Newspaper Article

[probably] Tonawanda, New York, September 14, 1947:


Victim of Japanese is Reunited
With Brother After 22 Years.


Victim of Japanese Is Reunited With Brother After 22 Years.
William H. AVERY, 62-year-old Borneo rubber grower and former crocodile hunter, who owes his life to the generosity of a felolw [sic] sufferer in a Japanese internment camp,
was reunited this week with his brother, David L. AVERY, 196 Young St., Tonawanda, after a separation of 22 years. The visitor to Tonawanda is plantation superintendent for the American Chicle Company. He has spent more than 30 years in the jungles. Still suffering from the torture and starvation diet of four years in a prison camp in Kuching, Sarawak, Mr. AVERY hasn’t decided whether to return to Borneo, where the Japs turned his home into a brothel and destroyed his $114,000 rubber plantation. “The eight-year-old rubber trees I had planted and nurtured were just ready to be tapped when the Japs swept in,” he recalled. “They burned my trees for firewood.”
Saved By Friend
Mr. AVERY’s life was saved, he says, by the kindness of a friend, who fortunately was permitted by the Japs to bring a quantity of clothing into the internment camp.

William H Avery

“He used to trade a garment to the Japs for food and share it with me when our rations were insufficient to keep us going,” said Mr. AVERY. “Even with that help, my weight dropped from 150 to 78 pounds. I was a bed patient for months and still am 30 pounds underweight.” Flown to Australia by the liberating Aussies, Mr. Avery returned to Borneo as soon as he had recovered enough to travel. He helped get production under way again for his company before sailing for the U.S. Traded in Crocodile Hides. The rubber business wasn’t Mr. AVERY’s only activity during his long years in the tropics. He once conducted a profitable trade in crocodile hides. Then the Japanese brought out an imitation which put the business on the skids. “I hired native head hunters to trap and spear the crocodiles,” he said. “They brought in one big fellow one time which weighed 3200 pounds and the hide measured more than eight feet across. “One a huge crocodile upset a boat and swallowed a native woman. The jungle gongs brought hunters for miles around. They finally got the guilty fellow but they had riddled his hide.”


Notes from Eileen: There were two, almost identical, newspaper articles about my great-uncle, William Henry (called Henry) AVERY; b. 4 Oct 1885 Larry's River, Guysborough Co., Nova Scotia (son of Alexander John AVERY & Elizabeth DESLAURIERS), migrated ca 1894 to Cambridge, Massachusetts; m. Ida (Ada?) LAMONT probably in or near Cambridge, Massachusetts. This newspaper article [I transcribed it myself from a clipping with a hand-written date] was published [probably] in Tonawanda, New York, September 14, 1947.

The same article [with a few changes] was published in Larry’s River, Nova Scotia. I have only a transcription, not the original clipping. According to the transcription, that paper listed his age as 63 rather than 62. And included this paragraph: Mr. AVERY had a set of luggage made from the hide of a crocodile which he, personally, had killed - this was taken along with his home and contents by the Japs. I have a scan (91kb) of the first article, and a photo showing great-uncle Henry with a group of Borneo natives & a dead crocodile.

Eileen Avery

Henry Avery in Borneo - click for larger


submitted by Eileen Avery



Return to Misc Tidbits index



If you've arrived here from an outside link, and don't see a navigation bar to the left, and you wish to further visit the Families of TorBay Area Website, please click the logo





Free Web Hosting