Poppy Park – William Andrew Swan WX11665

The current newsletter from our local branch of Legacy contained a reminder of the poppies of POPPY PARK, a commemoration with an individual poppy for each of the 102,805 fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses on the honour roll at the Australian War Memorial. Each poppy has the name of one of the fallen on the stem.

One of the poppies I bought last year has the name of William Andrew Swan who served in World War II and died on 1 February 1945. I needed to find more about this soldier.

WA Swan was born on 28 May 1902 in Sunderland, England. His locality on enlistment was Victoria Park, a south eastern suburb of Perth, Western Australia. He enlisted on 9 April 1941 at Claremont in WA. His next of kin was Myrtle Irene Swan.

William Swan was a Corporal in the 2/10 Ordnance Workshop

The role of Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps is to provide the Army with all of its needs such as weaponry, ammunition, communications equipment’s, combat supplies, petroleum products, all types of vehicles, aircraft, small craft, parachutes and aerial cargo equipment and aerial maintenance, medical and dental supplies, clothing, field equipment and· field accommodation.

William Swan was destined to become a Prisoner of the Japanese. Most of the Australians (14,972) were captured in Singapore; other principal Australian prisoner-of-war groups were captured in Java (2,736), Timor (1,137), Ambon (1,075), and New Britain (1,049).

Initially held on Singapore, he was part of ‘B’ Force POWs and left Changi on 8 July 1942. From his date of death in Borneo, from illness on 1 February 1945, it appears that Corporal Swan who died aged 42 may have been on  the first of the three Sandakan death marches.

The Australian War Memorial has this information about Corporal Swan:

  1. Paybook photograph, taken on enlistment, of WX11665 Corporal William Andrew Swan, 2/10th Ordnance Workshop, Australian Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers. He was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of B Force. The 1494 POW’s that made up B Force, were transported from Changi on 7 July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru, arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18 July 1942. Corporal Swan, aged 42, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 1 February 1945. He was the son of Henry and Margaret Swan, and the husband of Myrtle Irene Swan, of Victoria Park, WA. He is commemorated on the Labuan Memorial Panel 28. (Photograph copied from AWM232, items 4 and 5. Personal information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Database.)

William Andrew Swan

The first phase of marches across wide marshland, dense jungle, and then up the eastern slope of Mount Kinabalu occurred between January and March 1945. The Japanese had selected 470 prisoners who were thought to be fit enough to carry baggage and supplies for the accompanying Japanese battalions relocating to the western coast. In several groups the POWs, all of whom were either malnourished or suffering serious illness, started the journey originally under the intention of reaching Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu). Although the route took nine days, they were given enough rations for only four days. As on the Bataan Death March, any POWs who were not fit enough or collapsed from exhaustion were either killed or left to die en route. Upon reaching Ranau, the survivors were halted and ordered to construct a temporary camp. As one historian later commented: “Those who survived… were herded into insanitary and crowded huts to then die from dysentery. By 26 June, only five Australians and one British soldier were still alive.”


Poppies are available from http://www.poppypark.org.au. they are $10 each or you can buy packs of 4, 10 or 100. So far 50,000 poppies have been sold and $100,00 has been donated to Legacy and the Returned Services League Sub branch.

Poppy Park hopes that on future ANZAC days all fallen service men and women can be remembered by name somewhere in the country.


Laurel News, Mackay Legacy Inc. July 2016, Number 68,