AWOL ‘Aquitania’ Fremantle – ‘Blackforce’ Java – Central Story

The ‘Aquitania’ Incident

Fremantle & 2/4th Machine Gunners left
in Java 1942

 

‘Aquitania’ Boston Naval Yard, 1942

Please read about RMT Aquitania – Luxurious Passenger Liner
The ‘Aquitania’ sailed into Gauge Roads from Sydney 15th January 1942 carrying large numbers of Australian reinforcements  who would end their journey at Singapore (they did not know their final destination until reaching Fremantle).  Included onboard was 8th Division’s Western Australian raised 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion.  They had been training at Woodside, South Australia  and more recently Darwin – at that time the men believing they were to be sent to  middle east – they had been training for this desert warfare.
Please read further about ‘Aquitania’ picking up survivors from sinking Komoran following her ‘altercation’ with Sydney November 1941 off Western Australian coastline

 

Please read details of the ship ‘Aquitania’

Also read West Australian journalist Athol Stewart’s story of Aquitania & 2/4th, published 1945 Midland Newspaper
The troops were very hopeful of leave to see their families and loved ones whom they had not seen for at least 6 months, before they went to fight who knows where? This thought was sadly quelled when receiving instructions “No Leave” would be provided to any soldier at Fremantle.  ‘Aquitania’ would only stay overnight to load further provisions and reinforcements for 2/4th.
Ship Staff Officer, Major L C Allen and the Captain of the Day were responsible for posting guards and sentries.  An anchorage guard of two Officers, three Sergeants, three Corporals and 30 privates was mounted immediately ‘Aquitania’ dropped anchor at 8.30 am on 15 January 1942.
The Commanding Officer Troops on convoy “MS 2” was Col Chas H. Lamb.   Col. Lamb promulgated orders that during the Fremantle stopover, no leave was to be granted to the troops on board ‘Aquitania’. These instructions were issued to Lt-Col. M J Anketell and the other group commanders.
When advised of the situation Lt-Col M J Anketell said that he did not expect trouble from the men of his battalion!
A guard from Western Command also embarked for the duration of the stay at Fremantle.  As launches and tugboats towing lighters came alongside, men appeared on deck in readiness to go ashore.
Earlier, a rumour had circulated amongst the troops that the ship’s company had been granted leave until 1300 hours the following day.  This of course proved to be false as ‘Aquitania’ was under orders to weigh anchor at 1100 hours, the next day on 16 January.  With trouble looming, the guard was doubled on exits and gun ports and all Officers and NCO’s not on essential duties were placed on picquet duty.  The strengthening of the guard was to no avail as by 1030 hours approximately 40 troops had managed to squeeze out of the portholes and scramble down hawsers.
The first wave of ship breakers were obviously determined to get ashore and by their actions brought home the reality that a riot and possible bloodshed could ensue.
The launch with the first ship breakers compelled the helmsmen to take them ashore, a request he duly obliged despite a call requesting the Navy to intercept the launch.  Orders were cabled to the Military Police and the Garrison Battalion Guard ashore to form a reception committee and take the first wave of ship breakers into custody.  This military manoeuvre, like the naval plan, did not eventuate and a request to the tug masters not to tow the lighters ashore also proved useless.
Seeing the first wave of troops go ashore appeared to encourage more on board  to try their luck at scaling down hawsers and ropes onto lighters.  Officers were instructed to go onto the lighters and to plead with the men to return to the ship, but by this time hearts were ruling minds as many men steadfastly refused to budge.  Approximately 1,300 troops including, it is believed, more than half of the 2/4th MGB broke ship that day and proceeded ashore.  Strong shore patrols of Western Command personnel with a large proportion of motor transport patrolled the Fremantle area, Perth city and suburbs during 15 and 16 January with the result that about 150 troops were apprehended  and returned to the ‘Aquitania’.
On the 16th between 0700 and 1030 hours another 650 troops returned to the ship.  When the ship was due to sail at 1100 hours  there were still 500 troops absent, however between 1030 and 1330 hours another 350-400 troops returned onboard.  Some of these men had made it back to Fremantle wharf and been shepherded out of harm’s way by the troops of the Garrison Battalion Guard and pointed in the direction where they could find transport out to Gauge Roads.
Others were not as fortunate and were apprehended by the M.P.s.  Many were assured they would be ferried back out to their ship.  Unfortunately for the ship breakers the M.P.s were under orders.   Their motives were not in the troop’s best interests as they were taken into custody and given a cell for the night at Fremantle Prison.  The prison was being used as a detention barracks for the AIF as all the civilian inmates had been relocated to Barton’s Mill Prison.
The final tally of 169 imprisoned 2nd AIF  personnel consisted  of 81 Sydney reinforcements and 88 2/4th machine gunners.
Partly compensating for the loss of these men from 2/4th were 145 reinforcements for the battalion who had travelled overnight from Northam Army Camp.  This group included 6 Officers, 4 Sergeants and 134 other ranks – who would become ‘E’ Company.
However when the ship pulled up anchor later on 16th January there were 93 men from 2/4th AWOL.
(Their reasons were varied  – some had been imprisoned at Fremantle  unable secure release,  a truck carrying a number of men from the country region west of Perth hills had broken down)
The above information is from ‘Colour Patch’ by Murray Ewen.  Ewen wrote in his book ‘That is the story as it occurred and one that has been recounted faithfully utilising official records.  (MPO729/7 File 42/422/68 Western Command Convoy “MS2” National Archives of Australia.)
Amongst those men who went AWOL and managed to return before ‘Aquitania’ sailed included Bert Norton, John and Jim Gilmour, Clarrie and Jeff McDonald, Jim Elliott and Jim Dore just to name a few!
Many of those who were unable to  reboard ‘Aquitania’ were arrested at the harbour by Military Police who were waiting with vehicles.  The MPs took men to Fremantle gaol – even though it was obvious they were trying to board ‘Zepher’ to reach ‘Aquitania’.    Losing 90 well trained machine gunners was a huge loss to the Battalion. There was a lot of anger about this incident.  Nobody knew who gave the order to the MPs.

John Gilmour wrote in his book ‘All in My Stride’ ……

with 2/4th MGB on board ‘Aquitania’ as ship sailed to Fremantle to anchor at Gauge Roads.
‘It had been more than 6 months since we left Perth.  As ‘Aquitania’ prepared to pick up supplies and more troops the last straw for the 2/4th MGB was to be told there would be no shore leave.
Some orders are just too mean to be followed. 
The men knew it was possibly their last chance to see their loved ones before they went to war.  When the barges came out we jumped ship by the dozen and in most cases it was a jump of between 3 and 5 metres.  The skippers of the barges were well paid for cooperating and for them the choice was simple:  either head back to the wharf or risk sinking because the longer the barge stayed alongside the more soldiers jumped aboard.  Some men were climbing through the portholes to jump.
An officer pulled his revolver on us and yelled “Stop it”. 
He got a kick in the shins and his revolver dropped overboard into the ocean.  There was no way he could identify the culprit in that seething mass of men scrambling for the opening at the side where the supples came aboard.  The men were in no mood for obstruction and the officer was lucky he didn’t go overboard with his revolver.
My brother Jim and I jumped on to a water barge where we were soon joined by Clarrie and Jeff McDonald, Jim Elliott and Jim Dore. Once on the wharf we split up and went our separate ways knowing we had to be back the following day to sail away.
It was grand being home, even for a few hours. Perth was full of soldiers because many troops from the Eastern States had never been to Perth and they too had jumped ship to see the Western Australian capital for the first time and maybe the last time. Who could know what the future held for them in those circumstances?
Getting back onboard the ‘Aquitania’ the next day was tricky. The military police were rounding up all the men and taking them to Fremantle Gaol. Luckily my father a Corporal was a guard at the wharf and was on duty when we returned. He helped me get on the last launch, accompanied by Jeff and Clarrie, before ‘Aquitania’ sailed. By the time we got out to the ship, she was hauling her anchor in and we had to climb aboard using a rope ladder, not any easy feat because the ship was spinning around with the drag on the anchor.
Back on board, some of the men who had been drinking decided it was time for a swim. They dived in from the deck despite a warning from the crew that sharks had been seen scavenging on the ship’s wastes. The departure was delayed while the crew coaxed the swimmers out of the water and up the rope ladder. Being somewhat under the weather this task seemed to take forever.
One of the swimmers, Wally Kenney, lived in Fremantle and was a member of the 2/4th.
I could understand why he took that farewell swim. Fremantle people generally have a powerful bond of affection for their home city and the clean, flashing waters of the ocean send them a cooling wind, the ‘Fremantle Doctor’ on hot summer afternoons. Wally was taking a last lucky dip in the sources of his city’s sanity during what might turn out to be his last summer. Any West Australian will tell you that such behaviour is fully comprehensible. The war would still be there tomorrow!
So many of us had gone ashore the admission of guilt was voluntary. There were people who would not own up but I wasn’t one of them, and for my sins I received the only red mark in my pay book. I was fined a few days’ pay but proud of it (some lost their stripes).
The ‘Aquitania’ took us to the Sundra Straits where we transhipped to small Malaysian freighters which took us on to Singapore.”

 

From Bert Norton
‘We were told that there would be no leave ashore as troops were required urgently in Malaya. Under those circumstances most agreed okay that is the way to run a war. Late in mid morning we saw crew members going ashore and were told they had been granted 24 hours leave. The ship’s captain requested Western Command to grant us leave but, no leave. We were still under Eastern Command who, when asked said “no leave”. Troops thereupon decided to go AWOL. Climbing down ropes and ladders and out portholes on to water lighters tied up to ship. The lighter I was on pulled into wharf. On the wharf was a C.O. of the local Garrison Battalion who didn’t look too happy at being there. They were WWI Veterans and were sympathetic. Neither were we very happy as it looked as if there could be trouble. Their C.O. called down to us “are there WA men down there?” and were told yes, we are all from WA. Probably 50% were, the rest probably including the Convoy Dodgers who came aboard in Sydney. He told us to come up on to the wharf and fall in behind his men. He then marched us into the street and said “off you go and be back here tomorrow morning.” A Mills and Wares delivery van pulled up in front of us, the driver who offered us a lift took about 50 of us, a standing load and as I was the last on asked him to drop me at the corner of St Geo’s Tce and Milligan Street intersection. It was only a few minutes walk down Spring Street and along Mounts Bay Road to my parents’ home at 210 Mounts Bay Road. I stayed with them for an hour then to Barrack Street jetty to catch ferry to Coode Street. The ferry master told me the M.P.’s had been stopping all service men and checked for leave passes and advised me to hide my Colour Patch on hat by turning hat band inside out which I promptly did. Home to Thelma at 301 Suburban Road which is now Mill Point Road, for the night. Next morning Eddie Pummel (Battalion’s bootmaker) came with his wife Audrey who was a friend of Thelma’s to see if I had got ashore. He said that he heard M.P.s were arresting all AWOLs and taking them to Fremantle Gaol. So I wasn’t able to cross river and say goodbye to my parents. Eddie, Audrey, Thelma and I caught the Metro Bus to Fremantle, warned by driver to keep down in seats as M.P.’s were checking buses from their vehicles. If they saw uniforms they were stopping buses and checking I.D.’s. Changed to tram at Beaconsfield, conductor gave us the same warning and said driver would drop us at nearest street to wharf. Got to wharf where R.A.N. guard at gate told us not to go down harbour side of sheds. M.P.’s had vehicles there and were arresting men and taking them to Freo Gaol, even though they can see that men are going back to “Aquitania” by “Zephyr”. Major Saggers spoke to me and hoped I had seen my family, he was very angry at the way M.P.’s were acting. Ninety 2/4th missed the ship because of the M.P.’s action. Never did find out which idiot gave orders to M.P.’s. Ship preparing to leave harbour at 1pm, sent with other 2/4th to man ships anti aircraft Vickers Machine Gun as ship left harbour on 16.1.1942.’

 

Frank Thaxter was one of the 2/4th men who went AWL. His record’s say from 1400  on 15 January to 0900 hours the next morning 16 Feb 1942 – he was fined 40/- ………….we are sure Frank thought it was worth it, he would have seen his wife who gave birth to their first child in April 1942. 

Above:  Frank Thaxter

Those who were unable to re-board ‘Aquitania

Ninety-three members of 2/4th failed to re-board HMT ‘Aquitania’ on the morning of 16 January 1942. They were detained at Fremantle Prison before being transferred to Claremont Details Camp, charged (AWOL) and fined. For reasons of age or health, five of these men did not continue their journey overseas.

Noel Banks from Woorooloo left the ‘Aquitania’ with others from around his hometown including Hubert Millar, Harold Steele and Clayden.  Banks said he had been unsure whether to leave, but because he was assured by others including an officer, he would be returned to the ship in time, he went over board.  The following morning the truck transporting them back to Fremantle broke down on the Greenmount hills, Great Eastern Highway.  They were stranded, unable to repair their truck or get lifts.  They would have been frantic.  There was little traffic in those days.  The men were unable to report for duty when the ship sailed next day,16 Jan 1942 for Singapore remaining in Java.

On 30th January 1942 the remaining 88 men were transported to Fremantle with their escort Officer, Lt. Colin Blakeway and boarded convoy “MS 3” departing Fremantle. The small convoy escorted by HMAS ‘Canberra ‘consisted of seven tankers destined for Palembang on Sumatra and four cargo ships for Tanjong Priok, the Port of Batavia on Java. One of the 4 cargo ships was the 7,475-ton SS ‘Marella’ carrying the machine gunners and their escort officer.
The initial intention had been to put these well-trained machine gunners ashore at Java and transship them onwards to Singapore.
Before they arrived in Java, it was apparent Singapore would fall to the Japanese,  it was therefore decided the machine gunners would remain in Java.  They disembarked at Tanjong Priok on 13th February 1942 where they were moved to their barracks at Meester Cornelis, an older European area on the south side of Batavia. Batavia was divided into three sections. The northern section was the old town, the south was the new town of Weltevreden and further south of this was the new town of Meester Cornelis. The towns formed the municipality of Batavia, covering about 66 square miles.
Please read Strawb Dyson’s account of AWOL Fremantle and Bobbie Haldane

Also read about the Stowaway on board ‘Aquitania’

Please read about Tanjong Priok – Java’s harbour 1942
The machine gunners found they were then reinforcements for the Allied Forces in Java and assigned guard duties at ammunition dumps within the area of Batavia and tasked with movement of stores from the wharves to the aerodromes.
Following the landing of further Australian troops from HMT Orcade’s on 19th February the 2/4th reinforcements joined either the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion or 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion for airfield defence at either Kemajoran or Tjilitan Aerodromes. **** At Tjilitan many of the ‘stragglers’ absconded from their posts leaving a dangerous gap in the 2/2nd Pioneers defence.  Blackburn gave the entire Reinforcement Battalion a ‘roasting’ however 52 men refused to fight.
Australians guarding the aerodromes were amazed to find the Dutch officers left their posts each night to return to the comfort of their homes – returning in the morning!  This Dutch indifference did little to increase the troops respect of their new allies.  The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army were barely prepared to fight the Japanese.
2/2nd Pioneers history records say these men ‘were escorted from the position lest their low morale and deplorable fighting spirit contaminated their more worthy comrades-in-arms.’  Most were placed in a Dutch lock-up, returned to Australia on one of the last ships to leave Java.  The rest were officially transferred to 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and with later fighting impressed everyone with ‘courage and steadfastness.’  From ‘The Lost Battalions’ by Tom Gilling.****
By 17th February the Japanese were rapidly closing on Java from both east and west. Singapore had fallen. The Japanese invaded Bali on 18th February and on 19th February Darwin was subjected to aerial attack. General Wavell secretly notified the British joint staff mission Washington on 18th February 1942 that Hong Kong, Malaya and Singapore had been lost to the Japanese as had most of the islands of Netherlands East Indies.

Please read about Tanjong Priok, Java’s Harbour

 

BLACKFORCE

On 21st February 1942, Lt-Col Arthur Seaforth Blackburn was promoted to Brigadier and appointed to command all A.I.F. troops on Java, to be known as ‘Blackforce’. At the same time Brigadier Blackburn was to come under direct control of Dutch Commander, Chief Lt-Gen Hein ter Poorten.
Blackburn had earned a VC as a 23 year old fighting on the Somme, France in WW1. He had earlier fought at Gallipoli.
Enlisting again in 1940 Blackburn was given Command of 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion and fought in Syria.
He was one several senior Australian Officers not happy at being ordered to Batavia by General Wavell – the ‘Orcades’ sailed into Tanjong Priok on 17 February amidst scenes of total confusion bordering on panic. Refugee vessels of all shapes and sizes from Singapore and Sumatra bobbed around a sea of ship masts sunk by Japanese planes and there were two battle scarred British cruisers with gaping holes.
Deserters from Singapore who had been looting stores on the wharves began pelting ‘Orcades’ with tins and other items.  It is said Blackburn, described as being the ‘tall, skinny solicitor’ from Adelaide was a ‘hotheaded old so-and-so’ and threatened to go ashore and shoot them. Instead he sent an armed patrol of Pioneers ashore who sent them scurrying.
(Blackburn later had the looters rounded up and placed under close arrest.  Perth boy Bill Haskell from 2/3rd remembers Blackburn giving the deserters the option of teaming up with him or being classed as deserters when the war was over.  Those who refused were sent back to the lock-up).  At the time of organising the defence of Java, Blackburn expected little from the 180 ‘stragglers’ from Singapore – he knew their poor morale and indifferent training made their ability to fight very doubtful.  Fearing the worst he assigned them to a reinforcement draft. ****
Meanwhile most of the Australian troops remained on board ‘Ocades’  on 17th and 18th February.  They were all dead keen to leave Batavia and all the dramas as soon as possible.  It was a depressing scene.  On the 18th,  7th Division’s commanding officer, General Allen and two senior staff came onboard and held long discussions with Blackburn, presumably delivering General Wavell’s order to disembark.  Blackburn strongly argued against his men being put ashore.
On the night 19th Blackburn received orders that certain troops on board, numbering about 2,000 should be disembarked.

 Right:  Lavarack

Above:  Wavell

Lavarack and other senior Australian officers disagreed with the Java disembarkation, however were ignored by Wavell.  – Blackburn’s men would defend Java’s airfields and stiffen Dutch resistance when the Japanese invasion came.
Apart from the unreliable Dutch colonial army on Java – the Australians with a few thousand RAF personnel, were now on their own!
Intelligence reports state Wavell had decided as early at 27 Jan that Singapore could not be held.  The Australian 6th and 7th Divisions were not to come to Java – and only a small division under Blackburn was to stay for political reasons, to bolster the Dutch resistance to prolong the war as long as possible!    On  27 Jan the 2/3rd Machine Gunners were still in Lebanon – their fate had been sealed prior to their departure for Australia, which is where they believed they we heading.
The men were told to disembark then re-embark 5 – 6  times before the men finally left the ship.  With all that was going on, the men could only guess and did not really know. Some finally left part of their belongings behind believing they would be ordered to stay once again. As the 2/1st Light Anti Aircraft regiment were marching off ‘Orcades’ they suddenly received orders  to get back on-board.  Darwin had been bombed that morning so the 2/1st Bofors guns were needed for ground defence in Australia.
Finally ‘Blackie’ as was endearingly called by his men, was promoted to Brigadier and ordered off the ship.  He had to obey or face a court martial.  He was too good a soldier to disobey.  Poor Bugger.
The men of the  7th Division remaining onboard with those at that time sailing back to Australia – would go on to fight in New Guinea.
2,000 downhearted soldiers trudged off  ‘Orcades’ as others boarded on another ramp to leave Java.    It was not a happy day – each man carried three day’s rations because no arrangements had been made to feed the men.  The soldiers knew they were outnumbered by the Japanese and dreaded what lay ahead.  They had no machine guns, no ammunition and no transport.
It seems so similar to circumstances on Singapore – the Australian senior command had a lot to answer for.
Wonder what Wavell reported on the men he left behind on Java?
You may recall Wavell was scathing of the Australians at Singapore.
Lavarack appointed Blackburn brigadier in charge of all Australian troops on Java – 3,000 of them – sufficient for a whole Battalion.  However as was the situation at Singapore, about half this number of 3000 were non-combatant troops – engineers, cooks, drivers, clerks, etc.
Blackburn knew there to be Japanese spies (5th column) on the ground in Java and undertook in the next week or so, a ploy to give the impression to the local force (and spies) of a larger force than in reality.  He had the transport vehicles drive ‘around the blocks’  several times to give the impression of far greater numbers of troops.  Who knows if it worked.
As in Singapore, Java had too many men at the top making decisions:
Wavell – then at his his head quarters at the Grand Hotel at Lembang, near Bandung.  Blackburn met with Wavell late in the afternoon of 24 Feb 1942 at his HQ.  It was a five hour journey of 100 kms for Blackburn.   – his orders were to ‘give every assistance possible to the Dutch forces in resisting the invasion – impressing every hour gained by resistance would be of value to the Allied cause to SW Pacific in general and to Australia in particular.  Blackburn was to use his troops in offensive operations against the Japanese wherever possible.
An Australian Officer seconded to Wavell’s staff told Blackburn  that Wavell had already given Java up as lost. With no substantial force on Java to command, his Java command would be dissolved and Wavell would fly to India to take up a new role Commander-in-Chief India!
Wavell had messed up with Singapore and now Java.  There was no-one to answer to!
Churchill must also take responsibility.  Wavell was replaced by Mountbatten in 1943.  His attempts to organize the liberation of Burma during the spring of 1943 his troops led by General William Slim, failed in several attempts to drive the Japanese out of the area.
General Lavarack, Australian 7th Division Commander – should he have stood firmer against Wavell.  He said to Blackburn he would arrange for Blackforce to be evacuated by ships – this never eventuated.  Everybody had moved onto bigger things by then.
Major General Allen – Commanding Officer of parts of 7th Division.
British Major General Sitwell – Wavell’s anti-aircraft commander – Blackburn and his troops were placed under his command (this order came from the British Chief of General Staff, South West Pacific Command, General Playfair in Washington.)
General ter Poorten, Dutch Commander-in-Chief – local Dutch Commander  and the appointed commander of land forces in the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, a short-lived unified command of all Allied forces in South East Asia – to whom Blackburn was to support and report to.
**Hein ter Poorten (21 November 1887 – 15 January 1968) was a Dutch military officer. He was commander of  Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in World War II. Ter Poorten was also Allied land forces commander in the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command on Java during early 1942.

Below:   Blackburn WW1

Blackforce consisted of approximately 2,900 Australian, British and American troops. Organised on a brigade basis Blackforce consisted of three battalions.
No. 1 Battalion – Total Strength 700
710 troops 2/3rd Machine Gun Btn under command of Lt-Col Lyneham
One section from 2/6th Field Company – 222 engineers.
One Officer and a number of other ranks ex-Singapore and a proportion of reinforcement draft from Australia.
No. 2 Battalion – Total Strength 900
937 troops with 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion under command of Lt-Col J.M. Williams
‘C’ Company No. 10 Platoon, 1st Australian Corps Headquarters Guard Regiment as well as those troops ex-Singapore and the reinforcement draft ex-Australia not allocated to other two Battalions.  The guards platoon included WW1 veterans in their 4o’s and 50’s who lied about their age when joining up – found out later, they were assigned to headquarters units.
This 3rd Battalion was formed 28th February when all surplus reinforcements were allotted to this unit. This included Lt. Colin Blakeway and 40 of the 87  X 2/4th machine gunners that were transferred across from 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion on this day.

 

On 1st March Japanese troops simultaneously began their invasion of Java at four different points.
Strategic places like Bandung, Batavia and Surabaya were invaded by two invasion forces totalling 45,000 Japanese troops accompanied by superior Japanese air power.    Following 8 days of fierce fighting and the loss of 1,000s of lives, the Allied Forces surrendered.  The Australians were not happy, they felt the Dutch Forces had’ rushed in’. The Allied troops were advised any further resistance would result in instant reprisals against the civilians.  The Japanese terms of surrender were unconditional.  The Allied POWs were made up of Dutch, Australian, American, British and Naval personnel from Australian and American ships who had survived the sinking of their ships.

 

Troops retained to defend the Dutch airfields on Java, Batavia, Java, 19-02-1942

Members of ‘Blackforce’ in preparation of invasion of Java Feb/March 1942.

 

2/4th MGB Personnel AWL Fremantle,
When ‘Aquitania’ Sailed from Fremantle 16 January 1942

Total 88 men sent Java 1942

24 men died of illness/lost at sea
Including Five Men died of illness in Java – several others remained Java throughout war.
Three men were evacuated  ex Java to Ceylon then to Australia
WX8245 Adams E.T. (10 Pln) Java Party No. 6 P Battalion.  With ‘Rashin’ Maru Party to Japan, recovered Niihama, Japan
WX7064 Allpike B.W.J. (Btn HQ). Java Party No. 6, O Battalion to Thailand.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX7905 Annesley F.J. (HQ Coy 2 Pln)      Java No. 4       Died ‘Rakuyo’ Maru sinking in South China Sea Sept 1944
WX9367 Baker John Robert  (6 Pln)  Java Party No. 4 Black Force to Burma.  Recovered Thailand.
WX8682 Baker W.R.S. (‘B’ Coy 7 Pln)         Java No. 4       Died ‘Rakuyo’ Maru Sept 1944
WX10343 Banks N.E. (‘C’ Coy HQ) Recovered Sumatra Railway.  MUNDARING TRUCK BREAKDOWN.
WX7587 Barbour T.  (11 Pln) Java Party No. 6 O Btn.  Leg amputation Thailand.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX7164 Barker F. (11 Pln) Java Party No 4, BlackForce to Burma end of Railway.
WX6970 Barnes A.J. (4 Pln) attached 2/2 Pioneers.  Java Party No. 4 William Force to Burma end of Railway.
WX10791 Beattie A.R. (4 Pln) Java Party No. 6, P Battalion to Burma-Thai Railway Thailand, Recovered from Omuta Camp, Japan.
WX8766 Booth Harold Vernon (‘B’ Coy 8 Pln) Java No. 22     Died Apr 1944 Pakan Baroe, Sumatra aged 37 years.
WX7600 Bousefield (13 Pln) Java party No. 4, Williams Force to Burma end of railway.  Worked with William Force No. 1 Mobile Force. Recovered from Thailand.
WX7333 Burns A.J. (8 Pln) Evacuated sick to 2/12th AGH Ceylon 4 March 1942.  Disembarked Fremantle ex Ceylon 6 May 1942.  Served with 43rd Water Transport Company.
WX6155 Byrne L.P. (10 Pln) Admitted to hospital 18-25 Feb 1942.  Embarked HM Hospital Ship ‘Wuseh’ on 25 Fe 1942 to Colombo, Ceylon.  ‘Wuseh’ sailed from Singapore 9 Feb 1942 left Java crowded with patients.
WX10365 Caldwell (‘B’ Coy HQ) Remained POW at Java throughout war.  Recovered from Java.
WX9551 Carroll F.V. (10 Pln) Remained POW Java. Recovered Java.
WX8240 Carter D.N.H. (9 Pln) Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to railway in Thailand.  Recovered from Ohama POW  Camp, Japan.
WX10354 Clayden H.T. (Buck)  (11 Pln) – MUNDARING TRUCK BREAKDOWN.  Clayden had older brother Syd Clayden who also survived.   Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma. Selected to work in Japan with ‘Awa’ Maru Party, but remained French Indo China.  Harold was recovered from French Indo China.
WX16369 Cocking A.J. (8 pln) Java Party No. 4, Williams Force to Burma end of Railway.  Sent to Japan on ‘Rakuyo’ Maru – survived ship sinking and was rescued by US submarine four days later, USS Pampanito.   Arrived back WA end 1944.
WX10048 Cosson E.J. (1 Pln) Ted Cosson with Java Party 5a, Robertson Force to Burma end of Railway. Recovered from Thailand.
WX8855 Davies David John  (HQ Coy 2 Pln)       Java No. 4.  Evacuated sick to Thailand. Died Jan 1944 Kanchanaburi, Thailand aged 33 years.
WX9310 Dickson Andrew A. (6 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Kachu Mountain Camp, Thailand at end of war.
WX7299 Doyle Tom F. (14 Pln) Java Party No, 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Evacuated from railway Burma.  Seriously ill Nacompaton Hospital Camp, Thailand 29 April 44 to 9 Jan 1945.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8830 Drummond A.McD. (‘B’ Coy HQ)  Java No. 4       Died ‘Rakuyo’ Maru sinking Sept 1944 aged 33 years.
WX9266 Dunwoodie W.  Bill (6 Pln) Java Party No 6, P Battalion. Recovered from Kachu Mountain Camp, Thailand.
WX9199 Farmer A.F. (6 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX9070 Fielder, Charles  (12 Pln) Rangetaker.  Java Party No. 6 P Battalion.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX5132 Fisher George (12 Pln) Rangetaker.
Remained Java and recovered from there.
WX7569 Foxall Stuart Edward  (‘C’ Coy 11 Pln) Java No. 4  Party Williams Force to Burma.       Died Jul 1943 Beke Taung Hospital, Burma aged 22 years.
WX15422 Frost Basil M. (3 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Railway. Selected with ‘Rakuyo ‘Maru Party to work in Japan.  However evacuated to Changi Gaol Hospital with infected leg.  Remained in Changi and recovered from here.  Lucky man,
WX9270 Fury Thomas Joseph  (‘A’ Coy 6 Pln) Java No. 4  Williams Force to Burma.       Killed air raid Thanbuyuzayat, Burma Jun ‘43 aged 35 years.
WX7595 Glass George (Btn HQ) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Railway.  Recovered from Thailand
WX6980 Golden Percy (6 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Railway.  Recovered Nacompaton Thailand.
WX8540 Green T.W. (HQ Coy 3 Pln)         Java No. 4       Joined ‘E’ Force at Sandakan died Jan ‘45 aged 23 years.
WX8265 Gregory W.R. (5 Pln) Rangetaker ‘A’ Coy.  Java Party No 4, Black Force to Burma end of Railway.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX6975 Ham Reginald John (14 Pln) Driver.  Java Party No. 4 Battalion Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered Thailand.
WX7123 Hampson Robert Douglas  (4 Pln)  Java party No. 4 Williams Force. Selected to work in Japan with ‘Rakuyo’ Maru Party – rescued from China Sea by US Submarine USS-Barb. Sent home late 1944.
WX15736 Hansen Robert  (15 Pln)  Java Party No 4. Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered Thailand.
WX8695 Harris William Denis (Btn HQ) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8408 Hayes A.G. (HQ Coy 2 Pln)          Java No. 4       Died Sept 1944 ‘Rakuyo’ Maru
WX7642 Henderson Clarence George (10 Pln)  Java Party No. 6 P Battalion to Thailand.  ‘Rashin’ Maru party to sail to Japan.  Recovered Saganoseki Copper Smelter, Japan.
WX7465 Holdman N. (HQ Coy 2 Pln)        Java No. 4       Killed air raid Bangkok wharf area whilst being transported on train.
WX10795 Hughes Ronald Edward  (‘A’ Coy 5 Pln) Java No. 4 Williams Force to Burma. Died Sept 1944 when ‘Rakuyo’ Maru was torpedoed and sunk by US Submarines moving around in a Wolfpack.  Hughes was 24 years old.
WX9130 Hunter Malcolm Ashton  (9 Pln) Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to Thailand.  Contracted cholera at Hintok Road Camp and survived.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX5118 Jenkins Cpl James Morgan  (‘C’ Coy 12 Pln)  Java No. 4 Williams Force  to Burma.        Died Nov ‘42 Thanbyuzayat, Burma aged 41 years.
WX7453 Jones Edgar Cheetham (HQ Coy 2 Pln)                  Died Jul ’42 Bicycle Camp, Java aged 40 years.
WX7612 Kelly Charles George McQueen (‘D’ Coy 13 Pln)     Java No. 4  Williams Force to Burma,  Evacuated to Thailand Died Jan ‘44 Tamarkan Hospital Camp aged 39 years.
WX4949 Kingswell Ronald James  (‘C’ Coy 12 Pln)            Died Mar ’42 No. AGH Bandeong, Java aged 23 years.
WX8336 Kuhl F.G. (Btn HQ) Java Party 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Railway.  Evacuated to Tamarkan Hospital Camp 21 Sep 1945.
WX7230 Lee Leslie H. (8 Pln)  Java party No. 4 to Singapore then joined Java Party 5a Robertson Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX15744 Lee Leslie Wallace (6 Pln)   Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to Thailand.  Evacuated sick to Tarsau 1 Sep 1943. Recovered from Thailand.
WX11316 Lewis Laurence Harold  (‘D’ Coy HQ) Java Party No 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Ubon, Thailand.
WX7285 Love  Harrie R. (4 Pln)  Trade Group No. 1. Java Party No. 4 Black Force – sailed to Singapore however was evacuated sick to Roberts Barracks Changi and did not continue journey to Burma probably due to his trade skills.  Recovered from Singapore.
WX16341 Martin Samuel Thomas  (3 Pln)  Java Party No. 4 William Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX13285 Maude Jack (6 Pln) Java Party No. 4  Williams Force to Burma.  Sent to Japan with ‘Awa’ Maru party to Sendyu.  Recovered from Japan.
WX8261 McAskil Robert Ramsay  (10 Pln) Java Party No. 20. Died Sumatra Railway 28 Mar 1945.  (He missed draft to Japan due to illness – later joined Java Party No. 22)
WX9825 McLoughlin C.P. (HQ 12 Pln). Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Nakom Nayok Thailand.
WX9826 Millar Hubert James (11 Pln) Driver.  MUNDARING TRUCK BREAKDOWN.  Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX13562 Moate Peter Joseph (‘C’ Coy HQ) Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to Thailand.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8200 Morris William Richard (10 Pln) Storeman.  Evacuated sick from Java.  Embarked  HMT ‘Stirling Castle’ from Ceyon on 13 Mar 1942 to Melbourne arrived 28 Mar 1942.
Classified medically fit on 27 Apr 1942 was Taken on Strength with 2/3rd  MGB on 29 May 1942.
WX15746 Morrison A.E. (13 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma, then worked Thailand and recovered from Tamuang Camp, Thailand.
WX5336 Murdoch James Lewis (D Coy 15 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Ubon Camp, Thailand.
WX7645 Nicholls W.J. (HQ 1 Pln) Died 10 Oct 1942 illness Bicycle Camp Hospital, Batavia.
WX16417 Ninyette Samuel (D Coy 15 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams force to Burma end of Railway.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8856 Pearce Harry Walter  (C Coy 11 Pln) Java Party No. 5 Williams Force sent to Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway.  Whilst in Thailand he was selected fit to work in Japan.  He died when  ‘Rakuyo’ Maru sank after being torpedoed by US submarines12 Sep 1944 aged 30 years.
WX8725 Pryce John Henry Lloyd (HQ 1 Pln) Signaller.  Javva Party No. 6 P Battalion.  Recovered from Kachu Mountain Camp, Thailand at end of war.
WX9059 Ramage G.R. (HQ 1 Pln) Died 23 Sep 1943 dysentery  Payathonzu 108km Camp, Burma
WX9563 Randall John (88th LAD) Butcher.  Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  ‘Both’ Party.  Recovered from French Indo China.
WX7493 Rennie R.G.S. (HQ 3 Pln)  Java Party No. 6  P Battalion.  Died post leg amputation 4 Oct 1943 Tamarkan, Thailand.  
WX7750 Roberts Stanley Henry George  (A Coy 6 Pln)  Was returned to Australia sick and arrived Melbourne 28 March 1942.
WX16427 Robertson Donald Charles  (B Coy 8 Pln) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway.  He was recovered from Thailand.
WX5200 Robinson William Joseph  (B Coy HQ) Sel;ectd with Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to Thailand to work on Burma-Thai Railway.  Died 17 Jul 1943 dysentery Hintok, Thailand aged 25 years.
WX7939 Sawyer Clarence John (Btn HQ) Died 1 Apr 1942 dysentery at No. 1 General Hospital, Bandeong,  Batavia aged 34 years.
WX8843 Scales J. (A Coy 5 Pln) Sent with Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to work on Burma-Thai Railway in Thailand. Died  11 Sep 1943 illness Chungkai, Thailand aged 35 years.
WX7576 Simmonds Norman Edward  (C Coy 10 Pln).  Java Party No. 6 P Battalion to Thailand.  Recovered from Nakom Nayok, Thailand.
WX16424 Sing Alfred (A Coy HQ) Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Railway. Selected in thailand to work Japan with ‘Rakuyo’ Maru Party.  Was another very lucky man to be rescued by US Submarine UUS Sealion from
South China Sea Sep 1944 after Rakuyo Sank.  Returned home by end of 1944.
WX7893 SMITH James Stanley  (C COY 12 Pln) Lance Corporal promoted 1 Mar 1942. Java Party No. 4  Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8506 Smith Walter John  (88 LAD) Driver.  Java Party No. 6 O Battalion to Thailand.  Recovered from Tamuang Camp, Thailand.
WX9419 Steele, Harold William (Bill) (C Coy HQ Pln)  MUNDARING TRUCK BREAKDOWN. Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway.  Recovered from Kachu Mountain Camp, Thailand.
WX9827 Stribling Reginald Harold  (C Coy 12 Pln).   MUNDARING TRUCK BREADKDOWN Driver. Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX8585 Vidler Cyril Jack (A Coy 5 Pln)  Java Party 5A Robertson Force.  Recoverd from Thailand.
WX15654 Walker Robert Joseph (HQ 3 Pln) Died 5 May 1942 dysentery Bicycle Camp, Batavia aged 36 years.
WX7466 Walsh, Bernard James  (HQ 3 Pln)  Driver.  Java Party No. 6 P Battalion to railway Thailand.  ‘Rashin’ Maru Party to Japan.  Recovered from Omuta Camp, Japan.
WX8356 Watkins, Walter Stafford (Btn HQ)  Java Party No. 3 Williams Force (advance party with Lt. C.J. Mitchell) to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.
WX10762 Watters Tom Murray  (HQ 3 Pln) Remained Java and was recovered from there.
WX7502 Wayman Tom S. (HQ 3 Pln) Driver. Java Party No.  6, P Battalion to Thailand.  ‘Rashin’ Maru to Japan.   Recovered from  Niihama, Japan.
WX10049 Wilkinson Mervyn Wilfred  (HQ 1 Pln)  Java Party No. 5a, Robertson Force  and later attached to Williams Force.  Recovered Thailand.
WX1138 Williams A.G. (C HQ) Cook, Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to Burma.  Recovered from Thailand.

Please read further for overview of Java POW Camps

Below:  Blackburn

 

Central Bandung, 1941

Please read further about ‘Blackforce’

Below:  Blackburn with Blamey

Murray Ewen wrote what every 2/4th soldier thought – even after the war.
The question must be asked ‘why 88 trained machine gunners and support staff who were all trained as infantry were kept behind bars as ‘Aquitania’ weighed anchor and set sail for Singapore?’
Whether the soldier was a driver, cook or a member of the Vickers Machine gun section, the Battalion’s fighting strength was effectively weakened.  Someone had issued the order to restrain these men from re-boarding their ship but this  person  remains a mystery to this day.

 

Above:  Left General Hein ter Poorten with Robert Menzies.

Above:  Centre Hein ter Poorten with Wavell on Right.

Below:  Japanese arrival