Corporal Raymond James BONNETT

Service No: 207782
Born: Temora NSW, 12 February 1918
Enlisted in the RAAF: 3 October 1913
Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Java (taken Prisoner of War, Java, March 1942)
Died: Prisoner of War (Believed drowned), Loss of the Rakuyo Maru, South China Sea, 14 September 1944, Aged 26 Years
Buried: Unrecovered
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Lillian Bonnett; husband of Maisie Florence Bonnett, of Rockdale, New South Wales, Australia
Roll of Honour: Unknown
Remembered: Column 444, Singapore Memorial, Singapore
Remembered: Panel 97, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT
Remembered: Temora and District War Memorial, Temora NSW

A total of 120 members of No 1 Squadron had been sent back to Australia. Luck was against those who went to Tjilatjap (Java); on the 5th (March 1942) the port was blasted by enemy bombers and all the ships in the harbour were sunk. There thus remained in Java 160 officers and airmen of the squadron. A plan for their evacuation by flying-boat had been made. In keeping with this plan the party now waited at the rendezvous, a beach on the south coast near Pameungpeuk. As they waited the hours lengthened into days and their anxiety changed into resignation. The flying-boats never came (1). The whole party, including their always resolute commanding officer, Wing Commander Davis (2), became prisoners. As he had led them through the stress of the Malayan, the Sumatran and the Javan campaigns, so now Davis still led them as they submitted to the bitterness of captivity.

(1) The flying boats that never came were those destroyed during the Japanese air raid on Broome WA on 3 March 1942.
(2) Group Captain Reginald Henry Saville Davis OBE (67) was discharged from the RAAF on 29 April 1964.

Extract from Gillison, D.N. (Douglas Napier) (254475) Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962 – Page 444

Air Vice Marshal Maltby (1) convened a conference of senior officers on 12 March 1942 and an agreement was reached whereby all personnel south of Garoet were to be grouped by nationalities on various plantations and placed in the charge of their own officers. All stragglers were to be rounded up – this included No. 1 Squadron which was ordered to return from the beach site. Wing Commander Davis assembled the members of the squadron and said, “I have no authority to command you to surrender and become prisoners of war, but I am going in and I would like to keep the squadron together”. Following another order, the squadron, led Wing Commander Davis, moved to Garoet, on 21 March, to join Group Captain Noble’s (2) party of several thousands of RAF personnel, as instructed, and proceeded to the village of Wanaradja to become prisoners of war.

(1) Air Vice Marshal Sir Paul Copeland Maltby KCVO KBE CB DSO AFC DL (RAF) (1892-1971) (Air Officer Commanding, West Group)
(2) Group Captain C H Noble OBE (RAF) (19062)

Extract from Hall, E.R. (Eldred Rayner) (O3341) Glory in Chaos, Sembawang Association West Coburg VIC, 1989 – Page 219

The Rakuyo Maru, transporting Australian Prisoners of War from Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) to Japan, was torpedoed by the US submarine USS Sealion in the South China Sea on 12 September 1944. No Prisoners were killed in the attack and the ship was abandoned. The Japanese initially rescued their own personnel and abandoned the prisoners but later conducted a rescue. That evening the USS Pampanito sank the Kachidoki Maru transporting British prisoners. On September 15, the USS Pampanito and the USS Sealion rescued 127 survivors and on September 17 the USS Queenfish and the USS Barb rescued a further 30 survivors.

RAAF members lost with the Rakuyo Maru were:

Aircraftman Class 1 Colin Boyd Begg (18951) (No. 1 Squadron)
Corporal Raymond James Bonnett (207782) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Herbert Burston (25171) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman John Thomas Gill (13091) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Richard Daniell Kendall (19690) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Rupert Watkin McClelland (19190) (No.1 Squadron)
Corporal Albert Charles Meredith (11813) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Edward George Myers (24300) (No.1 Squadron)
Leading Aircraftman Ernest Toe (40613) (No. 9 Squadron)
Warrant Officer Kenneth Ronald Wood (404155) (No.1 Squadron)

RAAF members rescued by Japanese forces:

Flight Sergeant Albert Thomas Finlay McKay (11729) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 13 June 1946
Corporal David Leslie Quick (10199) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 8 January 1946
Squadron Leader (later Group Captain) Noel Thomas Quinn DFC & Bar (622) (O3106) (No. 8 Squadron) Discharged: 16 February 1971

RAAF member rescued by the USS Sealion on 15 September 1944

Sergeant Noel Charles Ephraim Day (35423) (No. 1 Squadron) Discharged: 17 July 1945

There are believed to be 546 Australian casualties from the Rakuyo Mary – 503 Army, 33 RAN and 10 RAAF. 82 Australian service personnel (71 Army, 8 RAN and 3 RAAF) were rescued by Japanese forces and 92 (87 Army, 4 RAN and 1 RAAF) were rescued by US submarines. There were about 2,218 Australian and British prisoners on the Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru – 159 were rescued by US submarines, 656 by Japanese forces, and 1,403 were lost.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veteran’s Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A705, 163/93/468
Register of War Memorials in New South Wales On-Line


Vincent, D. (David) The RAAF Hudson Story Book 1, D. Vincent Highbury SA 5089, 1989
Wall, Donald (NX36620), Heroes at Sea, D Wall, Mona Vale NSW 2103, 1991

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