Norman Lenard (Bob) Dunnell

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Norman Lenard (Bob) Dunnell
Dunnell Norman Lenard.jpg
Personal Information
Date of Birth 11 Apr 1921
Place of Birth Subiaco, Western Australia
Death 20 Jun 2013, aged 92
Place of Death Rockingham, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 19 years, 7 months
Description 5'10" (1.78m) tall ; ; fair complexion ; hazel eyes ; black hair
Occupation Bread carter
Religion Church of England
Address Kelmscott, Western Australia
Next of Kin Father , Mr Harry Dunnell
Military Information
Reg Number WX17595 & W9049
Date of Enlistment 10 Nov 1941
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 13 Platoon, D Company, 2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 15 Jan 1942 ‒ 26 Jan 1942
Transport Details HMT Aquitania Fremantle to Singapore
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 13 Sep 1945 ‒ 20 Sep 1945
Transport Details USS Haven (AH-12) Nagasaki to Okinawa
Journey Dates 22 Sep 1945
Transport Details US Military aircraft Okinawa to Manila
Journey Dates 14 Oct 1945 ‒ 18 Oct 1945
Transport Details Consolidated PBY Catalina Manila to Darwin via Morotai
Post War Details
Fate POW Singapore 1942
Returned to Australia
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
Defence Medal
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

War Service

Enlisted in the CMF (Militia) on 6 Mar 1941 and allocated to the 16th Australian Infantry Battalion (Cameron Highlanders Regiment). On 10 Nov 1941 he enlisted in the AIF, and on 28 Nov 1941 Bob was allocated to the 2/32nd Battalion. Training was received from the 3rd and 4th Training Battalions before pre-embarkation leave was granted from 10 to 16 Dec 1941. On his return, Bob was transferred to the 2/4th Australian Machine Gun Battalion. Bob was one of the many reinforcements who had travelled by train from Northam Training Camp to join the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion on the 15th January 1942 when the HMT Aquitania dropped anchor in Gage Roads. He had undergone about 2 months training! Aquitania reached the Sunda Strait mid-morning on 21 January and the men were then transferred to a number of smaller, faster Dutch ships to run the gauntlet of Japanese bombers that were attacking Allied shipping in the area. In concert with several Australian, British and Indian escorts and two Dutch Catalina flying boats, the convoy entered Keppel Harbour on 25 January 1942, disembarking in Singapore on 26 Jan 1942.

Given his lack of preparation, no doubt Bob was one of the very lucky reinforcements to survive the battle. Taken on strength by the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion in Fremantle on 16 Jan 1942, he had been posted to 13 Platoon, D Company. The Japanese attack came on the night of 8/9 February. Although the battalion was able to cause heavy casualties amongst the invaders they were gradually pushed back from their positions on the north west coast and late on the 15th the British Commander Percival ordered the surender.

Captured, Bob spent time in the Selarang Camp at Changi, the River Valey Road camp, and the Selarang Barracks at Changi before being allocated to 'D' Force Thailand, V Battalion, with POW Number 3/7638. They left Singapore for Thailand by train on 17 Mar 1943. This Battalion was to endure one of highest death rates of all Australian work parties on the Burma Railway. He was at Kinsaiyok Main camp (170.2K), Kuii Kui Yae camp (185.6k), and Brankassi Prang Kasi camp (208K) in Thailand before Bob, along with many other POWs was sent to labour camps in Japan. In his case as a member of the Aramis Party.

On arrival he was sent to Fukuoka Sub camp No. 17-B at Omuta Miike, Japan from where he was eventually repatriated. He had first been identified as a POW by the Red Cross in Thailand, and until then his wife and family were uncertain if he had survived the battle for Singapore. Bob was granted proficiency Pay on 15 Aug 1945.

Bob's journey home began in Nagasaki when he embarked on USS Haven (AH-12) for Okinawa. On 22 Sep 1945 he was flown to Manila by a US military aircraft, and then on 14 Oct 1945 from Manila to Darwin via Morotai on Consolidated PBY Catalina, arriving in Darwin on 18 Oct 1945. The last stage, Darwin to Perth, was again by aircraft, this time Consolidated PBY Catalina, serial No. A24-377.

On arrival back in Australia, Norm was admitted to the 110th Australian Base Hospital. He was AWOL from 10:00am on 27 Dec 1945 until 3:00pm on 1 Jan 1946. Declared to still be on Active Service, on 12 Jan 1946 he was fined £3 with the automatic forfeiture of 6 days pay. Two days later further penalty was imposed via the loss of his proficiency pay. On 19 Feb 1946 whilst at the 109th Australian Convalescent Depot he was again AWOL, this time from 1:15pm on 19 Feb until 8:15am the next day. This time he was fined 10/- and forfeited a days pay. Finally on 29 Mar 1946 he was discharged.

Post War

During 1947 Bob married Valma Leuwin Ashworth in Perth. Valma died on 31 Jan 2012 in Rockingham, aged 87.

Electoral Roll entries: 1949 at Albany road, Kelmscott, trainee; 1954 at 33 Monash avenue, South Perth, carpenter; 1958 - 1980 at Lot 2 Burton road, Greenmount, carpenter.


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