Tough Stoker moved to tears

Name: Bill Dowse
Date: 1945
Unit: RAN HMAS Pirie
Location: Tokyo Bay

Stokers were the tough men of the Navy during World War II. They had to work long hours in terrible conditions to keep the ships moving.

Bill Dowse was a stoker serving on HMAS Pirie when World War II ended. His ship was in Tokyo Bay when the first group of Allied prisoners of war were heading back home on a British aircraft carrier, HMS Speaker. Bill was so moved by the experience that he sat down and wrote to his Mother to describe the event.

Gee Mum,

You may think I'm a bit of a baby but I just saw a sight that brought tears to my eyes and a Hell of a lump in my throat," he wrote. "The first batch of prisoners of war just passed by our ship and everybody was up on deck to cheer them.

"As they passed by us they were all up on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, Speaker, standing to attention and we gave them three cheers and then sang Waltzing Matilda and they in turn gave us three cheers back.

"It was no doubt the best sight any man in any of the forces could ever hope to see. I would rather have been on our ship and see them go past than sit beside General McArthur at the signing of the peace."

Bill and his shipmates had been upset earlier in the day by a broadcast which referred to the Australian ships in Tokyo Bay.

"This morning we heard a broadcast from "All" the Australian ships in Tokyo Harbour but no mention was made of us or of five other ships that were in before the ones that broadcasted - and are the boys screaming," he wrote.

"One of the blokes just drew up a piece for one of the papers and he never pulled any punches so you may read about us in one of the papers
soon."

But all was forgotten later in the day when seeing the prisoners of war put everything else out of their minds.


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Tough Stoker moved to tears, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/tough-stoker-moved-tears
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