People - William Francis Ladner
Born: 4 September 1900 St. Arnaud, Victoria, Australia. Died: 1 July 1942.
Son of Francis John and Eliza Christina Ladner, of Ballarat, Victoria.
William Francis Ladner was born in St. Arnaud Victoria on the 4th of September 1900, the only surviving son of Francis John and Eliza Ladner. The family moved to Ballarat a couple of years later and it was there that he grew up and received his schooling.
I have only limited memories about my uncle who we called 'Cigger'. This came about from his habit of calling a smoke a cigger. From what I have been able to learn over the years he was the type of person to take on any sort of job, mainly labouring but there was one occasion, probably around 1939, when he worked with my father at the Ballarat Post office.
He joined the Army in Geelong on the 7th of June 1940, originally attached to 2/8 Field Company Engineers but not long afterwards was transferred to the 2/22 Infantry Battalion at Puckapunyal. The Battalion spent some time at Bonegilla and was eventually shipped out of Sydney on the H.M.T. Katoomba as part of Lark Force. They arrived in Rabaul on my mother and sister's birthday, the 28th of March 1941. I have always had the impression that he was a bit of a larrikin and reading through some of the misdemeanours entered on his service documents gives me no cause to change my mind. The last time I saw him was when he arrived home on leave just prior to Christmas 1940. This I remember clearly because he was there for my 8th birthday party and he had bought home two clips of .303 cartridge cases which he gave me, then later played cricket with us at a local oval.
Because the 2/22 Battalion was raised in Victoria the survivors of the Rabaul occupation were sent to the Victoria Park army camp in Ballarat, for re-assignment. The camp was not all that far from where we were living and my father made a point of looking for anyone wearing the Battalion's colour patch to see if they knew my uncle, and a few of them did. On several occasions dad would come home with one or two of my uncle's acquaintances, unannounced and after a couple of beers at the local pub, then there would be a scramble to rearrange the food on the plates of the evening meal to accommodate a couple of extra mouths. During these visits some of the returnees signed and made comments in the back of an old photograph album that we had.
When we had not had any news for some years, only that he was believed to be a POW, I think that the family believed that he was dead, but had not given up hope until the day the telegram arrived.
© John Ahern 2003
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