William James Stevens (Jim) Tchan

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William James Stevens (Jim) Tchan
Tchan William James Stevens.jpg
Jim & Val's 1945 Wedding photo
Personal Information
Date of Birth 12 Feb 1922
Place of Birth Kelmscott, Western Australia
Death 16 Jun 1989, aged 67
Place of Death Woy Woy, New South Wales
Age at Enlistment 18 years, 11 months
Description 5'10" (1.78m) tall ; ; dark complexion ; brown eyes ; dark brown hair
Religion Church of England
Address Albany road, Bedfordale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Father , William Mathew Tchan
Military Information
Reg Number F3311
Date of Enlistment 27 Jan 1941
Rank Able Bodied Seaman
Ships Served On
Ship Name HMAS Perth
Tour Dates 12 Aug 1941 ‒ 1 Mar 1942
Post War Details
Fate POW Sunda Strait, Java, 1942
Returned to Australia
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

War Service

Enlisted as an Ordinary Seaman in the Naval Reserve at HMAS Leeuwin, Fremantle. On 30 Mar 1941 he was transferred to HMAS Cerberus in Victoria to complete his training until 12 Aug 1941 when he was posted to HMAS Perth, a modified Leander class light cruiser. When Jim joined HMAS Perth she was engaged in convoy escort duties around the Australian coast until at the request of the US she was sent to what is now Indonesia. On 31 January 1942 Perth sailed from Sydney, reaching Fremantle on 10 February and on 15 February, relieved HMAS Adelaide as ocean escort for the convoy of four empty oil tankers and two cargo vessels (designated Convoy MS4) on a mission to claim as much oil from the Netherlands East Indies as possible before the Japanese invaded. With the fall of Singapore the convoy was recalled with the exception of HMAS Perth and SS Jacob.

Having escorted a convoy south to a point 700 nautical miles from Fremantle, HMAS Perth returned to Tanjong Priok, arriving there during an air attack on 24 Feb 1942. The next day HMAS Perth and four British naval vessels sailed for Surabaya to join a larger US fleet. Having received reports that a Japanese invasion force comprising eight cruisers, twelve destroyers and thirty transports were heading for Surabaya, the Joint US fleet sailed to meet them. HMAS Perth and the US Houston were the only allied ships to survive the engagement that followed, known as the Battle of the Java Sea. Returning to Tanjong Priok to refuel and rearm, they then sailed for Tjilatjap via the Sunda Strait.

Led to believe that there were no Japanese ships in the area, HMAS Perth sighted a Japanese destroyer and engaged her. Almost immediately numerous Japanese ships surrounded the two allied ships an a lengthy battle ensued. With ammunition running out, HMAS Perth attempted to force her way free but was hit by four torpedoes and received further shell fire. HMAS Perth sank 25 minutes after midnight on 1 Mar 1942. 353 men were killed, and 4 more died after being rescued. Of the 324 survivors, 106 died as POWs, and 218, including Jim were repatriated after the war.

Held by the Japanese on Java (Djawa) Camp, he was still there as of 1 November 1944. Jim's records tell us nothing of his time as a POW or how he returned to Australia, but that he arrived in Australia on 21 Sep 1945, and was discharged at HMAS Rushcutter in Sydney on 12 Sep 1946 after short periods in a number of naval bases around Australia. From 19 Sep 1946 Jim was granted a pension of 50/- per fortnight resulting from a Medical Board on 2 Sep 1946 that found he had arthritis.

Post War

Married Valerie Winifred Earl at St Jude's Church Randwick, NSW.

Electoral Roll entries: 1949 at 10 Swan street, Newcastle, manager; 1954 at 40 Grafton street, Woollhara, manager; 1958 at 76 Hill street, Gosford, garage proprietor; 1980 at 7 Waratah Ave Woy Woy, New South Wales, oil agent.


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