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June 16, 2021

Wal Williams awarded OAM.

Wal (Walter) Williams, resident of RSL LifeCare’s ANZAC Village in Narrabeen, has been awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for Services to the Veteran Community as part of the 2021 Queen Birthday Honours List.

Announcing the list, the Governor-General said: “On behalf of all Australians, congratulations to all recipients. Each of these individuals are unique and their story deserves to be shared widely and celebrated.” As a much loved and respected resident, we are absolutely delighted to see Walter honoured in this way.

Channel 7 News interviewed Wal on the Queens Birthday to hear his truly amazing story of service and survival.

Wal’s early years. 

Now 98 years of age, Wal grew up in Northbridge, Sydney and attributes competitive swimming as a child to saving his life as he headed off to the front line.

Despite his father’s disapproval, a WW1 Gallipoli veteran himself, at 17 Wal gained his permission to join the Permanent Army – posted to RMC Duntroon. While transferring into the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was not straight forward, young Wal was determined, and found his way into the 8th Infantry Battalion.

Sent to the front lines.

Wal trained with the AIF in Dubbo, sailing on the Aquatania into Singapore Harbour in December 1941. Pearl Harbour had just been attacked, and Wal was among reinforcements sent to Malaya to the 2/19th Battalion.

Taken prisoner during the fall of Singapore, Wal was interned at Changi Prison before being sent to work on the Burma Railway.

Still a Japanese prisoner of war (POW), Wal was then transported by rail into a camp in Thailand, and sent to Saigon to load rice onto ships. He and his mates were then shipped to Japan aboard the Rakuyo Maru on a working party, only to be torpedoed enroute by an American submarine.

Surviving the sinking of the ship, Wal and his two mates were picked up by a Japanese whaling boat, and eventually found themselves in a labour camp in Kawasaki.

There they were forced to work 10 days on with one day off, with a diet of boiled rice to sustain them. Sadly, both of his mates died of pneumonia within 24 hours of each other, just before the end of the war.

A miraculous story of survival.

Wal miraculously survived the US air raids that obliterated both residential and industrial areas in Japan, before the country surrendered. He arrived home to Sydney’s Rose Bay on his 23rd birthday. “It was like walking into a different world,” he recalls.

In the years following the war, Wal has been heavily involved in the Pittwater Sub-brand of the RSL, holding various positions including President from 1992 to 2002. He is now a life member of RSL Australia, NSW.

📷 Image of Wal Williams from The Telegraph.

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