Between September 1942 and January 1945 a total of 26 parties left Java.
In addition to POWs incarcerated in Singapore – 3,980 troops from 1st Australian Corps and 8th Division were POWs in Java. This figure included about 90 men from 2/4th who missed the Aquitania sailing from outside Fremantle on 16th January 1942. Please read further
Additionally there was a very large number of Netherlands East Indies troops (Indonesians) plus a number of POWs from other countries, and even some Java civilians. Of the AIF troops, 3,449 POWs who left Java were to work on the Burma or Thailand end of the Railway.
Java Party No. 3 – under command of Lt. C.J. Mitchell, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion. The only 2/4th included in this party was WX8356 Walter Watkins.
Java Party No. 4. under Command of Lt.-Col J.M. Willliams. This party departed Tanjong Priok on Kinmon Maru on 8 October 1942, disembarking at Singapore on 12 October 1942.
‘Informal portrait of Lieutenant Colonel J M Williams, Commanding Officer, 2/2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion in the Officers’ Compound at the Bicycle Camp after his release from the Kenpeitai (Japanese Military Police).’
‘He had been subjected to torture for 30 days by the Kenpeitai (Japanese Military Police) in an attempt to obtain from him matters of military importance. Persistent refusal to capitulate to the Japanese inquisitors was met by such treatment as poisoned food which brought on excessive vomiting and filling the stomach with water and being jumped on. On one occasion he was taken out before a firing squad. He was humiliated by being imprisoned with native prisoners and allowed only an occasional wash, but was not permitted to shave.’
Lt. Mitchell’s advance party was reunited with Java Party No.4. at Changi.
Two days later Java Parties 3 and 4 departed Singapore having boarded Maebashi Maru to Rangoon, Burma arriving on 23 October 1942. They were transhipped to a smaller vessel called Yamagata Maru which took the men up the Salaween River in Burma to Moulmein. They arrived late on 24 October and were accommodated overnight in the local gaol.
Java Party No. 4 was now organised into two groups. These were named after their commanding officers:
Black Force –
Lt-Col C.M. Black was the Commanding Officer of 2/3rd Reserve Motor Transport Company. There were about 6 men from 2/4th included.
Wiliams Force – Lt-Col J.M. Williams, Commanding Officer of 2/2nd Pioneers Battalion. There were about 43 men from the 2/4th included.
Williams Force totalled 884 men also included 272 men from HMAS Perth.
On the morning of 26 October Williams and Black Forces marched 2 miles to South Moulmein railway station and embarked on a 40-mile train journey to Thanbyuzayat.
The two Forces were now incorporated into Burma Administration Group No. 3.(Also included were Green, Ramsay and Anderson Forces)
Williams Force was transferred to Tanyin 35 Km Camp the next day. Please read further
At the same time, Black Force commenced work at 40 km Beke Taung Camp the next day – due to failed water supply on 29 November 1942 and compelled to move back to Kun Knit Kway 26 km Camp.
Between 14-25 December 1942, Ramsay Force also moved to 26km camp to join Black Force.
‘It should be noted that in all Australian camps on the Burma end of the Railway, Officers accompanied the men on the work parties and actively intervened to protect the men from punishment, often taking the bashing themselves. This was very much the rule in Williams and Anderson Forces where the Officers had won the respect of the men in action in Syria, Java & Malaya, Col Anderson won his Victoria Cross in the Malaya fighting.’