At 106 when he died, Eric was one of the oldest soldiers surviving from World War 2.
Eric was born in South Australia and the family moved to WA in 1924 taking up a farm near Northam-Goomalling. After his father set up a butchering business in 1933, Eric decided to start his own milk round in Northam with a horse and cart. He later tried goldmining before going into share farming in Dowerin. In 1941 Eric joined the Army and was shipped to the Middle East. His brother Claude followed later and they wer allocated to the 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion. After service in the Middle East the Battalion were transported on the RMS Orcades, ostensibly to return to defend Australia after the Japanese entered the war. However, orders were changed and and they disembarked in Java without their machine guns and equipment. They were given old Dutch rifles and only a few rounds of ammunition and it was not long before they were forced to surrender to the Japanese when the Dutch capitulated.
Eric and his brother Claude were POWs in Java and Thailand together. Eric cared for his brother when he became gravely ill and under the care of Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop. After completing the railway, the Japanese shipped the fittest POW’s on the “Hell-ship” ship Byoki Maru to Japan where Eric and Claude worked in coal mine at Ohama.
On returning from the war Eric bought a farm south of Cunderdin with another brother, Keith, and they ran a wheat and sheep property with Eric retiring at age 70. Faith was a major part of Eric’s life from an early age and he believed it to be a major factor in his survival as a POW.Both Eric and his brother Claude were Church of Christ elders for many years. Eric always attended the memorial services to represent his battalion.
He did not find his war experience as a defining part of life. To him his family came first, he was a devout Christian, and his great love was farming. These three segments of his life kept him mentally strong and tough as a POW.
A very large group attended the funeral at Fremantle Cemetery on 7th October 2016. The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association reveres the memory of Eric Roediger and our condolence and thoughts are with the family.