Clyde William Lewis
- Born: 17 Nov 1915
- Marriage (1): Elizabeth Driffield Houison on 25 Mar 1950
Clyde and his brother Wally both enlisted in the Australian Military Forces together on the 8th June 1940 at the Martin Place Recruiting Centre in Sydney. He was about 24 1/2 years old, a Storeman Clerk by occupation. He was 5' 7" tall with a medium complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. He recorded his religion as Methodist and his father as his next of kin. He was single and living with his parents when he signed up.
He was given the Service No. NX50448 and initially assigned to the Redbank Reinforcement Depot Engineers (as was Wally). Clyde and Wally then served together in the the 2/20 Battallion of the 22nd Infantry Brigade. The experiences of this unit during the war in the defence of Malaya and Singapore are detailed in Wally's entry so I wont repeat them here.
Within a month of arriving at the camp Clyde was promoted to Acting Corporal, but he reverted to Private when he was assigned to his brother's Unit on the 31st July 1940. Perhaps they had asked to be assigned to the same Unit. Training continued at Wallgrove and Ingleburn bases and both men were granted Pre-embarkation Leave between the 19th December and the 28th December 1940. They no doubt headed home for the last family Christmas they would enjoy together as a complete family unit.
By the 18th February 1941 the 2/20th was disembarking the Queen Mary in Singapore. Clyde secured a rapid succession of promotions in the following months; full Corporal on the 14th February (while on board the ship); Sergeant on the 20th August 1941; and ultimately Lieutenant on the 12th December 1941.
On the day after he was promoted to Lieutenant he was assigned to "Q Branch" in the HQ of the AIF in Malaya. By the 28th January, however, he was reassigned to the 2/19th Battallion. The 2/19th had suffered horrendous losses in the preceding week after being outflanked by the Japanese and making a desperate attempt to rejoin the main body of troops retreating towards Singapore, fighting their way through numerous Japanese defensive positions. They were forced to leave their injured behind - they were subsequently massacred by the Japanese.
Clyde's reassignment to the 2/19th from HQ was a part of a significant bolstering of the depleted unit - some 650 reinforcements were sent to the 2/19th which by now comprised only 271 men. The replenished unit then joined the exodus of troops across the causeway into Singpaore on the 31st January 1942 where they joined the other units preparing for the defence of Singapore. His unit was situated very close to that of his brother Wally (the 2/20th) and their experiences as they tried to repel the invading Japanese horde were very similar.
After the surrender of Singapore on the evening of 15th February 1942 Clyde was imprisoned in the Changi POW camp.
On the 19th April 1943 Clyde was one of the 7,000 POWs (comprising 3,600 Australians and 3.400 British) who were selected by the Japanese for the so-called "F-Force". The F-Force was sent from Changi to work in Northern Thailand on the notorious Burma-Thailand Railway. About half of these men died in atrocious conditions within 8 months and many more suffered terrible illnesses and sickness from which they would never completely recover. Clyde was one of the fortunate ones who made it through, but he did suffer with a whole range of serious illnesses during his ordeal with F Force.
The railway was completed on 17 October 1943, and Clyde was moved south to the area of Kanburi on the 23rd November and subsequently back to Singapore on the 16th December 1943. Of the 7000 men who had left Changi in April, only 3800 remained alive. Clyde was one of the fortunate ones. When they arrived back in Changi their comrades who had stayed behind turned out to welcome them back. Emaciated themselves from their time in Changi, they were totally shocked by the men they saw before them. "In the trucks sat slowly moving skeletons emaciated almost beyond belief, many with dreadful sores and peeling skin, some unable to move and others so light that a Changi prisoner had no difficulty lifting them. This was the doleful return of 'F' Force - a living nightmare of degradation." (Source: Recollection of F Force by David Griffin NX69235, Heroes of F Force, Don Wall, 1993 p140) The men in Changi had been saving odd morsels of food all year to augment their Christmas dinner. At the dreadful sight of the men of F Force they broke out their valuable hoard and gave it all to them in a gesture of incredible comradeship and simple human kindness that the men of F force must have thought they'd never see again whilst away. "Their joy was our reward: it ws the best Christmas dinner any of us had never had." (ibid p 141)
Clyde would spend almost another two years in Changi before being liberated on the 5th September 1945, after the war ended. His Service Record records that he was "Recovered from Japanese and PW Camp" on that date. By the 18th September he was aboard the HMAT Duntroon on his way home, disembarking in Sydney on the 7th October. It must have been a wonderful feeling to at last be home.
He was discharged from the army on the 20th November 1945.
Lt Clyde Lewis was the recipient of the 1939/45 Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal, and the Australia Service Medal.
His three brothers all served in WW2 also.
Noted events in his life were:
• He had a residence in 1943 in 17 Hammers Road, Northmead, New South Wales, Australia.
• He had a residence in 1949 in 1 William St, Northmead, New South Wales, Australia.
• He resided at the time of hisfather's death on 20 Feb 1954 in 1 William St, Parramatta North, New South Wales, Australia.
• He had a residence on 25 Feb 1957 in 1 William St, Parramatta North, New South Wales, Australia.
• He resided at the time of his mother's death on 8 Sep 1973 in 42 Emert St, Wentworthville, , New South Wales, Australia.
• He worked as a Press Hand ca. 1943.
• He worked as a Soldier in 1949.
Clyde married Elizabeth Driffield Houison on 25 Mar 1950. (Elizabeth Driffield Houison was born on 8 May 1916.)