DON or ‘D’ COMPANY NO. 13 PLATOON
The first 4000 yards from the western bank of the Kranji River was a continuous stretch of mangrove swamps. The next 4,000 yards the swamp areas decreased and the country was little higher than the water’s edge – this area was allocated to 2/20 Battalion (Lt-Col Assheton) with 2/4th’s 13 Platoon and Dalforce (company of Chinese irregulars) attached.
The 2/20th stood to arms on the night of 6 December 1941, but over a month would pass before the first of its men were in action. On 7 January C Company was detached to form half of a special force that was deployed to delay the Japanese approach to Endau, a town further north along the coast. It clashed with the Japanese on several occasions from 14 January, until it withdrew to rejoin the battalion on 26 January. In the meantime, Japanese troops had also been engaged in the vicinity of the 2/20th’s main positions around Mersing, which were also heavily bombed. Once rejoined by C Company, the 2/20th withdrew from Mersing and on 31 January arrived on Singapore to take up a position on the northern flank of the 22nd Brigade’s sector on the island’s west coast.
On 30 January 1942 Don Coy moved to an assembly point within 22nd Brigade area at Ama Keng village.
On 31st Jan – Causeway was blown up.
Defence preparations on Singapore’s North and West Coast were constantly under observation from Johore Baru’s tall buildings. Defence work had to take place at night with the troops resting/sleeping during the day, especially in cleared areas The Japanese pinpointed the Australian locations and were able to direct the endless bombardment which preceded the attack.
13 Platoon’s C.O. was Lt Eric Wankey was supported by Platoon Sergeant Cpl Jacobs, four other Corporals Hunt, Kenney, Paterson and L/Sgt Joe Pearce, 32 Privates and 3 reinforcements. Kearney & Cowboy Matthews joined Platoon following ‘E’ Coy SRB’s ambush at Bukit Timah on 12 Feb
Lim Chu Kang Road is located on Singapore’s north-west coast. This remote corner of Singapore is believed by historians to be the place where the Japanese first set foot on the island on the night of 8th February 1942.
Just to the east of the Sungei China at the end of a track within the Buloh Estate stood a two foot high stone retaining wall. Projecting out from this wall was a jetty at the end of which was a rotunda. A little further along the wall was a shark proof swimming enclosure.
Lieutenant Eric Wankey, Commanding Officer of No. 13 Platoon had decided to mount his three remaining Vickers machine guns in three separate gun pits along this wall. It was impossible to dig gun pits because of the proximity to water’s edge and Singapore’s high water table, so in this case, defences were sand bags raised above the height of the stone retaining wall. Originally there had been 4 Vickers machine guns, however on Saturday 7th February Sgt Ron Arbery had been placed in command of a supernumerary platoon, being No. 16 Platoon, and assigned to the defence of an area further to the south within the 2/19th Battalion’s area. With Sergeant’s Ron Arbery and Des Colevas went several men, being extra gun numbers and one of No. 13 Platoon’s Vickers medium machine guns.
All that stood between the troops of the Imperial Japanese Army’s 5th Division on Singapore at this remote location with approximately 35 men of No. 13 Platoon, and three Vickers machine guns and with an allocation of 20,000 rounds of ammunition per gun, with the 2/20th AIF.
13 Platoon had been attached to Australian 2/20th Battalion to strengthen their defence of the north-west coast of Singapore. 2/20th’s 16 Platoon was forward and close to our machine gunners. 2/20th’s 16 Platoon was 200 yards to the east, 17 and 18 Platoon were between the forward troops and 2/20th ‘B’ Coy HQ located away from Buloh Besar Estate Bungalow.
At 1000 hours on the morning of 8th February 1942 the Japanese commenced their artillery barrage of the west coast of Singapore which would not be lifted until 2200 hours that night.
It was later learnt the Japanese had 400 Field Guns with an allocation of 200 shells and about 60 heavy mortars.
There is no doubt every defending soldier experienced fear and terror, and endeavoured not to show the man next to him the extent of his own fear. Former WW1 soldiers said the Japanese barrage was heavier than ever experienced in France.
Most effectively, this barrage destroyed much of the communications – part of the Japanese planning. British/Australians HQs were soon unable to communicate with their frontlines and vice versa.
Late in the morning at approximately 1130 hours the Vickers machine gun in No. 1 pit received what was close enough to a direct hit. Sergeant Joe Pearce and Corporal Bill Paterson were wounded and Pte. Bob Pratt was killed outright. Corporal Edgar Hunt and Pte.’s Norm Venemore, Tom Beard and Ken Lally checked the gun and found it to be still fully serviceable. However so as not to take any risks, the gun was now sited between the other two Vickers. In Pit No. 2 were Pte.’s George Neville and Johny Browning and in pit No. 3 were Pte.’s Lin MacDonald and Jack McCarthy being the numbers one and two on each gun.
John Morgan recalls…..
‘As it was my watch on seeing a black mass on the water approaching our position I called “13 Platoon Action” and commenced firing at the enemy. Gun crews were on the scene and were firing in a matter of seconds.’
The first wave of Japanese had commenced their attack about 30 minutes before the artillery barrage was lifted. It was roughly at this time 2200 hours that the first wave of enemy leapt from their landing barges and began wading ashore. Some of the barges were sunk and as the enemy spilled into the water they attempted to move around the flanks of No. 13 Platoon’s position and ran straight into the spare gun numbers and troops from 2/20th Battalion.
About 15 minutes passed and a second wave approached No. 13 Platoon. One barge was moored offshore on a fish trap and a mortar crew commenced firing. Many of the 2/4th Battalions casualties over the next seven days were as a result of this weapon. Soon a mortar round made a direct hit on the Vickers gun that Lt. Wankey and Pte. Jimmy Loller, his No.2 had been firing. Both were wounded. Lt Wankey was to later have his right leg amputated and likewise. Pte. Loller, his left leg.
The Vickers suffered little damage and Sgt. ‘Jake’ Jacobs took over command of No. 13 Platoon. He first ordered Driver Gil Saunders to evacuate the wounded to the Casualty Clearing Station.
Successive waves of Japanese barges came head long at No. 13 Platoon. As the Japanese attempted to come in along the jetty or envelope No. 13 Platoon’s position by way of the flanks the machine gunners engaged the enemy with hand grenades, rifle and bayonet.
Near 0230 hours the ammunition situation was becoming critical and ‘Jake’ gave the order to destroy the three Vickers machine guns. The remaining men moved out in single file in an easterly direction. Progress along a barely discernible track at night was extremely slow and not helped by smoke from the oil tank fires in the Woodlands vicinity. Small arms fire could be heard off to the right as the men arrived at dawn at the Sungei Kranji. This water course in their path would have been most challenging had they not purloined a fishing boat and crossing was made in 3 trips. About 4 of the men had become disorientated along the way and were lost. It was a great relief to Major Alf Gough and Capt. George Gwynne the remainder arrived at ‘D’ Company Headquarters located about one mile from the Sungei Kranji.
LIM CHU KANG ROAD, 8th February 1942
On the 60th anniversary of ‘The Fall of Singapore’ Joe Pearce and John Morgan, both original members of No. 13 Platoon travelled to Singapore for the occasion. They made a return visit to the isolated end of Lim Chu Kang Road – to the place they were located 8th February 1942.
The following is the story Joe Pearce related to Murray Ewen, Author, ‘Colour Patch.’
‘My feelings on finding our old gun emplacement site on the Buloh Estate initially was one of excitement. Finally here we were at the same spot after all these years. The jetty, which had been enlarged was still there and is still used by the owners of a large residence which is there now but of course wasn’t in 1942. Back then, there was a two-storied house with an orchard and palm trees. This was where our slit trenches were but now this whole area is overgrown with jungle. Part of the wall where our guns were set up has been extended on one end. The middle section of this wall has been lowered to about half of its original height but nevertheless you still roughly work out where our three guns were sited.
I sat down quietly and my mind reflected back to that fateful day when the Japanese artillery barrage started and pounded us continually for seven hours.
First Bob Pratt, Bill Patterson and myself were knocked out. Later when the Japs tried to land, Eric Wankey, Jim Loller and Tom Beard were carted out. Lin MacDonald and Fred Tregenza were ambushed on the way out, never to be seen again. Later as POWs Edgar Hunt, Jack McCarthy in ‘D’ Force, Bill Patterson in ‘F’ Force, Ron Langdon in ‘H’ Force, Johny Browning and ‘Comet’ Shirley in Sandakan Borneo. There was also Harry Carter, Norm Venemore, Jim and Lacy Gibbs drowned going to Japan and Ken Lally killed in a mining accident, all never to see Australia again.
Then the fight to stay alive for three and a half years until war’s end and the joy of seeing Australia again and our family and friends. Our loves, lives and ambitions realized, children to raise, beautiful life. Now just John Morgan and myself from No. 13 Platoon back at the landing after 60 years.
All these memories good and bad, of life I feel very lucky and humble for my life’s experience and say a prayer for our fifteen that never saw Australia again.’
Les Cody WX9555 was original member of 13 Platoon until his appointment to ‘D’ Company Staff Sergeant C.Q.M.S. about 11 Feb 1942.
And the additional No. 16 Platoon
38 men with 16 Platoon, including Dunnell & Nash (Reinforcements) & joined by Kearney & Matthews from ‘E’ Company SRB
5 Men from 13 Platoon transferred to 16 Platoon on 7th Feb 1942
12 Men from 13 Platoon wounded, evacuated 8th, 9th
Feb including CO Wankey (with Loller, both had legs amputated)
Lt Jacobs became Commanding Officer.
4 men evacuated with Shell Shock at Ulu Pandan 12 Feb
4 Men KIA – Bob Pratt, Reginald Brown, Lin MacDonald, Fred Tregenza
Quinn twice wounded escaped to Sumatra
Commanding Officer: WX9392 Lt M.E. WANKEY
WIA 2330 hrs 8 Feb 42 at the northern end of Lim Chu Kang Road a mortar round made a direct hit on the Vickers gun Lt. Wankey and Pte. Jimmy Loller, his No.2 had been firing. Both were wounded. Lt Wankey was to later have his right leg amputated and likewise Pte. Loller, his left leg.
17 Feb 42 Wankey’s lower right leg amputated. Recovered from Singapore at end of war.
Platoon Sergeant: WX10787 Sgt Ron Edward ARBERY –Transferred 7 Feb to Commanding Officer 16 Platoon – WIA and evacuated 8 Feb 42 with gunshot wound to head.
Sergeant: WX10804 Cpl Harold JACOBS
Sgt Jacobs acted 13 Platoon Commanding Officer following wounding and evacuation Lt. Wankey (Pearce, Beard and Patterson were also evacuated out) Jacobs went to Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force S Battalion, then to Japan with Rashin Maru Party, worked at Yamane and Niihama and recovered from Japan at end of war.
WX9327 Cpl E H HUNT – d. illness Hindaine POW Camp Burma-Thai Railway 10 Aug 43 aged 29 years.
Cpl Edgar Hunt and Pte.’s Norm Venemore, Tom Beard and Ken Lally checked the gun at Joe Pearce’s pit and found it to be still fully serviceable. However so as not to take any risks, the gun was now sited between the other two Vickers.
WX8532 Cpl W G B KENNEY – WIA evacuated with shrapnel wound right arm. Discharged to unit 20 Feb 42.
WX9073 Cpl William James (Bill) PATERSON – WIA 11.30 hours 8 Feb North Lim Chu Kang Road with Joe Pearce. Evacuated with shrapnel wounds to left and right forearms and face with bone damage to right elbow. Spent considerable time hospitalised, discharged to unit 17 Sep 42. Left Singapore with ‘F’ Force to work on Burma-Thai Railway. Collapsed and died Shimo Sonkurai POW Camp. 27 years.
WX9268 L/Sgt J PEARCE – No 1 Pit at 11.30 hours 8 Feb 42 – Received direct hit killing Bob Pratt, Joe Pearce and Bill Paterson wounded and evacuated.
WX9289 ANDERSON, Ronald George – ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Btn. RTA
WX13468 Pte ANNEAR, Richard Winston – Reported missing from 10 Feb 42. Captured Padang Sumatra 9 May 42. RTA. (brother to Dudley Annear)
WX9277 BEARD, Thomas James WIA Lim Chu Kang Road 8 Feb during pull out from the No. 13 Platoon position on West Coast of Singapore. Evacuated with shrapnel wounds to left knee and wrist. Discharged to unit 21 Feb 42.
Tom worked on the Burma end of the Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force No. 3 Battalion. He suffered tropical ulcer and was hospitalised at Konkhan km Hospital Camp, Burma, however fortunately recovered.
He was recovered at the end of the war from Thailand
WX8796 L/Cpl BRACKLEMANN, Franz WIA at Lim Chu Kang Road on west coast of Singapore 2100 hours on 8 Feb. He was reported to have attacked a group of Japanese with a bayonet and may have killed as many as 8 of the enemy. Evacuated with a compound fracture of scalp caused by bullet wound. Discharged to Unit 22 Feb.
WX10805 BROWN, Reginald James Transf to 16 Platoon.
WX8789 BROWN, Sydney Thomas – WIA 14 mile peg Lim Chu Kang Road 8 Feb. Evacuated with Lt. Wankey. DOW
WX9283 BROWNING John Henry ‘Johnny’ – In Pit No. 2 were Pte.’s George Neville and Johny Browning and in pit No. 3 were Pte.’s Lin MacDonald and Jack McCarthy being the numbers one and two on each gun.
Johnny WIA 0930 hours 9 Feb with gunshot wound to calf muscle of right leg. Discharged to Unit 23 March 42.
With ‘B’ Force Borneo, Johnny d. malaria 16 July 1945 at Sandakan, North Borneo aged 25 years.
WX9278 BUNCE, Edward William Henry left Singapore to work on Burma-Thai Railway at the Hellfire Pass Cutting with ‘D’ Force S Battalion. Selected to work in Japan and sailed with ‘Rashin’ Maru Party worked Yaman and Niihama. Recovered from Japan.
WX9326 CARTER Alfred Henry worked Burma end of Burma Thai Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma. In 1944 selected to work in Japan and lost his life when Japanese Transport Ship ‘Rakuyo’ Maru was sunk by American submarines 12 Sep 1944 in South China Sea aged 24 years.
WX9060 A T J CATO (Transf 16 Platoon)
WX16047 L G GIBBS (Transf 16 Platoon)
WX8958 GIBBS, William Herbert known as Jim worked on Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway and selected to work in Japan during 1944. Lost his life when Japanese POW Transport ship was sunk by American submarines in South China Sea 12 Sept 1944 aged 28 years.
WX9290 HICKS, George Halley suffered shell shock, evacuated to hospital on 12 Feb 1942. Discharged to unit 20 Feb 1942.
Worked Burma -Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand with Captain Harris Party. Recovered from Thailand at war’s end.
WX7612 KELLY, Charles George McQueen – Sailed to Java and not Singapore.
WX9318 LALLY, Kenneth WIA 2100 hours on 8 Feb, evacuated with wounds to his right leg. Discharged to Unit 21 Feb. Worked on Burma-Thailand Railway, then sent to Japan to work at Omuta POW Camp where he was crushed between two coal trucks. He died 23 March 1945 aged 30 years.
WX9293 LANGDON, Ronald Guy – Left Singapore With ‘H’ Force Group No. 3 to work on the Burma-Thai Railway. Evacuated to Kanachanburi with cholera and beri beri. Returned to Singapore however died Sime Road POW Camp 24 Jan 1944 of cardiac beri beri aged 32 years.
WX9321 LOLLER, Andrew James – WIA 2330 hrs 8 Feb 42 at the northern end of Lim Chu Kang Road a mortar round made a direct hit on the Vickers gun Lt. Wankey and Pte. Jimmy Loller, his No.2 had been firing. Both were wounded. Lt Wankey was to later have his right leg amputated and likewise Pte. Loller, his left leg.
WX9324 McCARTHY, Jack Was a talented sportsman. He died Burma-Thai Railway with V Battalion of malaria at Linson POW Camp aged 24 years.
WX9279 MacDONALD Lindsay Murray – No. 3 gun pit Pte.’s Lin MacDonald and Jack McCarthy being the numbers one and two on each gun. MacDonald KIA 9 Feb 42. Lin MacDonald and Fred Tregenza were ambushed on the way out, never to be seen again.
WX9233 MORGAN, Alfred ‘John’ – ‘D’ Force Thailand S Btn. Recovered Thailand at end of war.
WX9256 NEVILE, George Edward – WIA 10 Feb receiving shell burn to left leg, remained on duty.
In Pit No. 2 were Pte.’s George Neville and Johny Browning and in pit No. 3 were Pte.’s Lin MacDonald and Jack McCarthy being the numbers one and two on each gun.
Recovered from Thailand at end of war having worked on Burma-Thailand Railway with ‘D’ Force S Battalion in the Hellfire Pass cutting.
WX9207 NEWTON, Alfred – worked on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force T Battalion. He was recovered from Thailand at the end of the war.
WX7409 PASCOE, Thomas Anthony worked on Burma end of Railway with ‘A’ Force. Selected to work in Japan. Was one of the few fortunate survivors to be picked up by USSS Pampanito four days after the ‘Rakuyo’ Maru sank. He returned home before the war ended.
WX8705 R W PRATT – KIA 11.30 8 Feb direct hit into Gun Pit wounding Pearce and Paterson.
WX9285 QUINN, Cecil George – WIA North Lim Chu Kang Road on 9 Feb and again on 11 Feb, receiving a shrapnel would to left foot. George successfully escaped to Sumatra from West Coast of Singapore during the fighting. He was taken POW of Japan in Sumatra. He was recovered from Pakan Baroe-Moeara Railway, Sumatra at the end of the war.
WX8952 RIEBE, Robert Ronald – worked on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force S Battalion. Recovered from Thailand at the end of the war.
WX8652 ROGIE, Andrew Middleton Shell Shocked at Buona Vista 15 Feb however remained on duty.
WX9272 SAUNDERS, Albert Gilbert – remained Singapore throughout the war and recovered from there.
WX8535 SHIRLEY, Alfred Francis – WIA 17000 on 8 Feb, evacuated with shrapnel wounds to his left forearm. Discharged to unit 8 Mar 1942.
Shirley with ‘B’ Force Borneo d. 10 May 1945 malaria Sandakan POW Camp, North Borneo aged 36 years.
WX13552 SMITH, Roy Shell shocked at Ulu Pandan on 12 Feb and evacuated. Returned to unit on 20 Feb. Worked on Burma-Thai Railway at Hellfire Pass Cutting with ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion. Recovered from Thailand at end of war.
WX9058 STRIBLEY, Norman Leslie shell shocked at Ulu Pandan 12 Feb admitted to hospital and discharged to unit 20 Feb. Worked on Burma-Thai Railway at Hellfire Pass with ‘D’ Force S Battalion. Recovered from Thailand at end of war.
WX9280 TREGENZA, Frederick Thomas ‘Fred’ – Lin MacDonald and Fred Tregenza were ambushed on the way out, never to be seen again.
‘Whilst retiring from his gun position on west coast of Singapore Fred’s convoy was ambushed and machine gunned by the enemy. The trucks were abandoned, men scattered attempting to make their way to 2/20th Btn HQ. Fred was last seen with George Quinn who managed to escape to Sumatra. Fred is believed to have been killed on or near Lim Chu Kang Road 9 Feb 42. He was 31 years old.’
WX9292 VENEMORE, Norman James – with Corp Edgar Hunt, Ptes Norm Venemore, Tom Beard and Ken Lally checked the gun used by Joe Pearce and found it to be still fully serviceable. However so as not to take any risks, the gun was now sited between the other two Vickers.
Venemore worked on Burma end of Burma Thai Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion. Lost his life 15 Sept 44 when Japanese Transport ship ‘Rakuyo’ Maru was torpedoed and sunk in South China Sea. Aged 28 years.
WX9219 WEBB, Clifford – Shell shocked at Hill 200, Ulu Pandan 12 Feb. Admitted to Hospital and discharged to Unit on 20 Feb. Remained Singapore throughout war and recovered from here.
WX9002 H C F WHITE (Transf 16 Ptn)
WX17595 DUNNELL, Norman Lenard ‘Bob’ worked Burma Thai Railway with V Battalion. Selected to work Japan with ‘Aramis’ Party. Worked Omuta Coal Mine and was recovered from Japan at end of war.
WX17452 KEARNEY, Laurence Daniel – (from No 2 Platoon SRB) – probably lost during Japanese ambush on 11 Feb South West Bukit Timah with ‘E’ Coy SRB. His Commanding Officer Lt. Jimmy Till was KIA.
A bullet entered through his back at his spine and exited through the left shoulder. There is evidence suggesting Kearney was also bayoneted but feigned death to escape capture. By the time he reached AGH at Roberts Barracks Changi he was also suffering exposure to the elements. Discharged to Unit 16 March.
Worked on Burma end of Burma-Thai Railway with ‘A’ Force Burma Green Force No 3 Battalion. During early 1944 Kearney was selected to work in Japan. Sailed on ‘Rakuyo’ Maru which was torpedoed and sunk 12 Sep 1944 in South China Sea. He was one very lucky boy – He was rescued by USS Pampanito 4 days later. He went home before Xmas 44!
WX17000 MATTHEWS, Frederick Noel ‘Cowboy’ was originally with No. 1 Platoon ‘E’ Coy SRB. When the Japanese ambush broke at at south West Bukit Timah – men ran in all directions, most met their young deaths and some were lucky. Cowboy ran into the jungle foliage and didn’t stop to look back. He always said he was very lucky because he eventually ran into some boys from Don Company and remained with them until the surrender.
His Commanding Officer Lt/Cpl H.F, Green was KIA 11 Feb.
Worked on Burma Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand S Battalion. Selected to work in Japan and sailed on ‘Rashin’ Maru. Worked at Misui’s Yamane and Niihama Mines. Was recovered from Japan at the end of the war
WX15746 MORRISON, Arthur Edward – AWOL Fremantle. Taken to Java and taken POW of Japan 8 March. Sailed from Java with Java Party No. 4 Williams Force to work on the Burma-Thail Railway. He was recovered from Thailand at the end of the war,
WX17363 NASH, Claude Ocea – WIA 9 Feb evacuated with small fragments of shrapnel in his arm. Discharged 16 Feb 42. Departed Singapore with ‘E’ Force Borneo to Sandakan. Died acute intestinalitis Ranau 23 March 1945 aged 26 years.