‘D’ Company No. 15 Platoon: Commanding Officer:
WX93903 Lt. J T Meiklejohn – (22) believed KIA 8 Feb 1942 West Coast Singapore. Wounded in chest. Last seen firing his revolver whilst fighting his way out from coast in company of several men from 15 Platoon, including Solly.
Platoon Sergeant: WX7127 Sgt John F. Solly
KIA Tanjong Murai 9 Feb 1942 Tanjong Murai aged 41 years.
WX10925 Sgt P.A. Gardiner – Wounded in action 8 Feb, spent 3 days behind enemy lines before being evacuated to hospital. NCO rejoined unit in the line at Holland Village Cemetery, Buona Vista on 15 Feb 1942
WX9325 Sgt J.E. Tregenza d. 2 Sept 1943 illness Brankassi Camp Burma-Thai Railway aged 28 years.
WX7998 Cpl P.A. Giese – (25) Wounded in action Ulu Pandan admitted to 2/10th AGH with shrapnel wound to right leg. Discharged to Unit 23 Feb 1942.
Left Singapore with ‘D’ Force Thailand , V Battalion. He died 18 Sep 1943 dysentery Brankassi, Burma-Thai Railway.
WX7624 Cpl E.C. Kemp – Wounded in action 10 Feb 1942 fighting his way out from west coast Singapore. Received shrapnel wound bicep of left arm.
WX7715 C.J. Spackman – wounded in action 0300 hrs 9 Feb 1942 admitted 2/13th AGH on 10 Feb 142 with shrapnel wounds to left thigh and right leg. Discharged to Unit 22 Feb 1942. Admitted 24 April 1942 with infected shell wound to right leg. Discharged to Unit 27 Sept 1942.
WX7499 A/Cpl R.T. Williams – shell shocked at Ul Pandan 12 Feb 1942.
WX13457 D.A. Annear – DOW 14 Feb 1942 Johore Straits, during an escape attempt aged 31 years. ‘Dud’ Annear was attempting to escape with Bell.
WX7717 L/Cpl F Armstrong – (31) d 30 Jul 1942 duodenal ulcer Sandakan with ‘B’ Force Borneo. Wounded in action North Lim Chu Kang Rd, west coast Singapore 9 Feb 1942. Admitted 2/10th AGH with GSW right arm. Discharged Unit 22 Feb 1942.
WX7796 J.J.S. Barrass – (29) DOW 11 Feb 1942 Tanjong Murai. Party scattered when it came under heavy fire.
WX9589 F.M. Barrymoore – (35) ‘D’ Force Thailand, d Malaria Non Pladuk Hospital Camp, Burma Thai Railway. ‘Bill’ Barrymore’s parents had died in 1939 and 1940 at their South Perth family home. He married in July 1941.
WX7636 W.J. Beer – (28) d illness 16 Jun 1945 Sandakan, With ‘E’ Force Borneo.
WX9063 A.J. Bell (Bill)–
(22) killed by mortar fire during escape bid with Annear, Johore Straits. Had been reported missing from 9 Feb 1942 – several men were left behind Japanese lines following the invasion.
WX7308 L.A. Blair – Wounded in action Lim Chu Kang Rd 0300 hours 9 Feb 1942 with GSW to left leg. Discharged Unit 22 Feb 1942.
Sent to work Burma end of Railway with ‘A’ Force, Green Force No. 3 Battalion. He was recovered from Thailand.
WX7600 G.R. Bousfield
WX7253 W.V. Bow – Wounded in action Buona Vista 15 Feb 1942 shrapnel wounds to left and right buttocks. Discharged 22 Feb 1942.
Bow left Singapore with ‘D’ Force Thailand V Battalion which endured horrific lost of loss due to illnesses. He survived and was recovered from Thailand.
WX10390 W.A. Dwyer – (24) ‘D’ Force Thailand d 22 Aug 1943 Brankassi Malaria & Dysentery Burma-Thai Railway. Admitted 2/10th AGH 12 Feb 1942 badly shell shocked & suffering nervous exhaustion.
WX7999 R.P. Ferguson – (32) ‘B’ Force Borneo, d illness 23 Mar 1945 Ranau. Shell shocked at Ulu Pandan and evacuated 12 Feb 1942.
WX6506 J.E. Fraser – wounded in action 8 Feb 1942 suffering exhaustion and bayonet wound to left hand. Discharged Unit 8 Mar 1942.
WX8435 E.J. Leadbitter – (24) Was captured by Japanese west coast of Singapore, escaped and rejoined Unit after surrender.
Went with ‘D’ Force Thailand V Battalion to Burma-Thai Railway. He was badly beaten by sadistic guards when he was ill. D 10 Oct 1943 cholera Kuii, Thailand.
WX224 J. MacDonald – (29) Missing believed KIA 9 Feb 1942 near Ama Keng Village, West Coast Singapore.
WX6203 J. McSkene – sent with ‘H’ Force to Burma-Thai Railway during 1943. ‘H’ Force returned to Singapore at the end of 1943. He was recovered from Changi Gaol.
WX11629 K.B. Mitchell – wounded in action 0400 hrs 9 Feb 1942 GSW to left hand. Discharged unit 16 Feb 1942.
WX9337 A.D. Moir – Believed to have been KIA night of 8 Feb 1942 by mortar fire. Last seen with his vehicle.
WX5336 J.L. Murdoch
WX9287 J.R. Osborne – (28) “F” Force Thailand d. illness 27 Sep 1943 Kami Sonkurai, Burma-Thai Railway.
WX7626 A.L. (Slim) Pitts
wounded in action 0200 hrs 9 Feb 1942 shrapnel wound to left thigh. Discharged Unit 24 Feb 1942.
WX9295 S. Reid – (33) Wounded and missing in action 9 Feb 1942 Tanjong Murai, west coast Singapore. Syd enlisted from Kulin where he had been working as a farmhand. His family resided Boulder, his father worked in mining and was killed in a workplace accident Oct 1942. The Reid family had sailed to WA from England when Syd was about 4 years old. He had one brother Frank.
WX7656 G.R. Rouse – (27) KIA 8 Feb 1942 Tonjong Murai, west coast Singapore.
WX7532 R.R. SEMPLE – escaped to Sumatra. Captured and incarcerated Padan, Gloe Gloer Camp (Medan). Sailed Hirukiku Maru Party – remained Singapore. RTA.
WX7330 Ellis Shackleton –
11 Feb 1942 west coast Singapore Missing in action believed to have been killed or badly wounded aged 27 years.
WX7623 G.T. Shelton – Wounded in action 1800 hrs 15 Feb 1942 admitted 2/10th AGH shrapnel wound left temple. Discharged to Unit 23 Feb 1942.
Worked on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘H’ Force Thailand d illness 7 Sep 1943 aged 24 years at Kanu II Malayan Hamlet.
WX9157 A.L. Tapper
WX8180 E.G. Taylor
WX8460 J. Thorpe – (25) KIA 15 Feb 1942 Buona Vista. Was killed between 1600 & 1700 hours whilst sheltering behind a house which received a direct hit. **
WX10382 J. Warrington – sent to work Burma Thai Railway with ‘D’ Company T Battalion, split off with O’Dooley Party. he was recovered from Thailand.
WX7232 R. Whitford – (38) DOW 15 Feb 1942 Buona Vista. He was killed during last artillery barrage of the battle. Hit in his chest by same shell which killed Jim Thorpe. **
WX7499 R.T. Williams – Shell shocked Ulu Pandan 12 Feb 1942.
WX15736 R. Hansen
WX16417 S. Ninyette
WX15905 Edward George Moir
Admitted 2/9th AGH 2 Feb 1942 with malaria. Transferred 2/10th AGH and discharged Unit 8 Mar 1942.
d. 1 Oct 1943 Kuii, Burma Thai Railway “D” Force Thailand V Battalion aged 32 years.
At Singapore, the following three men who had been with 15 Platoon moved to form No. 16 Platoon – because a machine gun had been located and the coastline was so sparsely manned.
WXC7745 B.G. Harrison
WX7029 E.T. Hill
WX9286 C. Holmes
The Japanese Attack
8th February 1942 – North west Singapore
Just after dawn the Japanese increased air activity dive bombing and machine-gunning forward areas – in particular 22nd Brigade and forward machine guns – “C” Coy of 2/4th. All observed movements were attacked and the rear area and roads heavily bombed.
By 1000 artillery barrage hit the forward companies of 2/18th and 2/20th. “D” Coy HQ situated at Ama Keng village had been under attack and had a quiet spell before the shelling started. Fortunately slit trenches provided adequate cover and casualties were light. But the surrounding rubber plantation was stripped of foliage.
At noon, the Japanese ceased their aerial attack. The Australians believed the Japanese had ‘knocked off for lunch’. However the afternoon was the same as the morning – heavy shelling with irregular groups of single explosions maintained the mental and physical pressure on the Allied troops.
By nightfall the bombardment increased. Verbal contact was lost amidst the roar of exploding shells spreading debri and red hot fragments of shrapnel over the area. The soldiers now feeling isolated in their own nightmare whether sharing or a single trench. They were like trapped animals in their burrows. Many praying others pleading for a halt.
The bombardment continued throughout the next morning. There was no let up. The Japanese concentrated on both the forward and rear Allied positions of 2/18th and 2/20th areas. The beach area was heavily targeted and just after midday 13 Platoon received a direct hit suffering their first casualties – the death of Bobby Pratt and severe wounding of Bill Patterson and section commander, Joe Pearce. There were further casualties and loss of another gun pit.
The men thought it a miracle they hadn’t lost more lives.
The situation was much the same for 15 Platoon. Brigadier Varley, 2/18th wrote that during his four years of service 1914-1918 he had never experienced such concentrated shell fire over such a period. Signal communications were cut and repaired and cut again.
Eddie Kemp wrote : ‘About 6.30am on 8th Feb two or three ranging shots fell in our area. One destroyed an artillery piece and its crew and one closer made a mess of my personal Bren gun, which he had scrounged whilst unloading a boat in the harbour earlier in the week. Then the full barrage came right down on the beach. We escaped some of the shelling, but it was still an absolute nightmare. Japanese artillery seemed to concentrate on the coconut plantation to our rear where hardly a coconut palm remained.’
Les Pitts was in same section ‘it seemed to me that they were using high explosive rather than any form of anti-personnel shells for although the tops of the coconut palms were destroyed, we had no shrapnel casualties. The constant blast of concussion from the exploding shells had its effect and there were varying levels of temporary shell shock.’
During the day of 8th February bombing and strafing continued over 2/20th and 2/18th areas as well as the 2/18th forward area.
The smoke from blazing oil tankers in the naval base with the fading light of early evening reducing observation for those manning forward posts. There was no moon and the continual shelling blanketed any sounds from the Japanese across the strait. The men strained to pick up the first signs of the attack they were certain was coming.
The 2/4th Machine Gun Platoons had survived remarkably well although, however were affected by the shelling – some more than others. All were dazed and there was a sense of unreality undertaking the smallest of tasks.
There was a sense of enormous relief when the barrage ceased about 8pm. The first sounds of enemy craft were picked up by a forward post of “D” Coy 2/20th. Moments later the sound of motor increased – the forward post alerted the men into action with a burst of bren fire.
Lt Eric Wankey, 13 Platoon who was at their HQ away from the beach, raced down to their gun positions, followed by the spare gun numbers who postioned themselves along the front. They held fire until the barges were close to shore and opened up the three guns with devastating effect. The tide was out. One barge was snagged on a sandbank, swinging sideways. It was ripped to pieces by machine gun fire and hand grenades. Several barges were sunk spilling Japanese into the water. One loaded with explosives had been set alight – providing extra light for the gunners. One of the beach lights had been knocked out and another failed to operate. All guns turned on the Japanese in the water. Few if any survived the first wave.
But there was no let up as more landing craft loomed up out of the darkness, at least 20, each with about 25 Japanese on board.
A Japanese landing party of six barges approached the southern section under Meiklejohn and No. 15 platoon’s two sections kept firing for two hours despite retaliation by hand grenades. Inevitably, the Japanese landing parties were able to outflank the thinly-spread Australian positions.
With little ammunition and to avoid being overrun Meiklejohn ordered the southern section to retreat. He led his section along a jungle path where they came upon a party of Japanese resting. Meiklejohn shot some with his revolver and another was knocked out with a swing from a machine gun tripod by Frank Armstrong, however Meiklejohn lost his life in attempting to cover his section’s withdrawal. Other deaths included Jack Solly, John MacDonald.
Others remained cut-off in the beach area, such as Slim Pitts, Dud Annear and Billy Bell. The latter two were killed whilst trying to escape Singapore later in the week. Bluey Semple originally with Annear and Bell, managed to escape to Sumatra.
The northern section of 15 Platoon under command of Sgt Gardiner held its ground until it was informed that a near-by infantry platoon from 2/18th was almost surrounded, and about to withdraw. The machine gunners were forced to retreat without their guns. They also ran into a group of Japanese troops blocking their path. Cliff Spackman was attacked by a Japanese officer wielding a sword, Spackman “bayoneted him”, took the sword and used it against another Japanese soldier. They continued to fight their way out killing several Japanese but suffered heavy casualties.
Results of this period were Seven dead (including Shackleton and Reid who were missing and injured, later found dead), six wounded, about five missing – including Sgt Gardiner, wounded behind enemy lines and evacuated to hospital 3 days later), Leadbitter who had been captured (escaped to rejoin Unit after capitulation).
By Surrender on 15 Feb, 1942 another Two died and another Seven wounded or shell shocked.