Hospital visits led to romance

Name: Bert  Mould
Date: 1914-1918
Unit: 18th Battalion, 1st AIF
Location: France

Bert Mould and Olive West were constant companions as children growing up in the small country New South Wales town of Adaminaby.

When World War I started, Bert Mould went off to fight. By then, Olive had become engaged to Rupert Neill, another local boy, and he also enlisted, being sent to France.

Rupert wrote regularly to Olive who kept his letters tied up with blue ribbon in her wardrobe and she was heartbroken when she learned the news of his death in France.

After the war, when word came through that Bert Mould had been badly wounded and was in the Australian General Hospital at Randwick, she went to visit him. He had been wounded slightly while fighting at Bullecourt but much more seriously later at Villers-Brettonneux on 15 April 1918. He had spent a year in hospital at Rouen in France before being shipped home to Australia.

Olive visited Bert regularly over the next four years and romance developed. She was present when the decision was made to amputate one of his legs.

They were married for 54 years before Olive died. Bert lasted just seven more months. But the couple produced two daughters, Fay and her sister Joan.

Their cousin, Billy West, was blond, sun tanned and a life saver at Manly beach. He delighted in carrying Bert in his arms and throwing him into the surf, much to Bert's delight. Billy's father Clem had also fought in World War I at the age of 17.

When World War II broke out, it was Billy's turn to serve his country during fighting in New Guinea. But the events that led to Billy's death came straight from a horror movie script.

Serving with the 2/22nd Battalion AIF in Rabaul, the men in his unit, faced by unsurmountable odds, gave themselves up to missionaries when the Japanese navy arrived in force. Unfortunately, the missionaries in turn handed them straight over to the Japanese.

What followed was one of the worst atrocities carried out by the Japanese in New Guinea. The men were all tied to trees at Toll Plantation and then systematically shot and bayoneted to death. All but one died.

The survivor, Billy Cook, received nine bayonet gashes in his body, including one that went through his ear and out through his mouth.

Left for dead, Billy Cook managed to drag his mutilated body through the jungle, all the time driving himself with the thought that he had been spared to tell the rest of the world what had happened at Toll Plantation.

It is not known just how he survived his ordeal but Billy managed to tell his story. Sadly, he later was badly injured in a rail accident and lost both his legs. But this did not prevent him taking part each year in the Anzac Day march in Melbourne in his wheel chair.

Billy West's father Clem, went to see Billy Cook after learning of his son's death. Bill Cook told him exactly what happened. He described how the men reacted to their impending death, some cursing the Japanese, others praying out loud. But no mercy was shown.

A member of the first Australian unit on the scene after the massacre, Private Rex Barrett, said they had cut the bodies down, removed their identity discs and buried the remains. When they had next encountered the enemy there had been a certain amount of satisfaction in mowing them down.

The material for this article was supplied by Fay Yard of New South Wales, daughter of Bert and Olive Mould

Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Hospital visits led to romance, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020,
Was this page helpful?