The Story of Billy Young
A teenager in Changi, Sandakan and Outram Road


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• Ballarat Ex-POW Memorial Speech, 10 Feb. 2013

• The Story of Billy Young, Background Notes.

• Billy Young and the Dead End Kids: Sandakan Families Oration 2011

• Link to 2/29th Battalion Association website


The story of BILLY YOUNG,

A teenager  in Changi, Sandakan and Outram Road

By Anthony Hill

(For adults and senior students)   


                                     Chapter 1

"         Billy the Kid was only 15 when he joined the army in July 1941. It wasn’t wartime patriotism, or adventure, or a misplaced sense of mateship that drove him. Nothing like that. He was hungry and broke, with nowhere to sleep. Homeless. An orphan. And the army offered him a feed, a blanket, and five shillings a day in his pocket.

Now, two years later in Singapore, jolting in the back of a canvas-covered truck towards jail, Billy Young knew the army couldn’t even offer him that. For he was a prisoner of the Japanese military police – the dreaded Kenpeitai, Nippon’s version of the Gestapo. And he was still a kid. Still starving. He still owned nothing except the rags he wore – a soiled and bloody pyjama top, a pair of filthy shorts cut from a canvas kitbag. And his greatest treasure was a pencil stub, clutched in his fist… "    

*  *  *


So begins Anthony Hill’s major new biography of one of Australia's youngest POWs. The Story of BILLY YOUNG, will be published by Penguin Viking on  22 July. Written specifically for adults and senior secondary students,  it is a tale of remarkable suffering, endurance and survival.

Enlisting at 15 in 1941, sent to Malaya and captured at the fall of Singapore, Billy Young spent the rest of his teenage years a prisoner of war in some of the most barbaric Japanese camps and jails. He faced the horrors with a mixture of luck, good humour, and native cunning learned as a boy growing up around Paddy's Market in Sydney during the Depression.

Bill Young, now 88, has survived into old age by discovering the power of art and poetry to express the pain of his wartime ordeal.


(Published by Penguin Viking, 416 pages, illustrated,  rrp $29.99)

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The Scabby Bath at Outram Road Prison 1943, by Bill Young.