Gunner Mervyn Howard Wockner was born at Toowoomba in Queensland on 12th December 1914 to Walter Wockner and Emily Clara Elizabeth Wockner (nee Lange). His early primary education was at the Meringandan Primary School and after the family moved to Toowoomba he attended the East State School. He then attended the Toowoomba Grammar School for his secondary education. He voluntarily enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Toowoomba on 2nd July 1941 after swearing the statutory oath that he would serve for the duration of the war and an additional 12 months. He was allotted the regimental number of QX18357. At the time of his enlistment he was 26 years and 6 months of age, unmarried, and employed as a Shop Assistant at Chinchilla. He stated that he was of the Church of England religion. He gave his next-of-kin as his father, Mr Walter Wockner residing at 134 McKenzie Street in Toowoomba. His physical description on enlistment was that he had brown hair and grey eyes.
Gunner Mervyn Wockner joined the Recruit Camp at the Exhibition Grounds in Brisbane on 2nd July 1941. He joined the 11th Training Battalion at Redbank on 4th July 1941. He was transferred to the 41st Field Training Battery at Redbank on 17th July 1941 and in November 1941, he was based at the Grovely Camp in Brisbane. On 7th January 1942 he was transferred to New South Wales to join the 2nd/10th Field Regiment Reinforcements.
On 10th January 1942 he embarked by ship from Sydney, New South Wales and travelled via Batavia to Singapore where he disembarked on 24th January 1942. He joined the 2nd/15th Field Regiment in Malaya on 3rd February 1942. He would have been involved in action against the Imperial Japanese forces during the defence and down the Malayan Peninsula to Singapore Island. He became a prisoner-of-war after the capitulation of the allied forces on Singapore Island on 15th February 1942. Whilst a prisoner-of-war at Changi, he was transferred to the 2/10th Field Regiment on 28th January 1943. On 16th March 1943, he was sent as a member of “D” Force to work on the Thailand/Burma Death Railway. “D” Force consisted of some 5000 British and Australian prisoners sent to Ban Pong in Thailand to work on the construction and maintenance of the Thailand/Burma railway. They were transported by trucks to Konyu and later to Hintok where they remained for the duration of the construction, working on a particular difficult section involving cuttings and embankments.
Gunner Mervyn Wockner died from avitaminosis at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Thailand on 30th October 1943. At the time of his death Mervyn Wockner was 28 years of age. He was interred in the Chungkai Cemetery and his body was subsequently exhumed and reburied in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand. The distance between the Chungkai and Kanchanaburi War Cemeteries is only a short distance.
Gunner Mervyn Wockner’s name is commemorated on Panel No. 18 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and locally on the Toowoomba Mothers’ Memorial, the Toowoomba Soldiers Memorial Hall World War 2 Honour Board and the Toowoomba Grammar School World War 2 Honour Board.
Mervyn Wockner had three siblings, Wallace, Douglas and Clare. Douglas Wockner (QX21700) also enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20th August 1941 and served with No. 135 Royal Australian Engineers Workshops. He served until 13th May 1946 with the rank of Private. After enlisting, he asked Mervyn “to claim” him so that he could serve in the same unit. Mervyn refused saying that he did not want the responsibility in case anything happened to him. Mervyn’s decision saved his brother Douglas from becoming a prisoner of war and the possibility that he also would have died. Wallace Spencer Wockner (Q147191) was mobilized into the Australian Military Forces on 1st April 1942 and he served with the rank of Corporal until 14th June 1946.
As a former Toowoomba Grammar School Student who brought honour to his school and country, Mervyn Wockner’s name is recorded in the Roll of Honour in John K. Winn’s publication, “Toowoomba Grammar School – Steadfast, Brave and True”, published by the Toowoomba Grammar School in 2010.
A history of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment during World War 2 can be found in Dr. Bob Goodwin’s book, “Mates and Memories”, printed by Merino Lithographics Pty Ltd, Brisbane. Gunner Mervyn Wockner’s name appears in the Roll of Honour in the book.
Map of the Thai-Burma railway – courtesy of The Anzac Portal