HE DIED AN AUSTRALIAN HERO
If ever I see home again … I want nothing more … than to forget these awful days—swollen bodies, bloated from beriberi, walking skeletons from dysentery, eyesight becoming universally bad, malaria rampant. Surely this cannot last?Stan Arneil, Diary, 1 June 1943, One Man’s War, Sydney, Alternative Publishing, 1980, 99.
My great-uncle Edward (Ted) George STANDING (1904-1944) of Lismore, New South Wales, was one of the many Australian soldiers who never returned to their homes or families.
It is important to remember that men and women who fight are far more than a service number or a statistic. Ted Standing, born in Alstonville NSW on 28 October 1904, was a husband, a father, a son and a brother (of my maternal grandmother). He was also a good mate.
Ted was one of three men from The Channon, NSW who enlisted in Newcastle on 30 August 1940. His good mates Harry Ritchie and Carl Odgers all enlisted the same day in 1940. Ted then trained with the 4th Infantry Training Battalion, in Tamworth, NSW. He was 36 years old, married to Eva Irene EATON and father of four young children.
It is that unit was asked to be a military policeman in the 2/30th Battalion, perhaps because of his height – over 6′ – or perhaps because of the way he apparently established himself with respect with the men. He didn’t accept this position. Instead, NX47591 Pte. Ted Standing was taken on strength into the HWPDU ((Hygiene, Water Purification & Decontamination Unit) of the Battalion Headquarters (BHQ) Company, 2/30 Battalion, AIF.
The 2/30th embarked from Sydney on the converted Dutch ship Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, part of the convey carrying the 27th Brigade, for Singapore, arriving on August 15, 1941.
The battalion then went to Malaya and soon put what it had learnt into practice.
The 2/30th was the first Australian Infantry Battalion to meet the Japanese, at an ambush at Gemencheh Bridge in Malaya on January 14, 1942.
Ted was was wounded on an arm in that conflict with the advancing army. His mate Harry Ritchie said my grandfather yelled to him, “I’ve bloody well been hit.” Luckily it wasn’t a major wound.
After the brilliant ambush at Gemas – the first AIF attack against the Japanese – the 2/30th fought at Ayer Hitam and then in the defence of Singapore Island. However, they could not stop the Japanese.
Ted was part of the unconditional surrender of Allied Forces to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942. Pte. Standing was to spend the rest of his war in the nightmarish Changi Prisoner of War Camp and on the no less horrific Burma Railway.
The Japanese began using the allied soldiers on work parties within a few weeks of the troops becoming Prisoners of War.
.By May, 1942, Ted was a member of a working party at the Mount Pleasant, Caldecott Hill and Thompson Road camps on ‘The Shrine Job’; a project the prisoners worked on for six months before being returned to Selarang Barracks towards the end of 1942. It is highly likely that Ted Standing is in the closest group of men in the photo below – his 2/30 Infantry Battalion..
It was during this time that Ted’s wife Eva received notification that her husband was listed as ‘Missing’. It is almost impossible to imagine the devastating effect this communication would have had on the young wife and mother.
The whole family would have been further shattered when Ted Standing’s father George Henry Standing (my maternal great-grandfather) died on 8 August 1943 – shortly after the notification that his son was missing arrived.
Unbeknown to the men they were about to be sent to build the infamous Thai-Burma Railway.
The Burma-Thailand railway (known also as the Thailand-Burma or Burma–Siam railway) was built in 1942–43 to supply the Japanese forces in Burma, bypassing the sea routes which had become vulnerable following losses in the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway in May and June 1942. Once the railway was completed the Japanese planned to attack the British in India.
Aiming to finish the railway as quickly as possible the Japanese decided to use the more than 60,000 Allied prisoners who had fallen into their hands in early 1942. These included 640 men of the 2/30th Battalion who were sent to Thailand as part of “F” Force, a party of 7000 Australian and British troops .
THE JOURNEY – F FORCE
F Force left Changi for Thailand on 16 April 1943. Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Kappe commanded the Australians. Groups of twenty-seven men, together with all their belongings, were packed inside small steel railway wagons/trucks for the horrific five-day journey. Ted was transported to Bam Pong in Train 5, Truck 18.
In these cramped conditions there was no room for sanitary facilities and no room in which to lie down. The only ventilation was the door in the middle of each wagon.
Twice a day the train stopped for food which consisted of rice and onions boiled in water. Once a day the train halted and with a whistle blast from the guards 600 men leapt from the train to complete their daily toilet arrangements.
After being transported by train to Ban Pong, a village near Bangkok, F Force was then force marched to Nieke, some 180 miles north and then to Lower Songkurai. At the end of May, F Force was distributed among five main camps, with 1,800 Australians at Lower Songkurai, 393 at Upper Songkurai and 700 at Konkoita.
Using primitive tools and human endeavour, they raised embankments, hacked cuttings through rock and built bridges from forest materials. Throughout the construction, extreme, often merciless demands were made on weakened men. They suffered from malnutrition, disease, mistreatment and violence at the hands of their captors.
The POWs spent the next six months working on the railway, until the job was finally completed in October 1943.
Stan Arneil, a fellow soldier in the 2/30th Battalion has recorded an oral history about his experiences on the railway. To hear Stan click HERE
Some 1,438 men of F Force did not return. Private Ted Standing was one of these men.
On 20th November the survivors, most suffering from one or more of the following diseases – malaria, beri beri, dysentery, or tropical ulcers, boarded trains for the return to Changi.
First stop was Kanchanaburi where the men had about a week’s rest to recuperate and reorganise into train groups . By this stage Ted Standing was desperately ill.
Not all survivors were able to return to Changi at that time. Five hundred and fifty desperately ill soldiers and 150 medical staff remained at Kanchanaburi.
Pte.Ted Standing was one of these desperately ill men who were forced to remain. He died there on 7 February, 1944. He was 39 years old. His record states that he
Died of illness whilst P.W. (Beri Beri, Malaria, Dysentry)Service record of Ptr. Edward George Standing, National Archives of Australia
Ted is one of the 6858 casualities who never left Kanchanaburi. He is buried at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery –
Cemetery/memorial Reference: 1. C. 67.
You can download a certificate issued by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission by clicking on the link below..
Ted Standing’s grandson, Gary Crowther recounts
His two mates from The Channon, Harry Richie and Carl Odgers survived as POWS and returned to Australia. They brought back his dog tags and a family photo he carried throughout the war and gave them to my Nana Eva. They also told her about his time in the camp and what happened. I believe this would have been a very sanitised account. My grandmother was very English by nature and very stoic and private. She never shared what she knew.
Ted Standing’s name is recorded on a number of monuments. cenotaphs and honour rolls. This is testament to his bravery and to the ultimate price that he paid for his country’s freedom.
The simple yet beautiful memorial gates below are outside the hall in the village of The Channon in northern New South Wales, Ted’s childhood home, and where he worked as the local butcher. All four of his four children – Kevin, Lorna. Charles and Joy – were born here.
LEST WE FORGET
2/30th Battalion A.I.F. Association,https://www.230battalion.org.au/NominalRoll/WorkParty/NRWPFForce.php?id=1136
ANZAC Portal – https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/resources/stan-arneil
ANZAC Portal – https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/burma-thailand-railway-and-hellfire-pass-1942-1943/locations/remembering-railway
Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U56073
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2017100/kanchanaburi-war-cemetery/
Death Railway Movements, http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/death_rr/movements_1.html Accessed 10 April 2020. records
Paybook photo of Stan Arneil, From the collection of the National Archives of Australia. NAA: B883, NX54846
Saluting Their Service, http://www.niwarmemorial.nlk.nf/SalutingtheirService/Starr,_Walter_Edwin.html
The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat Victoria https://www.powmemorialballarat.com.au/changi-and-the-fall-of-singapore.php
The Story of F Force, https://www.2-26bn.org/fforce.html
Heartbreaking, thank you for sharing.
Under the circumstances of war this is a comprehensive history of events leading up to Ted’s death. It is a snapshot of what was possibly a similar story for many men in war times. The horrors they must have endured!! And the wives, children and families at home had to carry on without them. Such overwhelming sadness.
Thank you Brian. The family are thrilled to read your work. You have paid a wonderful tribute to our grandfather.