Widows Marion Matthews and Glad Cowie lay the 2/4th Wreath
2/4th Machine Gun Battalion Ex-Members Assoc
REMEMBRANCE SERVICE for the
80TH ANNIVERSARY of the FALL OF SINGAPORE
11.00 AM ~ Sunday 13 February 2022
P0W MEMORIAL, KINGS PARK
MC Harry Tysoe (grandson of Harry Tysoe WX92266 ‘A’ Coy, sailed Japan with ‘J’ Force, died illness 1943 Osaka, Japan aged 35 years)
President Bernie Dorizzi (nephew of three Dorizzi brothers who died Sandakan in 1945, Herbert WX7997 ‘D’ Coy, Gordon WX9274 ‘A’ Coy, Thomas WX12884 ‘A’ Coy) welcomed at least 100 attendees supported by Catafalque Party and Flag Raisers from 502 Army Cadet Unit, Karrakatta under guidance of Captain Ashleigh O’Connor.
Cheryl Mellor (daughter of ‘Cowboy’ Matthews WX17000 ‘E’ Coy, worked Burma-Thai Railway, sailed ‘Byoki’ Maru to Japan, recovered Yamane, Japan) gave the address, asking all present to imagine how the very confused Battle survivors felt, many very young enlistments. They wondered the whereabouts of mates, did those injured survive ? and what of men lost left behind Japanese lines? They had witnessed their wounded being bayoneted.
The eight day Battle for Singapore was nothing short of total confusion, lead by incompetent leaders of all nationalities.
The Australians soon learned their leader Gordon Bennett had deserted them prior to capitulation!
Ordered to forfeit their weapons during the night of 15th and morning of 16 February (and not do anything ‘stupid’) – they were no longer soldiers having surrendered to their enemy. They were POWs!
The ultimate humiliation was having to march 23 kms to Changi. Their battle hardened victors lined the roads and watched. Chinese who dared to throw food or water to the POWS were severely bashed. They marched into Selarang Barracks where conditions were crowded.
Continuing the tradition of reading the names of all 2/4th who died during the battle the names of ‘C’ Coy were read out by Greame Hambley (son of Ernest ‘Blue’ Hambley WX4991 ‘B’Coy worked Burma-Thai Railway with ‘F’ Force, recovered Singapore) and Lou Daily (nephew to William Beer WX7636 ‘D’ Coy, died Sandakan June 1945 aged 28 years and Lou Daily WX8778 ‘B’ Coy, sailed Japan ‘Byoki’ Maru from Burma-Thai Railway. Recovered from Yamane, Japan)
Prayers were led by Jackie Kyros (daughter of Jack Kyros WX10715 HQ Coy worked Burma-Thai Railway with ‘F’ Force. Recovered from Singapore.
Laying of Wreaths and laying of personal floral wreaths and sprigs of rosemany.
2/4th Wreath was laid by
Widows Glad Cowie (wife of Harold Cowie WX8641 ‘B’ Coy, worked Burma-Thai Railway with ‘F’ Force, recovered Singapore)
and Marion Matthews (wife of ‘Cowboy’ Matthews WX47000 ‘E’ Coy, Burma-Thai Railway sailed ‘Byoki’ Maru to Japan, recovered Yamane, Japan)
Ode of Rembrance
Recited by Ian Holding (son of Wally Holding WX17634 ‘E’ Coy, ‘F’ Force Burma-Thai Railway, recovered Singapore).
The Last Post and Rouse
Played by Bugler, Lt/Cpl David Scott
MC Harry Tysoe thanked the Catafalque Party, flag raisers and all those who contributed to the success of the Service.
Thanks to Jim Elliott for his musical accompaniment during wreath laying – (son of Jim Elliott WX8619 ‘A’ Coy ‘D’ Force S Battalion Burma-Thai Railway, ‘Byoki’ Maru to Japan, recovered Yaamane, Japan).
Address on the Fall of Singapore by Cheryl Mellor, daughter of Cowboy Matthews, (Pte Noel Frederick Matthew, WX17000)
Describing the Fall of Singapore is a challenge.
Throughout decades historians have written varying views of this battle.
WW2 for the 2/4th began with Singapore.
Why and how Singapore fell, while of historical interest, is not our focus today as we commemorate the memories of the men we knew and loved and their mates.
The only fact we can be certain of is that when Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese on the night of 15 Feb 1942, the fate of every soldier fighting under the British flag – India, Australia and British – was sealed as was the safety of every civilian of every nationality. Large numbers would be buried on this Island and never return to their homeland.
Damned to three and half years of hell as POWs, men became slaves under Japanese rule, brutal, usually sadistic, always neglectful and subjected to the most indescribable conditions.
Many more would die of tropical illnesses the result of their weakened condition due to starvation and unable to be treated because of the lack of medicines.
Others died in air-raids, in the sinking of POW transport ships and during the horrors of Sandakan, on the Burma -Thai Railway, in Sumatra and in Japan.
That any of them survived to return to Australia is a miracle.
The surviving former POWs never forgot their good fortune. Or was it?
The final surrender was officially recorded as at the cease fire – 20.30 hours, 15 February 1942 at the Ford Factory in Singapore.
An official order and instructions for surrender from 8th Division HQ was sent to all Battalion Commanding Officers advising them to take reasonable precautions for security during the night. They were to remain within their Unit areas until first light – completed by 08.30 hours 16 February 1942 the next day.
Warned against any foolish action they were ordered to unload their arms and ammunition under strict supervision and to remain at their present position.
Water bottles were to be filled during the night. (Remember the water supply was cut during fighting).
Finally, they were instructed to wait at their allocated locations – mostly around Tanglin and Botanic Gardens.
Where were their mates?
What had transpired to those evacuated because of injuries?
What of the men caught behind Japanese lines – for they knew there were a reasonable number overrun. Were they safe? They had witnessed Japanese soldiers bayoneting wounded.
What of their wives, children, and families back home?
Forfeiting their guns and ammunition meant they were no longer soldiers.
Just a few hours ago they were fighting to hold the perimeter around Singapore city, a perimeter which continually tightened. Many soldiers died or were seriously injured by shrapnel.
To begin with the Australian Divisions which had arrived earlier were war weary having fought their way out of the Malay Peninsula with a high loss of lives. They were ‘topped up’ with hundreds of new recruits with little training – men who sailed on the ‘Aquitania’ with 2/4th who were, by contrast superbly fit and well trained under the leadership of Lt Colonel Mick Anketell.
Defences were spread too thin on the north west coastline; the Allied Forces were underarmed and undertrained. Australian governments had failed to maintain their armed forces and equipment over the past years (as in US and UK).
Many of the 2/4th Companies ran out of ammunition, especially ‘D’ Company which was fighting on the beaches with machine-guns. Under fire two days and nights, their nerves fraught and their bodies unresponsive, shell shock was widespread.
There was no time to eat or drink. Every man had witnessed another being killed in action – being bayoneted, or who disappeared in a blast from artillery or bomb.
There were tears of rage, tears of anger and tears of sorrow on the battlefield. Also fear, bravery, madness and death.
Their Head Quarters were no longer where they should have been.
Where were the defence lines?
Soldiers sought further ammunition from depots only to be told they required an official chit signed by an officer! A cry of ‘All our officers are dead’ did little to produce a response to their pleas.
Which was the safest direction to take or just run for your lives such as from the ambush at Bukit Timah where nearly half of ‘E’ company died, were wounded, or missing?
Wally Holding wrote of his survival following the ambush.
‘Lost and with a few others they headed towards Singapore using the stars and walking at night and hiding during the day. They did not see any Allied soldiers and avoided the enemy for at least two days. ‘
Companies had been left behind during withdrawals.
How could that happen?
Breakdown in communications, misinterpreted orders. Exhausted Commanding Officers.
Whole Companies left their allocated positions to the Japanese and exposed other units to enemy attack.
Flanks were infiltrated by the Japanese, such as Hill 200 where 41 men from 2/4th died or were wounded – including their Commanding Officer Mick Anketell who would die several days later. They were forced to fight their way out of Japanese encirclement.
Their enemy was well trained and battle-hardened. The Japanese invasion was meticulously planned. Allied telecommunications were knocked out on the first day causing chaos and the widespread use of ‘runners’ to pass on instructions. Japanese reconnaissance for several weeks and with assistance from the 5th Column had spies on the ground who had mapped every HQ, machine gun location and military location.
The figure of 965 men of 2/4th included about 100 well trained machine gunners who sailed to Java and more than 100 reinforcements with little or very little training.
Another 20-30 were evacuated with injuries or illness leaving a number of around 700 trained fighting men.
The Australians stood out like beacons in their desert uniforms in Singapore’s jungle green island with acres of mangroves, swamps & mosquitos. They were dressed for the middle east where they had expected to be deployed before the order to go to Singapore was given.
There was no air support nor tanks.
The soldiers of the 8th Division were led by divided and unresponsive leadership – There was animosity at the very top between those supposed to be charge. In fact, there were too many leaders.
When it was all over – did anybody take responsibility? The blame was mostly placed on the soldiers, in fact Australian soldiers. Then Indian soldiers. Then British decisions.
Now all the soldiers who had survived the battle including the men of the 2/4th, faced the humiliating 23 km walk to Changi in front of their victors and locals.
Many had lost their belongings, some had light wounds.
Those in hospital were transported by vehicles. Too many spent the entire war in hospital.
One of the 2/4th, Frances Andrew Toovey, whose nickname was Andy, came home and tragically died a month after. A number of others died not long after their return home.
Occasionally Chinese families would throw the men and civilians a drink or a little food as they walked in the heat without water – the consequences for this Chinese courage was to be savagely beaten by rifle butts.
The Australians were sent to Selarang Barracks. Soldiers moved into confined spaces – the officers had far more comfort and their batmen to boot.
Bitterness and blame lingered. Was their anger justifiable?
The 2/4th blamed everybody at ‘the top’.
Their Australian leader Lt General Gordon Bennett had run out on them. General Percival may have appeared ‘wobbley’ at times, but Bennett often relied on the stars and his WW1 days. He was always abrasive and confrontational and out of date.
Whatever rations they had managed to secure and bring with them soon ran out. The Japanese were forced to provide food. For their remaining days as POWs they now faced – RICE! Rice every day. But never enough.
Australian cooks took weeks to learn the tricks of cooking rice. Hunger was their companion every single day of their captivity – at night when they wearily closed their eyes and again in the morning when many would have preferred not to wake.
Once home the men began another whole battle.
A battle with their health, their minds, and a battle to receive assistance and recognition from the DVA. They were often referred to as malingerers by a panel of three who had little knowledge of their POW years, nor interest in what was going on in the gut and the mind of these veterans.
Just as their forefathers had after WW1. Nothing has changed for our soldiers today.
The battle did not end there – their descendants, children and grandchildren inherited many health and PTSD issues from their fathers and from their broken childhood homes. Their wives helpless. Sons were confused – their fathers did not relate to them – afraid of breaking down.
More often than not former POWs did not share their history with anybody.
Today, on this 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore, we remember every man from the 2/4th.
We hold in our hearts those young Western Australian men buried in Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, Vietnam and Japan.
We especially remember the men who had no family to return to or cry a tear for their deaths.
We always remember our loved ones.
We will never forget.
Please (God), may it never occur again.
Above: Harry Tysoe
Below: Bernie Dorizzi
Above: Harry & Cheryl Mellor
Above: Greme Hambley and below Lou Daley
Below: Harry Tysoe & Jackie Kyros
Below: Ian Holdng
Above: Jim Elliott
Below: Great Grandsons of Thomas Wayman WX7502
Above: John McCourt, CEO RSLWA
Above: Arthur Leggett
Above: Katherine Mullaney
Above: Tina Kyros, Bernie Dorizzi, standing are rear Harry Tysoe, Front Right: Cheryl Johnson (Secretary) and Past 2022 Premier’s Student Tour representative, Katherine Mullaney, a Year 11 student at St George’s Anglican Grammar School.
Below: Glenda (nee Holding) with daughter Danielle James and grandson Charlie Caporn.
Above: 2/4th Committee Members