Talbot, Benjamin; Able Seaman/Chief Petty Officer; RN/RAN 8221

Ben Talbot was an experienced RN sailor when he was loaned to the RAN in 1913 for service on the new AE2 submarine. He was born in Middlesex, England, on 31 May 1883. Talbot was slight in build but physically very fit—attributes which contributed towards his selection for service as a submariner.

In prison camp, Talbot was one of those Catholic POWs oddly singled out for favourable treatment. However, they remained normal prisoners of war, despite such privileges. Their enemy, as Greg Kerr wrote in his book Lost Anzacs, ‘lay within themselves, fuelled by boredom and frustration’. Kerr’s grandfather, Corporal George Kerr, kept a clear record of this insidious enemy, as both he and the mess turned to heavy drinking and drunken brawls:

On Christmas Day [1916] the boys had been drinking, and Talbot borrowed a suit of clothes from one of the Russians and with the help of a pair of glasses and a hat he aped the part of a dude very well. He had with him a young Russian dressed up as a woman and he looked the part as far as facial appearance went …

By 28 December Talbot was participating in a boxing match with the same Russian, much to Kerr’s amusement. Talbot was a very good boxer and was able to defend himself. He also taught boxing to others in the camp. He survived the horrors of the prison camp, and even escaped punishment for his at times rowdy and belligerent behaviour.

He was released and returned safely to London and his wife Cecelia and three children by January 1919. He then re-enlisted in the RAN and, with government assistance, brought his family to Australia where they settled in Geelong, Victoria. Talbot continued his naval career after the war, rising in rank from able seaman to leading seaman, and finally became a chief petty officer in April 1928. He died on 7 August 1952, aged 69.