‘X’ BATTALION, 8TH DIVISION SINGAPORE
An extra Battalion was formed in Singapore under the leadership of VX13608 Lt-Col Boyes known as ‘X’ Battalion placed under command of 22nd Brigade.
‘In the early afternoon of 10 February, on learning of the collapse of the Jurong Line, Wavell ordered Percival to launch a counterattack to retake it. The order was forwarded to Bennett, who allocated X Battalion to the task. Percival made plans of his own for the counterattack, detailing a three-phase operation that involved the majority of the Australian 22nd Brigade, and subsequently passed this to Bennett, who began implementing the plan but forgot to call back the X Battalion. The battalion, comprising poorly trained and equipped replacements, advanced to an assembly area near Bukit Timah. In the early hours of 11 February, the Japanese, who had concentrated significant forces around Tengah airfield and on the Jurong road, began further offensive operations’
‘the Japanese 5th Division aimed its advance toward Bukit Panjang, while the 18th Division struck toward Bukit Timah. The Japanese fell on the ‘X’ Battalion, which had camped in its assembly area before launching its counterattack, and two-thirds of the battalion were killed or wounded.’
Lt. Col Boyes’ second-in command was Major Bradley, of the 2/19th Battalion, and his company commanders were Majors O’Brien (of the 2/18th) and Keegan (2/19th) and Captain Richardson (2/20th). There had been no time to officially prepare and record the men’s details. They remain unknown.
The Battalion was equipped with rifles, fifteen sub-machine-guns, eight light machine-guns, five 2-inch mortars, and two 3-inch mortars. Some of the men were armed with only hand grenades, and others carried only ammunition.
Machine-gun carrier vehicles were to join the battalion the next day.
‘X’ Battalion troops were somewhat concerned to receive this unexpected order to an unknown destination in darkness. They had passed by British troops earlier who had warned Japanese were about. They had been fired upon by Japanese snipers and could hear heavy fighting on the right. Their location was Jurong I Trigonometry Station on Hill 138.
Lt. Col Boyes had quickly spoken with Major Saggers of SRB – they were known to each before the war. He told Saggers he had to get 450 men settled into their positions – it was already 11pm.
The 3 Companies although uneasy, settled into their positions and the men asleep by 1.00 am.
The 6th/15th Indian Brigade were on their right and 200 strong ‘Merrett’ Battalion were supposed to be on their left – but had taken a track from Reformatory road and forced their way through difficult terrain of bog and tangled growth, hanging on to each other’s bayonet scabbards to maintain contact in the darkness, had formed a small defensive perimeter in Sleepy Valley to await daylight before pushing on.
At 3 am (11th February) the 18th Japanese Division, advancing along Jurong road, launched a sudden attack on the battalion front and flanks catching the Australians completely off guard. The Japanese used hand grenades to ignite a petrol dump near Battalion HQ and Lt-Col Boyes and Bradley who were instantly killed. There had been no time for their sentries to give adequate warning.
Troops were bayoneted in their sleep and others, half awake tried to defend themselves, but were overwhelmed. The Japanese attacked with small arms, grenades and mortar bombs followed by hand to hand combat, quickly overwhelming the Battalion. Groups of men dispersed in various directions, some attacked on their way. Keegan was severely wounded during such an encounter and it became impossible to remove him.
A party led by Lieutenant Richardson who was located on the Left flank was challenged in English, and he went forward with his batman to investigate. He shouted to his men “I’m O.K. but you clear out”. With this warning they succeeded in getting away. Neither Richardson nor his batman was seen again .
O’Brien’s company positioned Right forward, missed the main assault, and the men got away relatively intact.
The losses were so great ‘X’ Battalion would no longer exist.
Merrett soon realised his men was threatened with isolation and ordered his men to move back to Reformatory road at dawn.
The move commenced at 5 .45 am but came under immediate fire. The men divided into groups fighting different actions. Only a small number got back to Australian lines, and were re-drafted to other units.
2/26th Battalion & Lt Col Arthur Harold BOYES
The 2/26th Battalion was raised Nov 1940 at Grovely, Brisbane, Queensland. LT. Col Arthur H. Boyes, a Duntroon graduate, was appointed Commanding Officer of 2/26th. 2/26th recruits came from Queensland and northern New South Wales. Their weekly cross-country training runs earned the unit its nickname ‘the gallopers’
The battalion formed part of the 27th Brigade along with the 2/29th and 2/30th Battalions attached to 8th Division. The 27th Brigade was the last AIF brigade raised during the war.
At Singapore the 2/26th Battalion defended the Causeway sector.
‘Studio portrait of VX13608 Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Arthur Harold ‘Sapper’ Boyes, 2/26 Battalion. Having trained at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and after holding various Military appointments during the interwar period, Lt Col Boyes was appointed Commanding Officer of 2/26 Battalion in October 1940. Lt Col Boyes was killed in action when Japanese forces advanced down the Malay Peninsula, on 12 February 1942, aged 45 years.’