Brothers in Arms – Part Two: George

George Gosson. Photo: Australian War Memorial.

 

GEORGE Gosson was born in Macksville 1902 and was too young to join brother Frank in the War.

He was working in forestry in Gympie when the Second World War broke out.

In June 1940 at the age of 37, George signed up for service.

Three days later he was in camp in Brisbane and was assigned to the 2/15 Battalion.

The following month they sailed for Darwin onboard the Zealandia, a vessel later sunk during the Japanese bombing.

While stationed there the 2/15 built roads and defences.

On Christmas Day 1940 they embarked on the Queen Mary destined for Egypt.

Arriving February 1941, they were sent to a camp in Palestine.

A month later, George was transferred to the Headquarters Guard Battalion.

The Guard Battalion was comprised of older men who were used as sentries for camps and prisoners.

As it was built up of older men it had humorous nicknames like “the olds and the bolds” and “the ruthless and the toothless”.

George was part of 10 Platoon and went with the headquarters of the 7th Division around the Middle East.

On 7 December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Prime Minister Curtin made the decision to withdraw his divisions to help protect Australia.

George was going home.

He boarded the HMT Orcades along with a mixture of other troops.

They were sailing for the Pacific when it was announced that they would not be going home after all.

The Dutch were in trouble in the East Indies, and as the Orcades was the fastest, it would now be sailing for Java.

On 19 February 1942 the men, without most of their equipment, disembarked.

Two weeks later, the motley group under Brigadier Blackburn had taken up defensive positions near Leuwilang Bridge.

Within days they had met a superior Japanese force and began a withdrawal.

They were hoping to make the coast where they could be picked up and taken home.

On 12 March, still some distance from the coast, they were ordered to surrender.

They were rounded up by the Japanese and became prisoners.

They were kept in camps in Java and remained here for a year.

But the Japanese needed labour to help build their Burma-Thailand Railway and George’s group were sent.

Travelling in overcrowded train carriages and steamers, they eventually arrived in Thailand.

They were to endure unimaginable horrors and treatment during this time. George, like many others, became sick and was sent to a makeshift hospital at Chungkai.

With no medical supplies or adequate shelter, George succumbed to his illness and died on 15 June.

He was one of the 2,815 Australians to lose their lives during the building of the railway.

For more information, interested readers can contact Mark at the Wairarapa Archive at [email protected].

 

By Mark PACEY, Wairarapa Archive

 

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