Arthur William Thorn, 39th Battalion Australian Infantry

by Valerie Ong

My story is about my husbands uncle, Arthur William Thorn, N227929, 39th Battalion Australian Infantry whom I found on tracing my family tree. He was very difficult to trace as he was born of a first marriage then emigrated from England to New South Wales in 1937. In 1942 he was sent to Papua New Guinea and fought on the Sanananda road at Gona and was killed there on 6th December 1942. He was buried where he lay but later moved to a cemetery in Gona. At some point ( I have no date ) he was moved to the Bomana Cemetery in Port Moresby. He has no medals but nevertheless we are all very proud of him.

I do have a copy of the very last letter he sent to his sister in May 1942. He tells her how hot it is and didnt think he would now be able to stand an English winter ! He writes... " As you know I am in this for the duration and am overseas in New Guinea. We have had quite a few raids since we landed, about 40 odd but you need not worry as I have not been near any. I have of course seen the Japs fly over several times and come in contact with our R.A.A.F. The Airforce is doing a great job smashing the Jap bases and getting several of their planes. The damage the Japs have done is not worth mentioning. The boys here are a good lot and we have fun together whenever it is possible. One night we managed to get a piano and then had a bit of a sing song, some boys gave a solo but not me, I was lost for words. We now have a gramophone and have got all the latest hits including the Hotcha song and several other swing tunes.The Americans are in Australia and if I know them they will be after our girls "... Just a small section to give an idea of the sort of life he was leading.

One happy event helped me alot to track Arthur down. My Sister did voluntary service overseas in the 1970's and was due to go to Africa but as Idi Amin was on the rampage there it was thought unsafe so at the last moment she was sent to Papua New Guinea . I think it was meant to be. She was able to find Arthurs headstone and took 3 photographs which she gave to my mother-in -law, Arthurs sister, She had never seen where he was buried and carried them with her until the day she died.

Out of the blue 4 years ago my sister e-mailed me copies of those 3 photographs which of course had Arthurs army number on them so with that and the Help of the battalion veterans magazine, The Good Guts and an incredible Lady Wendy Gadd a curator from the Australian War Memorial I was able to trace his personal history. Wendy filled in many gaps and even put a poppy by Arthurs name on the wall and had photographs taken, she also sent me some Australian poppy seeds which now bloom every year in my garden in memory of Arthur. Such a shame we have never been able to find a photograph of him.

We will remember him.