Cecil Leonard Caldicott paid the ultimate price for his country. He served in both World Wars and suffered greatly. Here’s his story.
Cecil Leonard Caldicott was born on 26th May 1899 at Mount Bryan East, South Australia to John Oswald Caldicott (otherwise known as Jack) and Susan Sophia Dunstan.
He was the great-grandson of Alfred Jolly Caldicott who, along with his family emigrated to Australia in 1853, aged 51. You can see his family tree here.
Cecil Leonard was one of the ten children of John Oswald and Susan Sophia. His brothers and sisters were – Susan Sophia Williams Caldicott, John Oswald Caldicott Jnr, Eva Isabel Caldicott, Albert Caldicott, Doris Irene Caldicott, Sydney Erle Caldicott, Ivy Rita May Caldicott, Oswald Lance Caldicott and John Keith Monash Caldicott.
When WWI broke out he was obviously keen to sign up. He enlisted as soon as he could on 28 August 1916 when he was aged just 17 and needed his father’s permission on his enlistment forms.
Keen to enlist as he was, Cecil’s WWI service was to be cut short when almost exactly two years later on 26th August 1918, in France, he suffered from the effects of gas, just three months before the war was to end. He was invalided out of France and convalesced for the rest of the war in England.
This must have been very hard for his parents with their son injured and so far from home at such a young age. Here is a letter they wrote to the Red Cross enquiring about his condition which was personally responded to.
It was said in his obituary that he suffered at times from the effects of his gas injuries in subsequent years.
However, happier times were ahead for Cecil. On 7 October 1926 he married Olive Kathleen Haeusler at the Methodist Church in Solomontown.
The couple had four children together. Cecil worked for many years as a carpenter, sawyer and wood machinist at timber merchants, Bowden and Son. Later though he moved to work at Smelters.
Even though he had been gassed in WWI he decided to again enlist when WWII broke out. Sadly, he was to become noteworthy within the camp for the most tragic reasons. By this time, he had been promoted from private to acting sergeant and became part of a mission sent to Indonesia.
Arthur Blackburn, was a brigadier who was in command of a small Australian force known as “Black Force” which landed in Java, Indonesia. They were to assist the Dutch against the rapid Japanese advance. However, after just three weeks Black Force surrendered on 9 March 1942.
Cecil, along with his fellow soldiers, including Brigadier Blackburn, were taken as prisoners of war and were held captive at Batavia POW Camp which is in modern Jakarta.
On 29 April 1942, Cecil became the first to die in the camp. He had become ill and died from diptheria. A funeral for him was held the next day and his widow was notified in Australia. A fellow soldier, Private Davis recorded the funeral in his diary noting that –
Nip commandant was also present and (stranger than fiction) brought a wreath.
For his service in WW2 Cecil’s family received the following medals to remember him by –