Norman Anderton's story

Norman joined the army in Sydney in 1940 at the age of 19, and served in the 8th Division Signals.

Norman was sent to Malaya in February 1941. On 8 December 1941, Japanese forces invaded Malaya. During this time, Norman received a shrapnel wound in his neck and was taken to the Alexandria British Army Hospital in Singapore, where he was operated on and the piece of shrapnel was removed.

During his recovery, Singapore fell to the Japanese. Norman became a prisoner of war (POW) in Changi. After being there a short period, Norman was sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway, where he stayed until 1944.

Thousands of Australian and allied POWs and Asian labourers worked on the railway, which ran from Bampong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat in Burma. More than 2600 Australians died working on the railway, leading to the saying that, ‘one man died for each sleeper'.

Norman's strongest memory of his fellow service men and women was mateship. He recalled, ‘We had a saying that no man died alone. No matter what the circumstances, there was always someone to hold a mate's hand, or sit with him during his last moments'.

Norman was returned to Changi in 1944 and became part of ‘X' party, working at Bukit Panjang, Singapore, digging tunnels into the hills, allegedly for storage purposes. When they were liberated, Norman discovered the tunnels were intended to be graves for the POWs.

After returning to Australia in late November 1945, Norman received treatment as an outpatient, to recover from his ordeal. He was discharged from the army in December 1945.

Norman returned to Singapore several times after the war, on one occasion visiting the hospital where he had the shrapnel removed.


Last updated: 2 November 2020

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Norman Anderton's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 June 2021, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/veterans-stories/norman-andertons-story
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