50th Anniversary Issue October 1990 of The Borehole Bulletin
War Diary – 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion
Northam 25 November 1940 0900 Hours
Advance party consisting of 13 Officers, 12 NCO’s marched into No. 2 Camp, Northam.
Northam 27 November 1940 2000 hours
349 Recruitments marched in from Recruitment Training Depots.
‘Little did we know where our destiny would lead us when we first put up our colour patches in Northam Camp 50 years ago – in retrospect, perhaps it was just as well.
The years in between have taken their toll through casualties at Singapore – our losses as POWs at Changi, on the LINE, in horror camps Borneo, Japan and other SE Asian locations and at sea, and further reductions in our ranks since our return home.
We, who have survived, are caretakers of a tradition rich in mutual respect and an extraordinary level of shared and individual friendships. A tradition created in extremes of adversity which has been left in our keeping to guard it well.
The Borehole Bulletin has had a vital role in this task – it is our line of communication and is the voice of the Association – our civilian HQ.
This special issue provides us with a visual history of the Battalion, from the days of our first Army boots to this our 50th Anniversary year.
I deem it a privilege to introduce and commend it to you.’
G.M. (Tom) Bunning
Captain, Senior Officer Extant
A time of learning left from right, early rising, getting used to Army tucker – bashing hats into acceptable shapes and trying not to march in step when you went on leave. The quickest way to the Savoy when the leave train got into Perth on Friday night, of crazy tripods and clearing plugs, of night manouvres and canteen bashes, of route marching and making friends – and learning to BE A SOLDIER.
The March TO PERTH
Following many ‘practice’ strolls around the camp area the C.O. decided to test the physical fitness and endurance of the Battalion with a march to Perth. The March commenced on 4th March and there remain many memories of the three days. The long drag up the hills, cheers from the roadside and the baskets of fruit. The nurses at Woorooloo (Sanitarium) the pool at Leschenaultia and bottle of milk . The march from Bassendean Oval and through the city.
In July 1941 with Don Company leading the way by train from Northam the Battalion (by sea) moved to Woodside in South Australia. Northam had knocked off the rough edges – developed purpose in our training and had created an efficient Battalion. We also justified the extra M in M.M.B. by becoming fully MACADAMISED Machine Gunners!
Woodside, located in the Adelaide hills, provided another challenge – a new and interesting training area, a change in climate!! a new city and a more specialized training programme oriented to our main role as Corps troops. The scene of some memorable marches through the ranges – we very soon became ‘Anketell’s Macadamised Mountain Goats’.
Note: 67 new recruitments Taken on Strength 5 October 1941.
October 1941 saw another move.
This time north to Darwin. By now the Unit had been in training for a year and this new posting, with all the earmarks of a home defence role, created some despondency. This was the ‘end of the line’ and troops had visions of the Unit becoming known as ‘that Troppo WA mob in Darwin’ – how wrong they were!
With Japan’s entry into the war the situation changed, and on 31st December 1941 the Battalion was on its way to New Guinea to board the ‘Aquitania’ in Port Moresby Harbour on 3rd January 1942. A break (stopover) in Sydney and our ‘unscheduled’ leave at Fremantle (picking up at least 128 reinforcements – lost 88 men who had were AWOL) were golden moments as we sailed for Singapore!!
Singapore officially fell 15th February 1942 following a week of severe fighting during which time the Battalion was heavily engaged. Initially operating as Corps troops attached to Infantry Brigades the Battalion was involved in all levels of the fighting. Eventually the Battalion came together under its Commanding Officer, Lt-Col Mick Anketell. The battalion remained in the forward Battle areas suffering severe casualties –including the Commanding Officer who was killed in action.
‘Into the Bag’
The 15th February 1942 Surrender brought with it not only the post trauma of a costly and senseless action but a new unknown situation as Prisoners of War. This led to greater tragedy, but it also gave birth to a lasting bond which is as alive today as it was 45 years ago. Conditions were so bad as to preclude ‘going it alone’ and so was created, a shared system for the common good.
Simply put, it was the development of mutual respect and a level of mutual sharing and caring – powered by our most valuable human resource – optimism and faith in ourselves – that provided our ‘survival kit’ ingredients.
The standard catch-cry around the camps ‘Hang on we’ll be home for Christmas’ says it all. But even that was wearing a bit thin after the THIRD Christmas.
Three and a half years later – Coming Home October 1945- the transport and routes were various – we had lost more than 40% of our battalion.
Little did we realise we were about to face a new challenge!
For too many men they faced years of physical and mental health issues – affecting them and their families for years to come.
We advise the above is an edited version of October 1990 Borehole Edition.
Regretfully, we are unable to reprint most photographs included in this edition of Borehole because the imagery is not clear. We can confirm most photographs have already been uploaded onto the website in Gallery – these copied from other sources.