Robert (Bert) Clement
Australian Imperial Forces
AIF in Timor
by Dennis Johnstone
At the time of his enlistment in the Australian Army, Robert CLEMENT lived at 14 Ring Street, Blackburn, Victoria. He enlisted for service at the Melbourne Town Hall, Victoria on 10th June 1940, and his initial assignment was to Engineers Reinforcements.
On 2nd July 1940, Robert was transferred to No. 3 Training Depot, Australian Army Medical Corps at Bendigo. On 21st September 1940, he was again transferred, this time to 2/22 Training Battalion, Bendigo although his service records states that he was transferred from 4 Training Battlaion Bendigo - not 3 Training Depot.
On 7th February 1941, Robert transferred from 2/22 ITB to 6 Training Battalion, Darley and detached to Albury Showgrounds on 10th March 1941. He was then posted to 2/40 Battalion on 21st March 1941 and marched in on 1th May 1941 in Darwin.
Robert was admitted to the Regimental Aid Post, Katherine on 21th April 1941, but no reason was given.
On 17th November 1941, he was granted 23 days leave from 18th November to 11th December 1941. He marched in 7 Military District, Darwin on 19th December 1941 - returning from leave eight days late. No action appears to have been taken.
On 3rd January 1942, Robert was charged in Darwin with being absent without leave from 1030 hours until 1400 hours on 3rd January (AA15(1)). He was fined 20 shillings. He was also charged with failing to appear at a place of parade appointed by his CO (AA15(2)) and admonished on 6th January 1942.
Robert embarked for overseas service on 17th January 1942 and disembarked at Koepang, Timor on 22nd January 1942. He went missing on 22nd February 1942 and was taken prisoner by the Japanese on 13th June 1942.
Robert was confirmed as a prisoner of war in Java on 11th August 1943. The entry on his service record for 11th August 1943 notes: “Prisoner of War Java. Prev. ref. POW now rep. POW interned Java Camp.”
The information was received from AIF Timor. According to the casualty list held by the Australian War Museum, the report came from the International Red Cross which had located him in Java. A belated entry from 2 Echelon, dated 19th June 1943 but appearing after the 11th August entry, records that Robert CLEMENT was “Now interned Java Camp”.
Nothing further is recorded until 19th September 1945, when Robert was reported: “safe in Allied hands Sumatra rie (sic) from Japanese 5.9.45”. He deplaned Singapore ex Sumatra and admitted to 2/14 Australian General Hospital on 16th September 1945.
Robert was evacuated to 2/1 Hospital Ship Manunda on 5th October 1945. (HMAHS Manunda, commissioned on 22nd July 1940, made four trips to the Middle East between November 1940 and September 1941 before being sent to Darwin in 1941. It was damaged by a Japanese air raid on Darwin harbour in February 1942).
Robert disembarked Sydney on 27th October 1945, where he was taken on holding strength “NSW L of C Area RR and GDD”. He was admitted to 113(C) MH suffering malnutrition on the same day. Robert was discharged two days later to NSW L of C Area RR & GDD.
On 15th December 1945, he was admitted to 101 Australian Convalescent Depot and on 16th December admitted to 101 ACD with multiple cysts.
Robert was then evacuated to 101 Australian Convalescent Depot on 2nd February 1946, from where he was admitted to 2/11 Australian General Hospital. He was discharged on 25th February 1946 to RR & GDD.
Robert was discharged from the AMF on 26th February 1946 on account of demobilization (sic). He served 692 days in Australia and 1380 days outside, most of the latter were sent as a POW of the Japanese.
At the time of his discharge, Robert CLEMENT was described as 29 years, five months with grey eyes and brown hair. No height listed, complexion, marks or scars are listed. His home address was given as Lithgow.
In later years, Robert CLEMENT lived with his sister “Mamie” Powyer (Mary CLEMENT) and her husband Horrie. He never really recovered from his experiences and rarely spoke of them, and never in any detail.