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Newcastle Herald link to WWII jail

by September 27, 2016 General
War Story: Australian soldiers in Changi POW camp in Singapore in World War II.

War Story: Australian soldiers in Changi POW camp in Singapore in World War II.

Lightning Ridge’s Kayle Hobden was reading his pop’s war diary when he came across an interesting entry.

His pop, Keith Hobden, had written more than 40 names in the diary. They were believed to be blokes with him in the Changi prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore in World War II.

One of the names was “Wansey or Warsey”, accompanied by this: “CO N.C. Morning Herald Newcastle”.

“This person must have worked for the Newcastle Morning Herald,” Kayle said.

Kayle wondered if anyone could shed any light on who this person might be. He also recorded the bloke’s dog-tag number as “S.M.N.X 46239”.

Kayle said seven of the blokes on the list had crosses next to their names, which he believed meant they died in the camp. He wondered if their bodies were returned to Australia.

The Changi camp was opened after the fall of Singapore on February 15, 1942.

Keith’s diary included these comments: “I’m today in a concentration camp at Changi barricade, Singapore Island.”

He wrote that they were in a two-storey high building with about 3000 men.

“We are sleeping shoulder to shoulder.”

Those who could not sleep in the building did so outside.

The diary said Keith and other prisoners “had to sign a document on our honour that we would not attempt to escape”.

His commanding officer ordered them to sign.

“If we had not done this half of us would have been dead in three more days,” Keith wrote.

The diary documented that Japanese forces shot Keith in the chest, before he entered the camp. The bullet passed through his right lung and diaphragm and lodged in his liver, where it remained until he died years later.

Keith, who was in the army, was in hospital for about 10 weeks for treatment for this wound.

“The lung is still very weak,” he noted.

Kayle believed his pop spent three years in the camp, before it was liberated at the war’s end in September 1945.

Changi was considered less brutal than other Japanese prisoner-of-war camps, particularly the Thai-Burma railway.

Many years later, Keith asked his family to ensure the bullet be removed from his liver when he died.

As well as his diary, the family has the bullet to remember his war experience.

We asked Kayle if he had any pictures of his pop during the war.

“I don’t think they took any selfies in Changi,” Kayle joked.

Nevertheless, photos were taken of Allied prisoners in Changi (see main picture).

A Kind Heart

Topics wrote yesterday about a random act of kindness from John Kennedy Jr, who plays for Newcastle North Stars ice hockey team.

Tyson Crawley, a 30-year-old carpenter from Albury, had posted on Facebook that a stranger paid his $110 bill at a petrol station.

Tyson had forgotten his bank card. He went to use another card, but forgot its pin.

Tyson asked for the stranger’s number, so he could pay it back.

The stranger wrote something on a receipt, folded it and handed it to Tyson.

Before the pair parted ways, Tyson took a selfie of himself with John.

Tyson Crawley and John Kennedy Jr. John showed Tyson a random act of kindness.

Tyson Crawley and John Kennedy Jr. John showed Tyson a random act of kindness.

Soon after, Tyson opened the receipt. The stranger had signed his name simply as “John”, while adding “pass it on”.

The stranger was John Kennedy Jr. John told Topics: “Yes I’m that guy”.

We asked John what made him pay Tyson’s bill, which covered two iced coffees and petrol.

“I would say a life-changing event that helped me stop thinking of myself and what I don’t have, and being thankful for what I have and how I can help others,” John said.

“Initially I was going to pay for two iced coffees, but committed to helping out anyway I could, so that was the $110 bill.”

He’s a good’un, that John.

Mainy Magic

This from Deb Richards on Facebook: “I’ll say this only once (or maybe a few times). Any V8 Supercar race in Newcastle has to include Hunter Street. It has traditionally been Newie’s Conrod Straight. If Hunna Street’s out, we’re out. Mainy Magic!”