The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (WX8756) Lance Corporal John Hill, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2016.2.266
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 22 September 2016
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (WX8756) Lance Corporal John Hill, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

WX8756 Lance Corporal John Hill, 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd AIF
DOD 11 March 1943.
Photograph: P01814.001

Story delivered 22 September 2016

Today we pay tribute to Lance Corporal John Hill, who died on active service during the Second World War.

A member of the Wardandi Nation, John Hill was born on 1 January 1912 in Fremantle, Western Australia, to Arthur and Margaret Hill. The eldest of nine children, John was followed by Roy, Dorothy, Harold, Edith, Margaret, Isobel, Marjorie, and Arthur. Growing up in a weatherboard cottage named “Snake Gully” in the small seaside town of Busselton, John and his brothers spent what spare time they could going fishing with their father.

In the years prior to the Second World War, John and Roy had saved their money to purchase a Chevrolet truck, and found work contracting and wheat-carting in the wheat belt area of rural Western Australia.

At the outbreak of war John, Roy, and Harold volunteered to serve their nation. John Hill enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force on 23 October 1940. Harold enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy, and Roy enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force.

John Hill was posted to the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. A support unit for the 8th Division, it was raised in Western Australia and commenced training in Northam military camp, east of Perth. Hill was assigned to B Company, and over the following months attended a number of training schools from which he qualified as a mechanic and transport driver. He was soon promoted to lance corporal, and assigned as a driver of a Bren gun carrier. In July 1941 the battalion moved to Adelaide and, in October, to Darwin.

Following Japan’s entry into the war in December 1941, the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion was sent to join units of the 8th Division then stationed in Malaya. However, the Japanese attack on New Britain forced the convoy carrying the battalion to travel the long way around Australia, via Sydney and Fremantle. It did not reach Singapore until the end of January.

By the time the battalion arrived the Japanese had captured Malaya and were preparing to invade the island of Singapore. During the ensuing battle for Singapore, Lance Corporal Hill was wounded in the arm and head. Despite this, he still managed to drive his Bren gun carrier, with its dead and wounded crew members, back to an aid post.

After weeks of fierce fighting, Singapore fell to the Japanese on the 15th of February 1942, and Hill became one of 45,000 Australian and British troops captured in the surrender. He was sent to Selarang Barracks in the large prisoner-of-war camp at Changi, where he slowly recovered from his wounds. Later, he was moved from Changi to the camp at Adam Park, from where he was employed on work parties around Singapore.

In late February 1943 Hill contracted dysentery. He was sent to the hospital in Changi but died from his illness on 11 March. He was buried the following day in the AIF Cemetery in Changi.

Harold and Roy Hill both survived the war. After enlisting in the RAN, Harold had joined the crew of HMAS Perth. He, too, became a prisoner of the Japanese following Perth’s sinking, and narrowly missed meeting up with John when he passed through the Changi camp in October 1942; John had left the Changi camp on a work party only a few days earlier. In fact, it is likely John was working on the wharves when Harold’s transport ship docked in Singapore. Harold was put to work on the Burma–Thailand Railway, and later wrote a memoir of his experiences.

Roy Hill, who had enlisted in the RAAF, became a pilot and an officer in Bomber Command. Serving in Britain, he flew Lancaster bombers for No. 106 and No. 189 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force.

Following the war’s end John Hill’s remains were re-interred in the British and Commonwealth war cemetery at Kranji, Singapore. The original cross that had marked his grave in Changi was collected by his mates and brought back to Australia. It was later donated to the Australian War Memorial, and is currently displayed in the new exhibition, For Country: for Nation. The epitaph on his grave in Singapore, chosen by his family, bears the inscription: “His duty nobly done. Ever remembered.”

Lance Corporal John Hill was one of thousands of Indigenous Australians to serve during the Second World War. In honour of the great oral tradition of Indigenous Australians, we tell his story. His name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 others who died while serving in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lance Corporal John Hill, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

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