bill did not have to enlist. He was in the restricted trade of a 2nd year electrical apprentice, involved in naval work. He was released by his employer on representations by his father. Besides gaining his wireless qualification he had also completed the basic fitter’s course and that for air gunner.
His school results at intermediate level were all A’s and B’s and his course assessments with the R.A.A.F were good. They also refer to Bill as being “Good type, quiet manner, genuine, willing, well spoken”.
Here are a couple of photos of Bill, that appeared in newspaper articles during the war.
The first shows Bill, on the right, inside the blister, with the tender alongside.
While the next picture shows Bill with an Aldiss lamp used for signalling.

I now come to the final flight of PBY Catalina A24-18, seen here pre delivery in the United States.

On May 4, 1942 the aircraft Bill was flying in, PBY A24-18, was lost during a reconnaissance mission from Bowen in Queensland, (which is located between Mackay and Townsville). The mission was to cover the area between Tulagi and the Shortland Islands. At 1217 hours on that day, a message was received from the Catalina stating that the plane was under attack by Japanese aircraft while over the Solomon Sea, at a point west of New Georgia and south of Bougainville. No further messages were received from the plane.
At my Dad’s base they heard the radio call and my Dad and the others couldn’t understand why the Americans, who had aircraft in the area, didn’t go to their aid.
Cpl. Alfred H. Lanagan, aged 28 the first engineer, of Old Burren, New South Wales, died the same day. The other eight crewmen were captured by the Japanese and survived from May until November 4, 1942, when they were murdered at Matupi Village, in New Britain, reportedly being used for bayonet practice by the Japanese.
Those crewmen were:
Flying Officer Allan L. Norman, aged 26 pilot, of Hawthorn, Victoria;
Flying Officer Frederick A.D. Diercks, 28 co-pilot, of Plympton, South Australia;
Pilot Officer Francis O. Anderson, 25 Navigator, of Cremorne, New South Wales;
Cpl. Alfred R. Hocking, 31 flight engineer, of Prahran, Victoria;
LAC Ernest J. McDonald, 22 armourer, of East Malvern, Victoria;
LAC William M. Parker, 19 first radio operator, of West Ryde, New South Wales;
Cpl. Vernon H. Hardwick, 21 second radio operator, of Bencubbin, Western Australia; and
LAC. John J. Burns, 21 rigger, of Preston, Victoria.
They are all buried in section “H, C”, at the Bita Paka War Cemetery, near Kokopo, New Britain.
My Dad had been due to be part of the 9 man crew on that mission. He did not go as he had cut his thumb loading bombs that day, so was medically unfit to fly. He would not have been able to operate the trigger on the machine gun, in one of the blisters on the side of the aircraft.
These two newspaper articles detail the initial recovery of the bodies after the war and the role of A24-18 and A24-20 in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
My Dad had lost contact with Bill’s parents soon after the war and though he had travelled to various places around the world on holidays with my Mum, he had not been able to go back to New Guinea, as he considered it too expensive, difficult and dangerous to get around.

When my Dad died in 1993 it was a terrible blow to me. I lost not only my father, but my best mate. As arranged with him, I got his medals and souvenirs of the war, including the picture of Bill.
One of the things I do when an issue is troubling me, is to write poetry and after my Mum and Dad’s deaths, I wrote the following, originally as a poem and then adjusted to form a song.

Up Ardmona Way
We’d seen the grandparents up Ardmona way,
Just me and my Dad, we went up for the day.
We were cruising back home in the old XY,
Having a quiet smoke as the scenery passed by.

So we smoked..... and we talked ....
And the silence was filled with our thoughts
Wheels turned around as we covered some ground
in that white XY Ford

We got on to talking ‘bout that crazy war,
My future coming down to a numbered ball.
Well the draft was gone now, we had voted it out,
Didn’t have to see if my number came out.

I told my father; that I wouldn’t have fought,
As his son I hope, that I hadn’t fallen short.
Go fight them they say, but you can’t make a fuss
We can’t bomb Hanoi, no we can’t be that tough.

So we smoked..... and we talked ....
And the silence was filled with our thoughts
Wheels turned around as we covered some ground
in that white XY Ford

My Dad opened up then, which wasn’t his way,
Said how pleased he was that at home I did stay.
In his war he enjoyed some good times in the air,
At other times he said, I was just shit scared!

Now Dad didn’t swear, or use language like that,
You can imagine how I was taken aback.
For him to speak to me in that plain way,
Established a bond that remains to this day.

My Dad spoke often of his war after that,
We both looked forward to those special chats.
Bill’s photo appeared on the family room wall,
A handsome young man buried on a strange shore.

So we sat…. and we talked ....
And the silence was filled with our thoughts
A closeness we found as we broke new ground
With our father - son talks

My Dad is long gone now, I do miss him so.
I think often of Bill, and others unknown.
Who go off to fight, their stories not to be told,
Some get to return, others never grow old.

Now to all those brave men, and the women too,
Who join the armed forces, I salute you.
To your families and friends, may I say a last word?
This country is safe, because they choose to serve.

So we sat…. and we talked ....
And the silence was filled with our thoughts
In March 2015, I put together the following, which I suppose is my personal memorial to Dad and Bill and the mission of A24-18 and sent it off to my family.

In the centre section, I included another poem I wrote which is as follows:
I have read a lot of stories lately,
of those who went to war.
Of young lives changed forever,
by what they did and saw.
I look at your pictures,
and wonder what you thought.
As you stood and posed so formally,
before you went and fought.
I am here because you came back,
and glad we often talked.
But I still cannot imagine,
what you really felt and thought.
I wish I had known Bill,
but he was a casualty of the war.
I look at his picture,
and feel your pain once more.
I honour your sacrifice,
and of all those that served.
While others take new photos,
as they prepare to go to war.

After sending this to my family, I had a number of emails and phone calls with my sister Pam, who lives in Queensland, who was greatly affected by it. I mentioned that Dad had not been able to go to New Guinea to pay his respects to Bill, and the other crew members, and that got my sister working.
A phone call to the Australian War Memorial, led to a contact at the Canberra RSL, who contacted the Port Moresby Sub Branch. With the aid of a donation from my sister, two brothers, my daughter Merryn and my wife and I, we were able to have a wreath laying and a few words spoken at Bill’s grave, the next month on ANZAC Day, by a representative of the RSL Sub Branch.
We were also able to leave my sheet detailing the mission of A24-18 and the names of the other crew members.
Seventy-three years after Bill’s death, our family was able to honour his sacrifice.

It almost broke my heart when I saw the photos the RSL sent to us, and particularly when I read the additional inscription Bill’s parents had arranged for his head stone.

It simply reads - “Dearly loved and sadly missed by loving Mam and Dad” It was the only thing they could do for their boy, lying so far away.
I subsequently put a notice in the Sydney daily paper, seeking any of Bill’s relatives so that we could share our tribute, but had no reply.
In May that year, I made a trip to Canberra to the War Memorial and I placed a poppy next to Bill’s name on the Wall of Remembrance.
I also spent several wonderful days, going through the War Memorial and reading all the information on the exhibits, (something my wife and daughter dread when I go anywhere near a museum). At the same time, I was personally able to say thank you to the contacts at the Canberra RSL.
If you haven’t been to Canberra, or not recently, and you can travel, I would recommend a visit.

In April this year, on a trip to Melbourne to visit family and friends, Robyn, Merryn and I stopped at Ballarat, to visit the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, at Lake Wendouree.

This memorial lists the names of more than 35,000 men and women of the armed forces and the merchant navy, that were POWs in the military conflicts that involved Australia. About 8,600 died or were killed when they were prisoners of war and more than 4000 have no known grave.

The lists of names on the memorial are arranged in alphabetical order, grouped by conflict, commencing with the Boer War on the left through to the Korean War and are etched into the 130 metre long black granite wall. There were no Australia POWs in the Vietnam War or subsequent conflicts.

My poems, the visits and particularly the service at Bill’s grave have been a great comfort to me. They would have greatly pleased my father and my mother, I have helped to provide a modest service to Bill’s parents by remembering him, I have remembered one of the few who gave so much, so that I can enjoy the freedoms I have today

Bill's photo is now on my study wall and his name is often spoken of by my family.

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