‘E’ COMPANY, SPECIAL RESERVE BATTALION (formed 7/2/1942) More than half of this Coy lost their lives 11 Feb 1942.
The 2/4th Battalion arrived Singapore 25 Jan 1942 and were trucked to Woodlands Camp, north on Singapore Island. They were in Singapore to reinforce the depleted Australian 8th Division who combined with British Divisions, had been fighting and retreating from the Japanese from south Thailand through Malaya since 8th December 1941.
The men of 2/4th found themselves in a war zone in a new and very foreign culture. The sights, smells and sounds of war in tropical Singapore – facing a massive invasion.
At 8.15am, 31 January 1942 the Causeway linking Malaya to Singapore was blown.
It was now a race to prepare the defence of Singapore’s coastline – that is correct! Those in charge had wasted the precious previous two months and had done nothing.
There were too many chiefs. Decisions and plans were delayed. Confusion reigned. Troops referred to Malayan Command as ‘Confusion Castle’.
There were 85,000 Allied soldiers on Singapore Island – however of that number, the vast majority were not combat troops. That is to say they were involved in administration.
Below is a brief description by ‘E’ Company CO Major Bert Saggers. Also we have a more detailed description by reinforcement Wally Holding detailing their time from Northam – boarding ‘Aquitania’ & sailing to Singapore – Battle of Singapore.
Northam Army Camp Recruitment for 2/4th reinforcments ……..by Wally Holding WX17634
Northam to Singapore 1942
‘We heard they were calling for volunteers for 2/4th. We knew they were in Darwin.
They lined us up and called for volunteers to join the 2/4th no-one volunteered, so they just lined us up and counted us off. 6 Officers who had been with the 2/4th had been to an Officer Training Course. That was how it came about that there were 136 ORs and 6 Officers detailed to go to the 2/4th.
By the time the “volunteering” was finished it was after 1 o’clock. We were given leave passes for 36 hours pre-embarkation leave starting from midday –which was already well behind us by then, and we were given colour patches to shove in our pockets. We still had to shower, get ourselves sorted out and get into uniform. After that we were taken to Northam and put on the train to Perth, I headed home to Bassendean.
While I was with the Militia a mate from Mullewa and I had gone to a Saturday night dance at the Bassendean Scouts Hall where I met Wyn de Worbois. The following morning I went to church with Mum and Wyn was in the choir, so we caught up and started corresponding.
At this time Wyn’s Father was a POW in Germany. In WWI he was in France with the 16th Battalion when he was 17 years old. In WWII he was with the 2/7th Field Ambulance and stopped on Crete with the wounded. Luckily he was in a POW exchange arranged through Alexandria of “Wingy’s and Stumpy’s and over age” so he came home in January 1944. I never met him until I got home.
We had been back in camp at Northam a little over a week when we got orders to pack up as it was time to go.
We were taken by train to Fremantle then by ferry to the ‘Aquitania’ which was standing out at Gage Roads. A number of troops were already on board the ‘Aquitania’.
The 2/4th boys who were already on the ‘Aquitania’ had been called the caretakers of Northam camp because they were there for about 15 months training. After that they had been at Woodside in SA, for 3 months, then they went overland to Darwin for 3 months before being taken over on small boats to Moresby and then put on the ‘Aquitania’. They had been all around Australia and when they were outside Fremantle they were told they were not going to get any leave.
When the water lighters went out to the ‘Aquitania’ to fill its water tanker the boys slipped down ropes, and any other way they could, to get onto the water lighters. As a result, all the water could not be transferred to the ‘Aquitania’ because if the water lighters had been emptied they would have risen up in the water and, with the troops on board, they would have been too top heavy.
The water lighters with the men on board had to return ashore and a big lot of the Battalion came off. The MP’s were going to stop them at Fremantle but the boys fell in and just marched out and that’s how they got pre-embarkation leave.
‘Aquutania’ left Fremantle on 15 January 1942 and headed up to the Sundra Straits. Going up we had the HMAS Canberra as escort. During the day a zigzag course was set – the boats would go so far one way then change course, we could feel the boat turn. We were quartered down in G deck, which was either side of the propeller transmission hump, it was a great big thing about 5 ft high, we had to jump up and slide to the other side to get to our cabin. At night a straight course was set and the speed increased. Everything we had, we had to wrap up, even our tin pannikins because the whole area we were in just used to shake.
On the ‘Aquatania’ I volunteered for dish-washing duty. There was this great big bloody dish washing machine – you loaded all the plates at one end then stacked them up as they came out the other end. We did that to get out of boat drill, otherwise every now and then throughout the day and night the sirens would go and you had to go to boat drill.
While we were anchored in Sunda Strait the natives in canoes with outriggers would dive for anything thrown over. It was a lovely sight – green islands, a narrow strip of sand and deep blue water. Later this was where the ‘Perth’ and ‘Houston’ went down.
When we got up to the Sunda Straits we had to tranship to three little Dutch Coastal Traders. There was the Van Swoll, the Van Der Linj and I cannot remember the name of the other one. We were on the Van der Linj and our meat supply came with us – alive. They brought a bullock or yak, as they called it up there, and just walked it in onto the deck. Of course there was just the one deck and we had to put our gear all around the place. In the morning, they told us we had to shift our gear out the way while they slaughtered this bullock, that was our meat.
It was Saturday January 25, 1942 when we arrived in Singapore.
We were told that the day we arrived was the only day for quite a while that there had not been air raids on Singapore.’
We were taken by trucks up to Woodlands camp on the East side of the Causeway towards the Naval base, where our quarters were huts furnished with things called chowpoys. Chowpoys were Indian beds with rope bedding. When we got onto these chowpoys we found out straight away that there were lice in them. That was the start.
That night we experienced our first air raid. Of course when the sirens went everyone made a mad dash to get out and down to this railway cutting that was our shelter. After a couple of days it got that way that when the sirens went we would go out, have a look around, and then carry on with what we were doing.
We had only been there for a matter of days when on Sunday 8 February they decided to pull us out. The Japanese made their landing on the Sunday night. Of course in the meantime the 2/4th Battalion had been chopped up all over the place and the guns and men were sent on loan wherever it was thought that they would be needed most.
A Gun Company was made up of 4 Platoons, each Platoon had 3 Sections with 1 Vickers each, giving the Battalion 48 Vickers. There were four gun companies that were scattered around amongst the Indian and British troops the whole lot on coastal defence that was their main job.
They said some of the boys past the Causeway sat behind their guns and watched the Japanese putting their ramps down to put their barges into the water and everything else. Of course they had their sights all worked out so once they knew the game was on they could just open up.
This happened on the Sunday night. When the Japanese started to cross Johore Straits they had powered boats pulling half a dozen barges loaded with troops. The boys behind the Vickers guns had been trained for just such an show. After the firing started some of the barges caught fire and lit up the area.
The artillery wanted to knock the tower off the Sultan of Johore’s Palace, which was being used by the Japanese as an observation post, but they were not allowed to fire on it.
THE COMPOSITE BATTALION
In the morning we were taken straight out from our camp, out into the rubber. We did not know at the time but we were to form what they called a composite Battalion. Major Saggers, who had been ‘A’ Company Commander in the 2/4th was made CO of the composite Battalion (Special Reserve Battalion)
Of the group that came on at Fremantle some had gone into the 2/4th to replace those who did not get back on the ‘Aquitania’ at Fremantle. The blokes who did not get back on the ‘Aquitania’ came up later and were caught in Java.
We finished up with Officers who came mainly from gun Platoons in the Battalion. We had 7 lieutenants and Major Saggers, that was the composition of our officers. All up we were 91 WX numbers.
The other two companies of the composite Battalion were troops of the Australian Army Service Corps, the AASC. The AASC blokes, like us, had come up on the ‘Aquitania’ and had very little training.
I had done three months militia camp but a lot of these chaps had joined up between November and the beginning of December, 1941 – as they sailed on 15 January, 1942 they had very little time for training.
At any rate that was the formation of the Battalion as we were set up in the rubber.
Major Saggers was a strange little bloke, probably about 5’7’’, he was a lay preacher in Church; he was the champion pistol shot in the Army Militia; and he was a real gentleman to talk to. Just not the sort of bloke one would expect to be in the position he was in, but he was a wonderful leader.
He ran 2 shoe stores in Perth for years after the war.
When we formed up out there our Section Corporal was an older chap and he was made Platoon Sergeant. Then it was a toss up who got stripes – Arthur Magill or me – the rest were virtually all novices. Arthur came from Collie and had done a Militia camp the same as I had. On the rifle range I had topped the school on the bren gun. We were issued with one bren per section so as I was tops on the bren I got the bren and Arthur got the stripes. We were good mates so it did not matter much then – only afterwards, when I thought about it, I was on 5 bob a day and he was on 7 bob a day for the next 3½ years. So that was the formation of the composite Battalion, but we never actually caught up with the AASC boys much at all.
On the Tuesday afternoon, 10 February, we were out and taking up positions when word came through to Jimmy Till, our Platoon Commander, to send out a patrol. Jimmy was a permanent Army chap and a hell of a nice bloke. He was given word to send a section patrol out, no more than two miles, in front of our camp and not necessarily to get into any trouble but to see what was going on around the place.
Lt. J Till was transferred to Special Reserve Battalion, becoming Commanding Officer of No. 2 Platoon.
This Officer rushed at a Japanese light automatic section, the same one that had killed Lieutenant Harry Green at close range. Lieutenant Till was wounded in his shoulder and pulled back by Sergeant Norm Platts to a position where his wounds could be treated. It is believed that in the confusion of the ambush and during withdrawal from the area that Lieutenant Till came across some more Japanese.
His body was discovered at the crossing of a creek and Reformatory Road at Map Reference 763139 by the burial party led by Major Bert Saggers from Sime Road Camp on 21.12.1942. This was near where today’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic Alumni Clubhouse stands.
His body was after the war, moved to Kranji War Memorial.
Major Saggers said “Lt. (Jimmy) J.J. Till’s last known action was, although wounded, to rush a Jap L.A. section and shoot its entire crew with his Bren gun”.
We went out on patrol about a mile or a mile and a half in front of the section, having a wander around. Then we came across this big tent covering a whole lot of food stuff, there was tin fruit and all sorts of food. Evidently these food dumps had been put out there right throughout the island.
We were having a pretty good inspection of this place having nothing much to do as it seemed a nice, quiet afternoon stroll.
That was until somebody saw some blokes wandering along in a valley 6 down below us, some 200-250 yards away. No-one took much notice until somebody said, “They have bloody rifles”. These Japanese did not appear to be wearing regular uniforms, we took them to be coolies until we saw the rifles. So of course down we went around the food tent and then the game was on for a while. The Japanese got to a Chinese hut that had a garden, they got in there, so it was pretty lively for a matter of minutes. I do not know how long it was, it seemed a long, long time but it was not that long, when two Japanese ran out the front of the house and hid behind some scrub.
As I was on the right of this food dump I had to get myself out into the open and lie down behind the bren to get a bead on where they were, then I gave them a pretty good sort of a burst. It has always stuck in my mind, when I see someone getting shot on TV and they nice and pleasantly fall over but it does not happen like that. These blokes were behind the bushes and I think I chopped the bushes around a pretty well – I could see arms and legs waving around. It was on for a while, then Arthur yelled out
“Get up and get back out the way we came” which was over the rise behind us.
So we took off and once we got out of sight we stopped to rest and regroup and found out that we were three shy. Syd Darby, Ern Munday and Ernie Thomsett had not come back out from that bit of a show.
They were our first casualties. Syd Darby had been a great little bloke – he was known as “The Kid”. On Christmas day, in Northam camp, he had no family present so he had joined my family for dinner.
Right: Syd Darby KIA aged 19 years.
Below: Ern Munday KIA aged 25 years & Ernie Thomsett KIA aged 19 years
We headed back to where the rest of the company was. During that action Arthur Magill got a bit of a scratch across the back of the neck, a bit of blood but nothing much.
That night, 10 February, we took up a position on Bald Hill – there always seems to be a Bald Hill in shows like that. We were told we had an Indian Group on one side of us and a Pommy Regiment on the other. Of course the normal thing was for the blokes on the flanks to get out and make contact, but there were no contacts. This was reported back to Major Saggers, by which time it was about 8 pm, so he went out on his own bat and made contact with Army headquarters. He found out the troops that were supposed to be on either side had been withdrawn early that morning.
When Major Saggers came back he made the decision, rather than try and get us out then, particularly as we had had a pretty lively sort of day, to let us stop there that night and move off at dawn, which we did.
During the night the Japanese kept putting out patrols, feeling out for what was going on so we would have a bit of a bang away from time to time. Arthur Magill got a bit of a scratch through his side that time – he always seemed to be getting in the way of something.
In the morning as soon as we moved off we were in trouble. The Japanese seemed to know pretty well what strength we had and they opened up with two inch mortars. Half the time we did not know where they were, but these things kept lobbing in among us and they caused a quite lot of trouble.
The youngest boy we had with us was a bloke named Harry (HHR) Norton, aged 16, he was one of the first to go, he got a charge to himself. One of the boys went back and said that there was not much we could do about him so we just kept going.
Throughout the day we were getting knocked about pretty badly. Jimmy Till was with our Section, we were up on one flank heading up a bit of a valley, going up hill all the time when we ran into trouble – a machine gun. What we did not know was Major Saggers made a turn there and he took quite a big lot of the Battalion back out and they got away from the Japanese. However, we were pinned down, Jimmy Till spotted where the machine gun was, he took my bren and he emptied the magazine into the machine gun position. I started looking for some of our boys, because spare magazines were distributed amongst the section, but the only other bloke around was Arthur Magill and he did not have any. So we finished up with a bren gun without any loaded magazines and it was not the time to be sitting down trying to load a magazine. The last I saw of Jimmy he was carrying a bren gun with an empty magazine on it.
I took a rifle from a body. We headed straight through where the machine gun was. I told them afterwards it was a strange one I had never seen the likes of it before. It was very slow firing machine gun but it was hopper fed not belt fed. The bullets were put into hopper like a grain crusher at the top, so long as they were pointing the one way and they fed themselves down into the machine gun. Around the gun there were quite a few dead Japanese and a few of our boys’ bodies. After that we headed off up the hill around there were a few trees, and then we got into the scrub.
On the side of the hill as we went up there was a complete line of Japanese heading down the hill, about 15 yards apart. There was no point in going that way or standing up and showing ourselves we would have been in trouble straight away. There was Danny Crane, “Blue” Evans – who is still here in Mandurah, two lads from the AASC and myself – we went down in the scrub and let the Japanese go through.
The Japanese went through over the top of us and did not pick us up. Occasionally we would a hear a bullet when they picked someone up amongst the scrub but then they got down behind us and we stopped where we were. We could hear a few bullets at time so anyone who was wounded copped it. The Japanese did not worry at all about taking prisoners.
After the Japanese had gone we headed on towards Singapore, we laid up during the daytime and travelled at night. Old Danny Crane was a pretty fair sort of bushman and I had spent a bit of time in the bush. Singapore is north of the equator but we could still see the Southern Cross. Once we picked up the Southern Cross we knew we had to head south to get back down to the city of Singapore.
The first day, Thursday February 12, we camped alongside a house in a big Tapioca patch. The Tapioca was about 6’ or 7’ high and quite thick so we stopped in there because we thought we would be out of sight. Later, during the day, we discovered that the house was occupied by the Japanese as a headquarters and there were guards out the front. Every time a car pulled up, or someone came along, they would all start yelling and shouting in their lingo challenging everyone, so we laid low.
On the Friday morning we struck a bitumen road heading straight south, we had had enough by this time so we decided to follow that road. We found out later it was the west coast road. We spread out on either side of the road keeping well apart, we came around a corner and about three quarters of a mile in front of us we saw a road block. Now the road block was facing north, so we knew it would not be the Japanese, so we kept on walking towards it.
By this time the oil tanks on Blakang Mati had been burning right through so this black soot kept coming down. Oil when it burns does not burn completely and black soot soaked through to our skin and clothes. We were covered, soaked in this oily stuff so it was impossible to tell what colour 8 we were or to identify our clothes or anything else. The sweat running down our faces streaked white lines down through the grime and oil. Blakang Mati is now known as Sentosa Island – a must for tourists.
We went on down this road and as we got closer we could see the snout of a Vickers pointing straight at us. We kept on walking – there was nothing else we could do so we walked straight in and it turned out that the road block was manned by a Malay Volunteer Regiment. They said they had not seen anything for the two days they had been there. They had a truck and said they would take us straight back to Singapore, that suited us.
I am not sure where the others got to but the first mob I struck, that I knew straight away by their colour patches, were 9 Platoon B Company so I said right I am here, so I will stop with these blokes. The Platoon Commander was a chap named Lieutenant Don Lee – we had two Lieutenant Lees – Ken, who had come on at Fremantle, and Don. He got to quite efficiently, gave me a trenching tool and said, “You dig your hole here, and put your dirt up there” and everything else. As soon as he gave me instructions he walked off, I put the shovel down, put my head on it and went to sleep, that was about 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon. Incidentally, it was Friday 13th – the 13th was my Birthday so it was a good day.
The next morning, Saturday 14 February, about 10 o’clock Frank Hinds, who was in 9 Platoon, came over and woke me up with a cup of tea. He said, “There must be something wrong with you” I said there was not much wrong with me, I just wanted a bit of a sleep. So I stopped there with them right through and there was no further action.
On the Sunday night, 15 February 1942, word came through that it was all over, we had surrendered. We stopped there waiting for what was to come. During the week of the action on the island the “Empress of Asia” brought in a lot of troops who virtually landed into a POW camp. They brought in the song “There Will Be Blue Birds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover” which was top of the pops for the next 3½ years.
REVIEW OF CASUALTIES
When we got back to the Selerang area Major Saggers got together what was left of E Company and checked out who was still going. I was the only one from my Section still there. We did not have many left.
We found out later on that some more of our boys had come through. Claudie Dow, had got out amongst the Islands and later on was picked up by the Japanese. Also, after the Wednesday night Arthur Magill was in the scrub there when we got past the Japanese, he got through as far as Sumatra where he was picked up and taken prisoner. He was very lucky coming back they brought him back on a boat from Sumatra. Coming through the Malacca Straits a Dutch Submarine came along and torpedoed the boat. A lot of blokes jumped into the water, the Dutch fired a second torpedo into the boat – and the percussion killed the blokes in the water. Arthur had stayed on the boat and he came back to us. It was when we had this get together sorting things out that Major Saggers made the recommendation for Arthur to get the Military Medal. Les McCann also got through at that time, his story is included at the end of this account. We sorted it all out and then that was the finish.
Major Saggers had 7 Lieutenants with him 6 were killed in action, the only one to come back was Vic Mentiplay, who later took the WA Victory Contingent to England for the Victory Parade.
Lieutenant Till’s Platoon, which I was in, had a high number killed in action because we were left behind when we were cut off.
I have never seen the details of the casualties 2 ASSC Companies but they were in quite a bad way. Our Officers evidently buried all the information relating to our action. We found this out after we had been prisoners a month or so when a work party was given a job to bury some 44 gallon drums that were coated with bitumen or something similar. Later we found out that this was done right through the time we were prisoners. The Japanese conducted searches and destroyed any records they found.
We wish acknowledge the above information has been taken directly from Wally Holdings Memoirs.
Major Bert Saggers was appointed on 7 February 1942 as CO Special Reserve Battalion comprising AASC, Ordinance Units and 2/4th reinforcements. With the exception of some Machine Gunners of ‘E’ Coy (about 90 men) – the unit had only received basic infantry training. Those from the Service Corps had little if any field training.
‘E’ Coy joined 2/4th Battalion at Fremantle 15 January 1942 – less than a month later had lost more than one third of the original draft of 120 men. Including the wounded, battle casualty figures became over 50%. Half of the men had less than four months training, eight had been in the army less than three months and six men less than two months when they went into action. How terrifying!
On morning of 8 February, the CO continued to have discussions with Division on basic requirements, i.e. organisation, equipment, stores and camp locations.
There had scarcely been time to establish companies, platoons and sections before being sent forward that same morning to support 2/29th Btn at Tengah Airfield. …. from Ghosts in Khaki by Les Cody.
Below: Tengah Airfield, Singapore.
The Special Reserve Battalion was comprised of two companies ‘A’ and ‘B’ made up of Australian Army Service Corps personnel and ‘E’ Company. ‘E’ Company was formed from the reinforcements for 2/4th who embarked on ‘Aquitania’ 16th January 1942.
Commanding Officer, Major Bert Saggers.
At 5.30pm 6 Feb 1942 Lt, Col Anketell informed Saggers he was to command a composite Battalion from AASC and Ordinance Units plus 2/4th reinforcements ‘E’ Coy. Anketell and Saggers immediately drove to HQ where his appointment was confirmed. He was instructed to report to Col. Stahle, CO Ordinance Corps. The new unit was to be known as SPECIAL RESERVE BATTALION.
AASC personnel had already been organised into two infantry companies. ‘A’ Coy commanded by Capt. Hiddleston and ‘B’ Coy by Capt Millner. Both were AASC officers.
The Third Company comprised 2/4th’s Reinforcement Company – ‘E’ Company originally commanded by Lt. Harry de Moulin. The first two companies were 184 strong and the third ‘E’ Coy was only 88 strong – but in possession of 11 sub-machine guns. ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies had no sub-machine guns and 30% did not even have bayonets.
The SRB was in the main (according to Saggers) under trained and under-equipped, but was not to be under-valued.
Whilst de Moulin commanded the Company with Charlie Odgers his 2 i/c. Harry Green, Jimmy Till and Harry Mazza were the Platoon commanders. Several days later, Saggers appointed Vic Warhurst as Company Commander and Harry de Moulin his 2 i/c.
Please read all names of 2/4th’s ‘E’ Company, SRB
Ambush at South-West Bukit Timah (Sleepy Valley) 11 February 1942
At 0100 hours on 11 February 1942, the battalion was positioned on a bare feature astride Jurong Road. Small arms fire could be heard at Bukit Timah Village, about a mile to the rear. Jurong Road was the only road on which to retire and this ran through Bukit Timah village.
It was about this time that firing could be heard on the right flank where a British unit was located. At 0200 hours firing was also heard on the left flank. Major Saggers realized that he would have to get the battalion off this bare feature before first light or stand the chance of coming under attack from observed enemy small arms fire from the other slopes in the area.
Lieutenant Vic Mentiplay, Liaison Officer to the Major, had brought back information that the British Commander was ready to withdraw his unit to a better position about 400 yards to the rear.
At daybreak Major Saggers moved his men down one side of the feature whilst the British moved around the other side via Jurong Road. The heads and shoulders of the enemy could be seen in the dawn light from this new position on a slightly rising slope in a rubber plantation. Using the rubber trees as cover the Japanese pushed up to meet the body of troops.
The heights of Bukit Timah and Bukit Timah Village were a Japanese strategic objective. Bukit Timah was the highest point on the island at 5481 feet. Bukit Timah Village was the juncture of north, south, east and west running thoroughfares, providing a pivotal point on Singapore island.
The Japanese were intent on keeping this area under their control from where they could swing south-east to Buona Vista, enter Singapore City from the south and close the British escape route via Keppel Harbour.
On coming into view the Japanese immediately engaged and by 0730 hours fighting had become intense along the entire line. At 0850 hours orders came from a senior ranking British Commander that the combined force was to retire.
At 0900 hours ‘E’ Company launched a vigorous bayonet attack that left 14 Japanese dead and 2 captured; losing 2 killed and 4 wounded. The remaining enemy in the vicinity fled for their lives.
This action cleared the area to successfully allow the troops to disengage and retire to form 3 columns. The Indians were to withdraw on the left flank, the Australians in the centre and the British on the right flank.
The men marched about a mile through dense scrub to a saucer-like depression of open country, about 600 yards long by 400 yards wide ahead of them. To the left was an embankment about 3 feet high on which a barbed wire fence ran along its length. On the far side of the depression there were several native huts.
The three columns moved forward until they were about 200 yards from the huts then all hell broke loose. The enemy had prepared an ambush and from the right and left flanks and in front of the native huts was pouring mortar, light automatic and small farms fire into the three columns of retreating troops. The three columns broke and started to intermingle. Control was lost. The main cause of this was the more numerous Indians who panicked with some gesturing with a piece of white cloth of their wish to surrender. One Indian waving a white flag was shot on the spot.
This action and some vigorous commands helped restore some order and the huts to the front were attacked in a bayonet charge.
The approaching men raked the huts with light automatic weapons to clear the enemy from their path overrunning the machine guns posts outside and killing the Japs inside with tommy gun fire. On passing through the huts there was still 150 yards to go until a small rise and comparative safety was reached. Eventually Reformatory Road was reached and the men again came under enemy light automatic fire.
After crossing the railway line a head count was made of the Special Reserve Battalion. 88 of the original 200 men who had commenced the withdrawal an hour earlier now remained. Worse still some of the wounded were forced to remain behind seeking cover.
“We had now been continuously marching, fighting, patrolling and occupying front line positions in close touch with the enemy since approximately midnight on 8th February with practically no sleep. In addition we had been subjected to heavy bombing and were constantly under aerial observation. All ranks were extremely tired and the knowledge that we were surrounded was very depressing.”