Bill Schmitt

‘I was just skin and bone.’

27 June 2020

Today we remember Bill Schmitt, weighing just 42 kilos when the war ended, he described the living conditions that so many of the prisoners of war (POWs) endured.

Bill Schmitt — I was just skin and bone.

Bill Schmitt audio file (MP4 24.02 MB)

Bill Schmitt audio script

75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War

Audio actuality

“Fellow Citizens, the War is over” — (The Hon J B Chifley, Prime Minister of Australia)

On the 75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War, Australia Remembers Bill Schmitt, who served in Syria, before coming back to the Pacific region to fight the Japanese.

Weighing just 42 kilos when War ended, he described the living hell that so many of the POWs endured.

Bill Schmitt

I'd been ill with malaria, and then I had a dose of dysentery on top of it. I was just skin and bone.

Anyway, I was well enough or, according to the Japs, I was well enough to go back out to work. I got dreadfully sunburnt and I was out for about three days, and was unable to lift the shovels of dirt that the Japs thought I should be doing. Anyway, this Japanese guard grabbed the spade and filled it up and said, "This is what I want you to do. Fill the spade right up. Don't just shovel a half a spade." I don't know whether he thought I was smiling at him or laughed, I don't know what I did, but he suddenly hit me and bashed me.

It was fatal to get down on the ground. If you could, you stood up, but unfortunately I wasn't strong enough to do that. Of course they kick you then and when he eventually finished with me, I didn't know anything. I was out to it. That was probably the worst experience I had.

Saturday, August 15 marks the 75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War. Let’s pay our respects to that amazing generation of Australians.

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