LEST WE FORGET
Corporal Keith WHENAN
Service No: 5997
Born: Richmond SA, 9 December 1920
Enlisted in the RAAF: 16 January 1940
Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Java (taken Prisoner of War, Java, March 1942)
Died: Prisoner of War (Illness: Pellagra), Thailand, 7 January 1944, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand
CWGC Additional Information: Son of James Alfred and Blanche Victoria Whenan, of Mile End, South Australia
Roll of Honour: Mile End SA, Adelaide SA
Remembered: Panel 97, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: World War II Honour Roll, National War Memorial of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide
Brother of Aircraftman Class 1 Desmond Whenan (116182)
Corporal Whenan became a Prisoner in the following circumstances.
A total of 120 members of No 1 Squadron had been sent back to Australia. Luck was against those who went to Tjilatjap (Java); on the 5th (March 1942) the port was blasted by enemy bombers and all the ships in the harbour were sunk. There thus remained in Java 160 officers and airmen of the squadron. A plan for their evacuation by flying-boat had been made. In keeping with this plan the party now waited at the rendezvous, a beach on the south coast near Pameungpeuk. As they waited the hours lengthened into days and their anxiety changed into resignation. The flying-boats never came (1). The whole party, including their always resolute commanding officer, Wing Commander Davis (2), became prisoners. As he had led them through the stress of the Malayan, the Sumatran and the Javan campaigns, so now Davis still led them as they submitted to the bitterness of captivity.
(1) The flying boats that never came were those destroyed during the Japanese air raid on Broome WA on 3 March 1942.
(2) Group Captain Reginald Henry Saville Davis OBE (67) was discharged from the RAAF on 29 April 1964.
Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Page 444
Air Vice Marshal Maltby (1) convened a conference of senior officers on 12 March 1942 and an agreement was reached whereby all personnel south of Garoet were to be grouped by nationalities on various plantations and placed in the charge of their own officers. All stragglers were to be rounded up – this included No. 1 Squadron which was ordered to return from the beach site. Wing Commander Davis assembled the members of the squadron and said, “I have no authority to command you to surrender and become prisoners of war, but I am going in and I would like to keep the squadron together”. Following another order, the squadron, led Wing Commander Davis, moved to Garoet, on 21 March, to join Group Captain Noble’s (2) party of several thousands of RAF personnel, as instructed, and proceeded to the village of Wanaradja to become prisoners of war.
(1) Air Vice Marshal Sir Paul Copeland Maltby KCVO KBE CB DSO AFC DL (RAF) (1892-1971) (Air Officer Commanding, West Group)
(2) Group Captain C H Noble OBE (RAF) (19062)
Extract from Hall, E.R. (Eldred Rayner) (O3341) Glory in Chaos, Sembawang Association West Coburg VIC, 1989 – Page 219
Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 166/177/238