Private William Vincent Abbott VX36790
Date of Birth: 17 July 1912
The soldier in the photo proudly displayed on my grandmother’s side-board when I was growing up, was my Uncle Bill. I never met him; he died well before I was born. However I always felt that I knew him because of the way my Nan and Mum spoke of him – with warmth and love.
Bill was born in Isisford in central Queensland. His parents brought him down to Geelong, Victoria, some time before his brother was born, two years later. He was the eldest of five children and they grew up in Queenscliff, Victoria.
My mum, Anne, was the youngest. Their father died a couple of months before she was born, which meant that Bill was just 10 years old.
Bill left school when he was about 14 and took a job delivering milk. He bought Mum a celluloid doll with his first pay and I still have it today. When he was around twenty, Bill and one of his younger brothers went up north, to work on their uncle’s sheep station near Gunnedah in NSW.
Bill was working on a farm on Phillip Island, Victoria, when he enlisted in the army and subsequently became a member of the 2/22 Batt. Unfortunately we don’t have any of his letters, but I remember Mum telling me that he once wrote expressing a wish that his brother, Sam, who was over in the Middle East, was there in Rabaul with him. Presumably Bill thought that his brother would have been safer in Rabaul. Ironically, Sam returned from the war, but Bill, sadly went down on the Montevideo Maru.
My grandmother apparently received news three weeks in a row: 1st. Bill had been taken a POW. 2nd. Sam was injured in the Middle East; 3rd. Bill was ‘missing in action’.
“We would remember too, the brave, who of their dearest treasure gave”. How did they cope?
Like so many others, my dear Nan went to her grave, never knowing what really happened to her beloved eldest son.
My mum passed away last September, knowing her brother’s fate and also knowing that much has been done, and is continuing to be done, to publicly acknowledge and remember Bill, or “poor old Joe”, as Mum sometimes called him. (I don’t know how he came to have the nickname, Joe.)
All credit must be given to the committee, past and present, of the Rabaul and MvM Society for their tireless and relentless work to finally gain that acknowledgement and recognition of the tragic events of 1942 in and around the New Guinea islands.
Click on a photo for a larger version
Bill Abbott and his mother
Bill Abbott and his sisters
Bill Abbott on the right