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In Memory of David William (Digger) Barrett

Photo of David and BrianDavid Barrett was born in February 1922 and died on July 22, 2012. He was a Prisoner of War of the Japanese for three and a half years but lead a glorious life, enjoying each and every day—even those as a POW. These were black days of course but it was there that he learned to look upon each new day as another opportunity—to steal more food, to help a fellow prisoner or to take surreptitious revenge on their captors.

David never forgot this and towards the end of his life he mustered all his energy to make his actions of each day count towards the betterment of his fellow Ex-POWs or their widows as he fought for reparations. They got nothing from the Japanese, despite help from sections of the Japanese population and the United Nations, but were finally rewarded in some measure in 2001 through the Australian Government.

His last ambition was to write his life’s story. I was privileged to help him in this effort and David had his book, Digger’s Story—Surviving the Japanese POW camps was just the beginning, published and in his hand just a few days before he passed away.

David will be remembered for his enthusiasm and determination to live life to the fullest as well as his inclination to say exactly what was on his mind—regardless of the company.

Farewell dear friend.

Brian K Robertson


carol matheny
# carol matheny 2012-12-29 13:01
My husband (since deceased) and I met Digger on an Alaskan cruise several years ago and we all became good friends. We have corresponded ever since. I was saddened when I got the news of David's death. He sent me an autographed copy of his book which I cherish. I am noew living in a retirement village and I've passed Digger's book around for my neighbors to read.
Before my husband died, we had planned on taking a trip to Australia. when David found out, he wrote and invited us to be his guest and the use of his car. He was quite a gentleman and I miss our e-mail chats.

Carol Mastheny
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Brian Robertson
# Brian Robertson 2013-01-13 15:01
Hi Carol
Thank you for your comment about David. He was quite a character and I thoroughly enjoyed his company for the 4 years it took us to write the book. I am sorry I missed your comments when you posted them. I should have got back to you then. I hope were able to see the latest two interviews (4 and 5) that are now on the site.
Brian Robertson.
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Peter Taylor
# Peter Taylor 2013-07-04 10:09
I look forward to reading your book, seen at the 'Books From Our Backyard' launch. My English uncle, Don Sheppard, was a POW - Changi, the Railway march, working out of boats and lifting logs like a human crane to build the Bridge, Nagasaki Coal mine - underground when the bomb went off, which saved him. Rendered sterile probably by being driven out through the nuclear fallout. Dozens of Aussie mates (nearly shipped to Australia in error at the end of the War). Many stories as an officer, including breaking up a fight between hungry men over a piece of orange peel thrown by a guard. Cruelty, yes - but also a Japanese soldier who probably risked his own life and gave him a fish he'd caught.
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Brian Robertson
# Brian Robertson 2013-07-05 11:01
Thanks for these comments Peter. I hope you enjoy the book. Your uncle seems to have had a really hard time. I am sure it was hard for all prisoners but you will find a few laughs in this story also.
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Ray Wooster
# Ray Wooster 2013-11-14 14:15
I’ve just stumbled upon the story during my family research and now realise that my late uncle and David would have experienced much together,(digge rs in arms)

NX47892 Pte Lionel Victor (Vic) Kearns AAMC 10 Aust Gen Hosp born Carrington NSW 21 Jan 1920 was like many captured with the fall of Singapore. Vic spent the remainder of his services as a POW, was in Changi from February 42 until August 43 and then sent with "L" Force to the railway in Thailand
If only I had have found this site earlier and had the chance to chat with David.

RIP diggers!

Ray Wooster, ex ARA , RAAMC
Woolgoolga NSW
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Carolan Dodd
# Carolan Dodd 2014-11-06 10:02
I mourn the loss of a very dear friend. Poor Digger waiting all those years to publish his story and leaving this world just weeks before its launch. I am the Secretary of the 2/9th Field Ambulance, Digger's Unit. Our Association still meets and discusses the stories of our wonderful Unit. At lunch next week I will show the interviews of Brian and Digger to one of two veterans remaining and to the families of those who have passed on. Digger, your contribution to standing by the motto of the 2/9th Field Ambulance is treasured. "The Show Goes On".
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Sally Woodman
# Sally Woodman 2015-08-10 20:40
Carolan. I have been looking for details of the Association. I wasn't sure if it still existed. I would love to be part of it, or at least get any updates. I would love to meet the two remaining gentleman.
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Sally Woodman
# Sally Woodman 2015-04-06 23:20
Digger's story touched my heart. My late relative, Alf Woodman who was killed just prior to the fall of Singapore, would have shared much of the same with Digger.
I am sorry to have missed the opportunity to meet David.
What courage these men had.
Lest We Forget.
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