QX6306 Capt Frederick Edwin Stahl, 8th Division Signals
Staff Captain (Administration) to Lt.Col. Kappe
Appointed Commanding Officer of Australian contingent of ‘F’ Force Thailand of 3,600 POWs.
Fred Stahl was invited to speak at an event, Adelaide, SA .
After the war I was often asked to comment on the behaviour of those who had been POWs. In reply, I would give my opinion – to which I had given a great deal of thought after observing the actions and reactions of many men in those dark and difficult days, that under those circumstances men could divided into four classifications – Gold, Silver, Brass and Dross.
The Gold – the first group – were those who would do anything they could, at any time, to assist their fellow men, irrespective of cost or risk to themselves.
Silver – the second group – were those who would do anything they could to assist others, provided there was no great cost or risk to themselves.
Brass – the third kind – were those who were interested only in their own welfare and would do all they could to advance it, short of causing injury or ham to others.
The Dross – the final bunch – consisting of those who were not only interested solely in their own welfare, but they would do all they could to advance their own selfish cause regardless of any inconvenience, injury, or loss or hurt that might befall others as a result of their actions.
Stahl went on to say he would place
10% in the Gold,
50% in Silver,
30% in Brass and
10% in Dross – which included a Private who broke out of camp one night (Nikhe) stole a yak from a Thai farmer and killed it with a pick he illegally appropriated from the Japanese tool store. Over a number of trips backwards and forwards to the Camp, he sold the 400 lbs meat to the starving and meat-hungry POWs for the equivalent of Australian currency 1 pound for each pound of flesh!)
Worse was to follow.
The private left the stolen pick at the killing spot. Stahl refers to this man as ‘Yakkity’ – tools were scarce and precious to the Japanese engineers. Every night the POWs returned to camp they cleaned their tools before handing back to be recorded. Every morning a POW was allocated equipment and recorded.
That very night, the POWs returned late as usual, at 11.30, exhausted and went through to procedure above. About midnight it was realised a pick was missing -all hell broke out in the camp. Stahl wrote ‘the seriousness of this situation was such that one could be forgiven for thinking the POWs had mislaid a battleship!’
All company commanders and OCs of working parties were called out and thoroughly berated for the loss. They were told there would be no food for anybody other than the working party men and those too ill to leave their hospital beds (not that they received very much) until ‘the pick’ was found.
The theory was that everyone else was to look for the pick!
‘Yakkity’ of course did not own up.
Stahl wrote ‘Yakkity didn’t care one jot for the welfare of anyone other than himself.’
Breakfast time came and went without food for anybody except those on the railway working party.
‘Yakkity’ was a ‘full on Dross’- not only was he responsible for everybody going without food he did nothing to correct the situation. He remained quiet about taking the pick and did nothing about recovering the pick. While most of the camp went hungry, Yakkity and his few cronies feasted on the last of the yak meat.
This event shone a light on a member of the Gold group – Sgt Cameron of the AASC managed to find the spot where the killing took place and ‘retrieved the priceless instrument’. Cameron then ‘arranged’ for the pick to be discovered under his bed, and returned at 10.30 am.
The Japs punished Cameron by making him stand in front of the guard house with a heavy object held above his head at arm’s length from 10.30 until 3.30pm. There was no lunch. It was not until 3.30 when the punishment was concluded that restrictions were lifted for the whole Camp.
‘Yakkity’ continued with his illegal operations. With the yak-meat sales he next purchased the entire stock of tobacco stock from a passing Thai trader. He then began to sell the stock to the many POWs craving tobacco. Not only did these POWs have no cash (10 cents pay a day did not stretch far) they were allowed to sign I.O.U.s payable in Australia after the war. Yakkity and his cronies acquired I.O.U.s for many thousands of Australian pounds.
On their return to Australia, the POWs were informed by the Australian Government that I.O.U.s would not be honoured!
(Dont you feel some little jolt of joy?)
About mid June 1943 – Nikhe Camp
There was a very serious shortage of food at Nikhe. Stahl details how much each POW and how little the sick were allocated- many would have died of starvation. He writes a certain senior officer was also affected by the serious food shortage! This officer had arrived at Nikhe to take over command of Australian troops. One of his first acts was to issue a command that he was to receive double rations. His reason ‘Someone has to get back to tell the story of this bastardry and I am the one best qualified to do it’.
There were protests, but the officer ensured his order was carried out. This Lt. Col was Kappe! He would definitely have been part of ‘Dross’ group.
Having read about the discipline in other work Forces I am surprised about these incidents. In a Hunt Camp a POW was found to have stolen from another, Hunt gave him a hiding the bloke would have been too terrified to repeat this act. I doubt Dunlop would have put up with this behaviour either.
Did you know about 7,000 Australian soldiers became POWs of Germany & Italy in WW2
Mostly captured Greece and Crete
and Incarcerated throughout Italy
The majority were captured during the ill-fated Greece and Crete campaigns of April to June 1941. The men were airmen and soldiers of 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions. Most remained captive for more than three years enduring cold, hunger, soul-destroying and never-ending boredom and sometimes physical brutality in Italy and later Germany.
Whilst researching 2/4th’s WX8631 Samuel James BLEWETT I discovered his older brother Frank William Blewett WX9047 2/32nd Battalion 9th Division was captured 22 Jul 1942 at the first battle at El Alamein.
Sam Blewett was not sufficiently fit to leave Singapore Island with work parties as he suffered chronic asthma.
We wish to acknowledge this map has been copied from History Guild https://historyguild.org/first-battle-of-el-alamein-australia-holds-the-line/
Sam and Frank Blewett were born at Gawlia. They were two of four children born to parents Samuel James (Snr) and Mary Blewett. At 37 years of age, in 1917 Samuel Blewett was killed at Sons of Gawlia mine. An Inquiry found another employee was responsible for Blewett’s death. Sam was a popular and well known football player, often captaining his local team. He had resided in the area since about 1901. His death left his wife widowed and his four very young children without a father.
Left: Sam Blewett, 2/4th MGB
Above: Frank Blewett
Australians captured in North Africa by Germany and Italty became prisoners of the Italians. Internment conditions in North Africa were terrible with little food & water provided. They were driven by trucks to Benghazi or Tripoli to board ships to one of several locations in Italy – Naples, Brindisi, Reggio Calabria risking attack by Allied Ships and aircraft while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
So why did the Allies fail at the First Battle of El Alamein? A considerable degree of bumbling – was it because there were too many Nationalities?
Prisoners in pitiful state arrived in Italy having endured many months in North Africa on limited supplies around Tobruk and El Alamein and prior to sailing from North Africa where they received little food and drink by their captors while waiting. There was no opportunity to wash. The prisoners were often met by hostile crowds who jeered and threw projectiles which the Aussies happily returned.
Frank Blewett was initially sent to Campo 57 which held about 1200 Australians. This camp in north Italy had a chapel known as San Mauro or Grupignano
‘Italian camps varied greatly. Some were inefficient and badly run; others were easier. In September 1943 Italy surrendered. Some prisoners were able to escape to Allied lines in the confusion. Those unable to get away were rounded up and sent to Germany: prisoners for a further eighteen months.’ From AWM.
From Holdings Camps on the Italian coast Prisoners were entrained to one of numerous POW Camps throughout Italy. Campo 57 was located near Udine, in the Provence of Fruili in North Italy near the foothills of the Italian Alps. Prisoners were entrained to Cividale and then marched to their camp. Prisoners included Australians, New Zealanders, British, Indian and South African soldiers.
A special Corps known as Carabinieri governed POW Camps, they had both military and civil powers acting as a type of military police. Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra was Campo 57 Commander, a staunch fascist who inspired his men to treat the prisoners harshly, ration their food. Calcaterra liked to punish prisoners regularly for little reason locking them in punishment cells. Never brought to trial for his crimes, Calcaterra was killed by Italian partisans in 1943. It was said “Calcaterra delighted in doling out random beatings, clapping prisoners in irons, condemning them to solitary confinement for extended periods and reducing their rations.”
Still given a choice Australian POWs would have chosen Italy over Changi or Thai–Burma Railway or the Sandakan death marches. But captivity in Italy was not as ‘kindly’ as we have been led to believe. Colonel Vittorio Calcaterra, commandant of Campo 57 at Gruppignano and a committed fascist, was infamous among Australian prisoners for his brutality. He and his thugs inflicted cruel and degrading punishments on POWs, forcing sick men to stand on parade in sub-zero temperatures, and stripping, chaining, starving and beating other prisoners. He was deeply disliked by the POWs and locals!
Of course camp conditions varied.
Most camps received Red Cross parcels and mail regularly unless there were shipping problems, and in good times prisoners would receive one Red Cross parcel per week per man. They also received a good supply of clothing via the Red Cross acquired from various armies. (Frank was given a British uniform) Prisoners had to improvise medical treatment and feared ’57 twins’ – pneumonia and kidney disease. We know at least 10 Australians died at Compo 57.
‘When Italy surrendered to the Allies in September 1943, many prisoners escaped. Some reached Allied lines; others joined anti-Fascist partisans waging a guerilla war in Italy’s mountains. As many as 39 Australians who had been prisoners of war – no one really knows – died fighting with Italian partisans.
‘On 8 September 1943, news broke that Italy had formally surrendered to the Allies, with a secretly negotiated armistice agreement which included provision for the handing over of Allied prisoners in Italy. The War Office in London sent messages to the numerous camps that prisoners of war were to “stay put” pending the arrival of Allied forces.
German authorities, of course, were not party to this agreement and had no intention of leaving Italy, nor of allowing all those prisoners to be released to roam behind their lines. Several days of confusion followed before the German Army could move in to secure all the camps across Italy. In some camps pro-Fascist commandants or the senior Allied prisoner of war enforced the stay put order; in others the Italian guards just opened the gates and left, leaving the prisoners temporarily unguarded.
It is estimated that about 17,000 of the 70,000 Allied prisoners of war in Italy escaped from various camps during this period, including some 500 Australians. But at least 50,000 prisoners were transferred to Germany to endure another two years as prisoners of war. Much has been written of the failure by Allied commanders to plan adequately for the security of those prisoners or to take account of the inevitable German response.’ From AWM
‘Some Allied prisoners simply walked away, unchecked by the Italians who once had guarded them. That was the easy part; the hard part was finding a way to freedom, which often involved picking a way past Italian fascists, aggrieved by developments in the war and looking for violence, and through the German forces that had flooded northern and central Italy to defend the Gustav Line. Many escapers made for the Alps and tried to cross into neutral Switzerland; others went south in the hope of locating Allied lines and finding sanctuary behind them.
Fear and death stalked the men all the way to Switzerland or Allied lines, and they often went without food and shelter. If they reached the Alps they then had to cross them, challenge enough in peacetime. In civilian clothes behind enemy lines they forfeited the protection of the Geneva Conventions; capture could mean being declared a spy and executed. Some Australian escapers in Italy were murdered by Italian fascist soldiers. The physical and mental burdens incurred in “shooting through” were as heavy and damaging as those imposed by captivity. From ‘Shooting through’ by Katrina Kittel.
Above: Entrance to Camp 106
Below: Australian and New Zealand prisoners with Italian guard at Camp 106
Prior to Sep 1943 Frank BLEWETT had been moved to Camp 106. 106 was not a ‘regular’ POW camp – it was a cluster of work farm camps where prisoners worked in the surrounding rice fields 8 hours daily guarded by the Italian army – not as rigorously as most other POW Camps. With the surrender Italian soldiers left their posts and many prisoners were able to escape including Frank Blewett. The former prisoners headed for Switzerland or south intending to meet up with Allied forces. Some were captured, some were killed and thankfully many were successful. Frank didn’t reach Switzerland but hid in the lower Italian Alps until rescued by US 5th Army. He was sent to He sailed home to WA via UK arrived Sydney by ship May 1945.
The German army moved quickly to prevent the escaping prisoners – they did not want Allied troops roaming free behind their lines. The captured prisoners were then transferred to German POW Camps.
Above: The main gate of Campo 57. About 1,200 Australians were held in this camp
We know from Franks AIF records he and another Australia soldier escaped and remained in the southern Italian Alps until rescued by US 5th Army.
Below: In Frank’s words he writes how he and another Australian prisoner were advised by locals 6 Australians and 1 English POW were killed in their ‘hideout house’ about a mile from Franks.
To read about the 1st Battle of El Alamein please go to following sites:
The following tells the story of an Australian POW who escaped camp who fought with partisans in Italy. https://www.coasit.com.au/images/ihs/journals/IHSJ_vol11_no1_2003.pdf
Below: Australian Morshead, Commander of 9th Division and New Zealand’s CO, believed to be Brigadier George Clifton, confer before battle. Clifton distinguished himself when as a prisoner he escaped.
Lt General Morshead
CO 9th Division AIF
He later won fame as the Defender of Tobruk.
Below: German and Italians taken prisoner by Allies advancing to El Alamein.
Below: Field Marshall Erwin Rommel with military aides.
Below: Australian and New Zealand prisoners waiting to be shipped to Italy 1942. It appears the weather is very cold – or were the prisoners forbidden to take belongings and decided to wear all they owned?
Below; L-R Churchill, Morshead & Britain’s General Claude Auchinleck Aug 42
Above: Morshead and Churchill
Below: Morshead with MacArthur – taken later in war when 9th Division had left Middle East.
EL ALAMEIN WAR CEMETERY AND THE ALAMEIN MEMORIAL There are 7,367 burials in the cemetery, of which 821 are unidentified by name.
Below: From AWM.
El Alamein, Egypt. 11 November 1943. Repatriated AIF prisoners of war (POWs) from German arriving to pay their respects to fallen comrades of the 9th Division at the El Alamein cemetery.
I hadn’t planned to, but recently watched a story on SBS TV about 1st year High School Students (aged 12 and 13 years) in August 1945 from various schools in Hiroshima (the seventh largest Japanese city) and outlying areas were taken daily from their classrooms to help clear fire breaks in the city centre and assist city representatives and the army to pull down rows of wooden houses and remove the debri in anticipation of US bombing raids.
Nearly 7% of the city’s residential units had been torn down to make fire breaks.
Japanese military representatives had earlier met with schools to discuss the above project. The school boards were not happy with this request. Although not a direct order, it was made very clear this request could not be refused. For their adored demigod, Emperor Hirohito and Japan these young students had to volunteer their efforts towards the war.
There was a clear blue sky over Hiroshima on the morning of 6 August 1945 at 8.15 am ‘little Boy’ (equivalent of 15,000 tons TNT) was dropped on the city – it was an ideal target being flat and surrounded by hills. It is estimated there were about 27,000 students working on that morning.
The true number of dead will never be known. Initially the US estimated Hiroshima’s population was 255,000. 66,000-70,000 had died with 69,000 or more injured. These figures vary from sources – many of these would die within the next month or so from their serious burns and injuries received and from ongoing sickness for years/decades following.
Junko was home sick from school and was one of few survivors of her school class. Although not wounded, her siblings were and they made their way towards the river anxious to quench their thirst created by the excessive heat, fires and smoke. They joined hundreds and hundreds of burned Japanese of all ages making their way towards one of Hiroshim’a seven rivers seeking water, desperate to cool their red burning bodies and appease their thirst.
Another student survivor who had been working told how he woke to find his class-mates either dead or severely burned. Their clothes and hair burned from their bodies. Red-bodied students now hardly recognisable, were crying for their mothers and water. Those who could walk stumbled towards the river.
All of Hiroshima’s schools would have been lost in the horrific blast. Many families of students resided out of the immediate radius of the city such as Junko’s family. Distraught parents of students from these outer areas went into the flattened city centre in search of their children.
The numbers of Japanese victims Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only a small portion of WW2 deaths. How many lives were lost to Japanese brutality and invasion during the Pacific War between 1940-1945 and in China and Korea from 1937 to 1945.
Let us hope there will never be another world war.
Johnny Funk with his brothers Alexander and Paddy assisted the POWs and other locals involved in the Sandakan Underground, North Borneo.
The three brothers became part of the local underground movement assisting Australian POWS. Alex Funk was executed and the other two brothers imprisoned by the Japanese when the movement was betrayed.
Following the capture and torture of the POWs at Sandakan, they were taken to Kutching for a military trial. Following the trial Alex and 7 other local men from Borneo were executed.
Johnny was imprisoned at Kutching Gaol for four months in a 20ft X 15ft cage with 100s of prisoners during which time they were brutally tortured on a daily basis. He wrote of the kindness of a Catholic nun, Mother Augustine who brought them food. Sadly my research has not been successful in locating Mother Augustine (most missionaries were imprisoned, some died of illness and some were murdered by their Japanese guards.)
‘THE Funk brothers – Johnny, Alexander and Paddy – were members of the North Borneo Volunteer Force (before the war). Their family home was near where the Allied Prisoners Of War (POWs) were interned from July 1942. This enabled the brothers to establish secret contacts with the POWs which saw them providing help and serving as conduits between the POWs and the hospital in Sandakan.
When their activities were betrayed to the Japanese in July 1943, the brothers were arrested and severely punished by the Japanese Army; Alex was executed while Johnny and Paddy suffered great physical and psychological torture.
The brothers first came into contact with the POWs in September 1942. Alex, who was the youngest, made the initial contact with Captain Lionel Matthews, the POW officer who was the camp’s intelligence officer (who was executed).
Matthews had requested assistance in food, medicine and radio parts. With radio parts supplied by Johnny and others, a radio was assembled by the Australian POWs and was put into operation.
Apart from supplying radio parts, the Funk brothers were also instrumental in establishing links between the POWs and Dr V. Stookes, a World War I British fighter pilot. After completing his medical studies, Stookes came to North Borneo to work as an estate doctor on the Kinabatangan River. He owned a seaplane which he used for his medical services. With Stookes’ help, more medicines were made available to the POWs’
Below we will see Johnny and his wife, Mrs Funk visit Perth, WA and it appears their son Melvin will attend school at Aquinas.
Johnny Funk had been hosted by Les Riches and his wife, staying with them at their home in Darlington.
Mrs. L.G. Riches has been a strong and hard working advocate for former POWs since the war ended and prior to that she organised POWs and relatives.
When it was announced due to ill health of Mrs Riches, she as Les were moving to Melbourne where their only daughter Helen and her husband resided. We assume this may have led to the Funks then settling in Melbourne and Melvin attending school in Victoria rather than Perth.
Shrines can be found around the city of Seoul reminding their population of their women & young girls who were forcefully or deceptively taken from their homes to ‘serve’ Japan’s soldiers who invaded countries throughout Asia.
Tokyo and Seoul have never agreed on the topic of
The term “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese ianfu (慰安婦) which literally means “comforting, consoling woman”.
Historians estimate between 50,000 – 200,000 women were involved.
Young women/girls from every south east asian country captured by Japan were sometimes tricked often harrassed and forced into sexual slavery. Women from Korea, China, Java, Phillipines, Burma, Thailand, French Indo-China, Portugese Timor, Malaya, Manchukuo, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Young women/girls from every south east asian country captured by Japan were sometimes tricked often harrassed and forced into sexual slavery. Women from Korea, China, Java, Phillipines, Burma, Thailand, French Indo-China, Portugese Timor, Malaya, Manchukuo, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Koreans, Taiwanese were forcibly taken from their families as very young girls, barely in their teenage years, sent by ships to various countries throughout south east Asia and subjected to the most horrific brutality.
They suffered sexually transmitted diseases, physical violence and terrible deprivation at the hands of the Japanese. Those who returned home were broken and often too ashamed to return to their families.
Australian POWs saw comfort women arriving at the Burma-‘Thai Railway Camps for the Japanese guards. POWs were distressed to see the state of the women and despised the Japanese guards.
There were few alleged crimes against comfort women brought to the Tokyo War Trials. It is estimated more than 2,000 women from Korea were recruited, most were abducted to work in brothels to serve the Japanese in WW2.
Above: US Troops with Comfort Women in Burma – after the war.
Above: Javanese women taken to Timor.
Above: A South Korean statue instalment of a man resembling Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bowing to a girl representing South Korea’s ‘comfort women’ has Japanese governmental officials in rage.
Above and Below: These statues are moved to various locations throughout the city, even outside the Japanese Consulate.
Above: This “comfort woman” statue is placed on a bus seat to mark the 5th International Memorial Day for Comfort Women in Seoul.
WORLD WIDE ‘COMFORT WOMEN’
Above: San Francisco – ‘Comfort Women’ statues prompted Osaka to drop San Francisco as a sister city.
Above: “Statue of Peace” in Berlin angered Japanese officials. It commemorates over 200,000 girls and women from 14 countries forced into sex work by the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War.
Above: Taiwan – 2018
Above: Glendale, USA
Above: Australia 2016. (we wish to acknowledge ABC – unfortunately the link is no longer accessible)
‘The unveiling of a statue in Sydney honouring so-called “comfort women” during WWII is continuing to cause tension between local South Korean and Japanese communities.
The 1.5-metre statue imported from Korea symbolises the hardships endured by tens of thousands of Korean women, who were forced into servitude.
It has been unveiled at Croydon Park in Sydney’s west by a former comfort woman from South Korea, Won-Ok Gil, 89, who flew in for the ceremony.
Ms Gil was forced to work in a “comfort station” at 13 years of age and was and raped hundreds of times by Japanese soldiers.
At the Sydney unveiling, she sat besides the peace monument and became too emotional to speak.
“I do not feel happy having to remember all those hard years,” Ms Gil said.
Si Hyun Paik of the Peace Statute Establishing Committee said the empty chair serves as a reminder of the victims who have since passed away.
“The Peace Monument is one small way that we can honour the pain and suffering endured by the many girls and women who were drafted to become sex slaves by the Japanese wartime Government during WW2,” he said.
“It is important that we remember the past and in doing so making sure sexual violence against females does not happen in the future.”
Won-Ok Gil (centre) with Reverend Bill Crews, (second from right at front), at the statue’s unveiling.(ABC News: Antoinette Lattouf)
Reverend Bill Crews from the Uniting Church-run charity The Exodus Foundation said last week he would put the statue in the foundation’s gardens in Ashfield, after Strathfield Council refused to approve the statue’s placement within its boundaries.
The president of the Australia-Japan Community Network, Tesshu Yamaoka, said the statue was disturbing the harmony between the two groups in Sydney.
“Nobody has ever denied the existence of the comfort women system, even the Korean Government had their own comfort women system across WWII,” he said.
“Many women suffered, not only Korean women, Japanese women and many other women suffered in the war.”
“We should all be sympathetic to them but we should not use the matter for a political purpose. We have to be fair.”
Reverend Crews said he was angry when he heard that Strathfield Council had rejected the statue.
“I got outraged, this is a statue towards women’s suffering, it doesn’t have anything to do with politics,” he said.
Reverend Crews said it was very moving hearing Ms Gil’s story.
“This is a statue towards all women suffering, lots of women tonight will go home and be bashed by their husbands I think it represents that as well, it’s the start of women saying never again.
“We are singling out those Japanese people that offended, we are not singling out Japanese people as a whole.”
Reverend Crews said he would put the statue in the foundation’s gardens in Ashfield today.
The Australia-Japan Community Network said in a statement that the statue was “far more than just ‘honouring comfort women'”.
“This is the clear evidence that the statue always comes with hatred and aggression,” the statement said.
“It is extremely unfair for the Japanese community having to face this kind of one-sided intimidation while the matter has got nothing to do with the local community where we have been living in harmony with all other ethnic groups.”
The comfort women peace monuments have been erected in 40 cities of Korea, seven in the US and one in Canada.
Sydney’s statue is the ninth monument erected outside of Korea and the first in Australia.’
Finally, and personally – I find the term ‘Comfort Women’ distressing and demeaning. Worse is the fact that even today, although Japan has paid out some finanacial compensation, but little. Japan is waiting for the last women to die. Do they realise these women have families and the next generations will never forget? Some of these women abducted and taken from families were as young as 10 years.
GENEVA, Feb. 24, 1933 (UP) – The Japanese delegation, defying world opinion, withdrew from the League of Nations Assembly today after the assembly had adopted a report blaming Japan for events in Manchuria.
You can watch the Japanese delegation walk out of the 1933 Leaque of Nations assembly.
‘Don’ Company 2/4th MGB – The following synopsis was prepared by Cheryl Mellor for the Fall of Singapore commemorative service held 12th February 2023
POW MEMORIAL, KINGS PARK
30th January Australian troops moved to battle lines.
31st Jan – Causeway blown up.
Sunday 8th February 1942 was a day of intensive and continuous artillery fire and aerial bombing especially around the north west area where 2/20th Btn, Dalforce and 2/4th’s ‘D’ Coy’s 13 Platoon men had dug in. The attack beginning 0100 hours Sunday 8 Feb lasted until 1100 hours that night. WW1 veterans said it was worse than anything they were subjected to in France.
Yamashita’s heavy guns fired 88,000 shells (200 rounds per gun) during 15 hours along the straits, cutting telephone lines and isolating forward units. In comparison 2/4th Vickers machine gun received an allocation of 20,000 rounds of ammunition per gun!
An old gun (probably Boer War) was located in Singapore and an additional 2/4th Platoon was formed. 24 well trained machine gunners including three officers were pulled out of ‘D’ Company’s 4 Platoons. 24 troops plus three Reinforcements formed 16 Platoon under C.O Sgt Arbery, Platoon Sergeant Colevas & L/Cpl Stribley. During the early fighting Stribley was KIA. Arbery & Colevas WIA & evacuated.
Above: Alf Cough
‘D’ Coy Headquarters Company Commanding Officer Major Alf Cough, 2 I/C Capt George Gwynne, C.S.M Sgt Feltham were left with 4-5 troops plus Cook L/Cpl Stewart were located behind the frontline. 13 & 16 Platoons were ordered to report to D Coy HQ if their lines fell. Desperate machine gunners who had fought their way out of the frontline found HQ deserted and instead ran into Japanese.
‘D’ Coy was supporting 22nd Brigade’s 15 kilometre sector of most difficult swampy and sandy coastline under Commanding Officer Brigadier Harold Taylor. The 22nd Brigade had 3 Battalions – 2/18th, 2/19th and 2/20th, hopelessly undermanned with no reserves. The total strength of 22 Brigade’s forward line was 1500 men with 450 in close company reserve. The 1.5 kilometre beach frontage averaged about 10 metre distance between every man.
The results of Japanese targeting HQs and communication lines between Units and to HQs was catastrophic.
Half an hour after the bombardment ceased at 11.30pm wave after wave of thousands and thousands of Japanese troops began crossing the Straits on barges landing on 22nd Brigade’s defence line around Sarabin Beach. The Japanese had closely monitored west coast mapping the weakest spots. The attacking troops easily slipped through wide areas without defence, outnumbered and encircled the troops. The Machine Gunners fought bravely and magnificently until forced to retreat under heavy fire, some gun pits having expended all their ammunition such as Meiklejohn. Many troops found themselves behind the Japanese frontline. Some were captured, most tried to escape, hide or at least hold out. Annear and Bell caught behind Japanese front lines were killed 14th Feb attempting to escape in a boat.
At approximately 1130 hours 13 Platoon Vickers machine gun in No. 1 pit received a near direct hit. 23 year old Pte. Bob Pratt was killed outright, Sergeant Joe Pearce & Corporal Bill Paterson were wounded & evacuated.
Above: Bob Pratt
Pratt’s English born family lived Higginsville near Norseman. Pratt’s family were notified of his death Feb 1942 prior to communications to Australia being shut down.
Attached to 2/20th Battalion, 13 Platoon’s C.O. Lt Eric Wankey supported by Platoon Sergeant Cpl Jacobs, four other Corporals Hunt, Kenney, Paterson & L/Sgt Joe Pearce, 32 Privates and 3 reinforcements. Within hours Wankey & his No 2 Gunner Loller had been WIA, evacuated out with Pearce, Patterson & Beard. (Wankey & Loller would each lose a leg to amputation). Cpl ‘Jake’ Jacobs took over command. Patterson spent months hospitalised recovering from his serious wounds.
By 15 February, 13 Platoon suffered 4 x KIA – Pratt, Lin MacDonald and Fred Tregenza who had been ambushed getting out of the front line and Sidney Thomas Brown (believed to have enlisted underage) DOW
Fred’s convoy was ambushed and machine gunned. Trucks abandoned, the men scattered and attempted to make their way to 2/20th Battalion Headquarters. Fred was last seen with George Quinn who managed to escape to Sumatra. It is believed Fred was killed somewhere on or near Lim Chu Kang Road.
Fred Tregenza and his brother Jack enlisted same time 1940. Farmers from Dangin, Fred joined 13 Platoon and John known as ‘Jack’ was Sgt in 15 Platoon. Jack died of illness at Brankassi POW on the Burma-Thai Railway in 1943.
12 x WIA
4 Shell-shocked at Hill 200, Ulu Pandan.
Further south of 13 Platoon was 15 Platoon under C.O. John Meiklejohn supporting 2/18th Battalion’s 900 troops from 4 Rifle Companies under C.O Varley (including a large number of inexperienced reinforcements who arrived on ‘Aquitania’ with 2/4th).
Meiklejohn was KIA with several of his men including Solly and John MacDonald fighting their way of the coast at Sarimbun Beach. 15 Platoon’s 37 troops suffered the most deaths and wounded in ‘D’ Platoon.
Popular Sgt ‘Jack’ Solly was a miner at Murrim Murrim with his two brothers when he enlisted 1940. English born John MacDonald didn’t know his father was ordered to be ‘Shot at Dawn’ by England’s Army WW1.
Caught behind Japanese lines Anear & Bell were killed trying to leave on a boat several days later. John MacDonald, Meiklejohn, Solly, Syd Reid, Robert Rouse, Taylor and Donald Moir were KIA in and around the coast.
Pingelly boy Rouse was captured and killed whilst trying to escape.
Whitford & Thorpe were killed by the same shell at Buona Vista KIA on 15 Feb,.
Bob was born 1903 Princess Royal Mine, near Norseman. He was a miner/prospector at Kalgoorlie when he enlisted.
English born 25 year old milk carrier Jim Thorpe of Gosnells came to WA as a 12 year old to live with older sisters as his mother had died.
Total 11 men KIA
12 x WIA
Bluey Semple escaped to Sumatra
3 x Shell shocked Ulu Pandan
Leadbitter was captured, returned to unit at Changi.
Further south from 15 Platoon was ‘D’ Company No. 14 & 16 Platoons supporting 2/19th Battalion whose CO Lt/ Col Oakes had replaced Lt-Col Anderson VC who was ill. Their location was from the Murai to Berih (Sungei) River and Choa Chu Kang Road. The mouth and estuaries provided an excellent opportunity for deep penetration by Japanese landing craft giving access to Tengah Airfield and the ability to attack the rear of 22nd Brigade. The area is best described as a tidal basin a kilometre wide from north to south and twice that in length.
16 Platoon was located on the exposed north headland of Tanjong Skopec with two guns sited on the water’s edge and a third 350 metres east covering a huge area without any supporting infantry. C.O Ron Arbey and 2 I/C Des Colevas were WIA.
Ordered to fall back to Bn HQ 16 Ptn found ‘D’ Coy HQ deserted and ran into strong Japanese concentrations. Under attack they were forced to scatter into small groups. Destroying their guns they tried to make their way back to Australian lines.
By 15 Feb 16 Platoon had 9 men KIA –
1) Midland boy Lt/Cpl A.W. ‘Bert’ Stribley was KIA 9 Feb, married with 2 young sons. Transf from D Coy HQ to 16 Ptn. Enlisted 1940 with brother Norman Stribley who joined 13 Platoon (was shell shocked at Ulu Pandan). Norm was recovered from Thailand having worked around Hellfire Pass with D Force S Battalion.
2) Joseph Barrass KIA 11Feb Tanjong Murai aged 29 years (his party scattered under heavy fire) had been working as a Hoist Driver at Marble Bar.
3 & 4) Reg Brown & Maurice Browne managed to leave the coast were KIA at Lim Chu Kang Road. Reg Brown aged 18 years was formerly a bootmaker.
Ballarat born Maurice Browne came to WA with his parents. Father to two children, his marriage had broken down. He was working as a truck driver at Meekathara. He left his fob watch with his wife, which his children proudly possess today.
5) 42 year old Tom Edwards KIA Hill 200, Ulu Pandan 12 Feb. English born Tom was father to two children. 1922 he came to WA from England aged 23 year with wife They took up land with the Busselton Group Settlement scheme. Pte. T.H. Edwards served WW1 with The Lancashire Fusiliers.
6) Newly married Ellis Shackleton was believed WIA or KIA when his crew tried to escape West Coast.
7) WW1 Veteran, 49 year old William ‘Billy’ Stuart was KIA Lim Chu Kang Road. WIA with 16th Battalion AIF at Gallipoli. WIA Hill 63 Messines Ridge and awarded a Military Medal for his actions at Proyart with 48th Batallion, 1918.
8) 6’tall, 22 year old Fremantle born ‘Laurie’ Taylor KIA Tanjong Kurai. He had worked as a civil servant. His parents resided Beaconsfield.
9) Reinforcement and Wagin boy 21 year old Fitter’s Assistant, Ron Ellis received GSW arm & chest. He died following an arm amputation on 13 Feb.
3 x WIA
3 Shell shocked
WX7745 Bernard G Harrison did a runner, left Singapore civilian ship
Richard Annear (brother to Dudley) escaped Sumatra
Thomas Ashton Wood escaped to Java
John Wilson MIA 8 Feb, returned to his unit Changi
About 8 men to march to Changi 16 Feb.
By 0300 the Japanese had poured through the space between 2/18th and 2/19th near the mouth of Sungei River – Singapore’s defenders all along the coastline were engaged with hand to hand fighting. The continual build up of Japanese left the Australians fighting for survival.
14 Platoon supported 2/19th and was led by C.O. Lt Tomkins supported by Sgt Skinner, Cpl Horn Cpl Wells. 36 men from 2/4th located further inland from 16 Platoon at head of Sungei River with 2/19th’s ‘A’ Coy. Not yet committed they were ordered to withdraw to the south-eastern corner of Tengah Aerodrome. By 0600 they had moved east along Choa Chu Kang road and took up position alongside 2/29th Btn (Brigade Reserve). Cpl Horn was taken prisoner by Japanese and returned to Battalion at Changi.
By this time the whole of Brigade 22 sector was occupied to some degree by the Japanese concentrating in force on the main Lim Chu Kang road and around Ama Ken Village. Evacuating wounded became a matter of running the gauntlet. Trucks packed to capacity were attacked by Japanese troops and strafed by aircraft. Some vehicles arrived with additional casualties and some were never seen again.
Les Cody wrote in ‘Ghosts in Khaki’ P.157 “The confusion existing behind the Australian lines after the first onslaught by the Japanese was extensive, traumatic and inevitable. The forward defences were little more than isolated pockets of platoon strength or less and as these were overwhelmed or by-passed by the Japanese they were further fragmented.”
Compounding these problems was the constant forced relocation of command HQ. There were continuing breakdowns in communications. Orders were misinterpreted, lost and units left behind. Orders lost relevance and purpose by the time of delivery. Relaying of orders was virtually limited to word of mouth and use of Despatch riders – easily lost or KIA.
There was no possibility of an organised withdrawal and it was only as survivors began to filter through that any attempt to regroup was possible.
This disarray continued as further Platoons and Battalions were subjected to Japanese attacks.
On 9th Feb 2/18th, 2/20th and 2/29th as well as ‘D’ Company fought all morning to keep Tengah Airfield falling into Japanese Hands. With the Lim Chu Kang Road defence line collapsing, Taylor at 1pm, orders a withdrawal to Jurong Road. The Japanese had full control by late afternoon.
Thursday 10 Feb Brig Taylor’s troops are still holding the Kranji-Jurong Line. Taylor supposedly misreads Percival’s secret emergency orders sent the previous night. These orders have been edited by Bennett and passed on. Taylor mistakes the orders to move immediately to Singapore’s perimeter defence positions – withdraws his troops from the northern sector. The Japanese immediately take possession. The southern extremity of this Kranji-Jurong Line is held by 44th Indian Brigade.
The next day, 11th Feb the 44th Indian Brigade come under heavy air and artillery bombardment and clash with Japanese troops. Suddenly the Indians are in full flight – unable to be controlled by officers. Later that afternoon, they are reported to be at Pasir Pamjang Village on south- west coast – 4 miles further south than where they should be. 44th’s CO Brig. Ballentine finally regains control of his men bringing back to Ulu Pandan Road.
The Kranji-Jurong Line has virtually been given to the Japanese.
Above: Lt Col Anketell
12 Feb – Lt Col Anketell has taken control of about 400 men from 2/4th at Ulu Pandan. At Hill 200 they find themselves tied down under hours and hours of heavy artillery.
A noticeable number of ‘D’ Coy troops suffered shell-shock at Hill 200, Ulu Pandan.
Hill 200 was costly to 2/4th.
41 men KIA or DOW including Lt. Col Anketell.
13, 14th & 15th Feb – All troops retreat to hold Singapore city for the final battle.
There were no boundaries for Japanese Brutality during WW2 – This is the story of Makassar, Celebes
The Makassar area of Celebes was defended by approximately 1000 men of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army commanded by Colonel M. Vooren. On realising he could not defend the coast, he planned to fight a guerrilla war inland. The Japanese landed near Makassar on 9 February 1942. The defenders retreated but were soon overtaken, captured and taken POWs.
Even today, we hear and know little of the Celebes in WW2 – found off the south east coast of Borneo. Today it is known as Sulawasi.
Although many had left, the remaining Europeans on the Island were rounded up and imprisoned by the Japanese.
Survivors from HMS Exeter, USS Perch submarine, US Pope destroyer and other ships were taken POWs of Japan, initially to Makassar. There were about 70 Australians.
‘A general summary of the movements of HMS Exeter愀 ships company after she was sunk on March 1st 1942.
All the survivors (approx 600) were taken to Makassar with a short stop in Banjermassen (South Borneo) Shortly thereafter the Senior officers were sent to Japan (Zentsuji).
In Oct. 1942 a mixed group of 200 mostly from Exeter but also from Encounter, Stronghold, USS Pope and Perch together with 800 Dutch moved to Nagasaki in the Asama Maru.The destination was the island of Koyagi, the site of Fukuoka 2 camp.
In Jan 1943, 200 Exeters were sent to work at a nickel mine in Poemalla (Eastern Celebes) returning in Sept with serious casualties. Another group worked on an airport at Marros(Sorry-no details) Finally a small group of Officers and senior Ratings were moved to Java in 1945.
Officers in Japan (including me) were moved from Nagasaki to Hoten (Manchuria – Mukden) in April 1945.’
Above is copied from http://www.mansell.com/pow_resources/camplists/other/makassar_main.html
Below: Some of the reports of Japanese brutality – (our thanks to Mansell Website.)
In 1945 the Allies were preparing to invade Japanese held territories. The following is just a little of the information we have gathered, in fact there were more than 300 pages about Celebes.
They have been copied from the Monash Repository:
Allied Geographical Section: WWII Special Reports
‘In 1942, after a series of directives from General MacArthur’s Headquarters, the Allied Geographical Section(AGS) was formed with the task of compiling all the available geographical intelligence on the largely unmapped and underexplored south-west Pacific area (SWPA). During its lifespan (1942-45), the AGS, produced 3 major types of publications: Terrain Studies; Special Reports; and Terrain Handbooks. The Terrain Studies were the most important and complex works, designed to give the most comprehensive information. Thus, they contained text, diagrams, photographs and various sized and coloured maps. The AGS’ Special Reports were produced for planning and operational staff. They often give information on specific problems.’
You will read many interesting details about Celebes at that time.
Below: Directive from General Headquarters, SW Pacific Area.
Below: Towns & Important Villages
Below: Resources, Repair Facilities
Below: Medical Problems & Tropical Diseases
The first Australian troops arrived 21 September 1945. British and American POWs were moved from the Military Hospital to Morotai. Unfortunately it was not until December when the last of the Dutch civilians were evacuated.
MENADO, CELEBES 1945-10-02. QX6236 LIEUTENANT COLONEL R. A. C. MUIR, COMMANDER OF MENADO FORCE IS MET ON THE DOCK BY A JAPANESE SURRENDER PARTY. (PHOTOGRAPHER SSGT R. L. STEWART)
MENADO, CELEBES 1945-10-03. OCCUPATION BY MENADO FORCE. QX6236 LIEUTENANT COLONEL R. A. C. MUIR, COMMANDER OF THE FORCE, AND COLONEL DE ROOY, NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES ARMY INSPECTING JAPANESE PLANES AT LANGOWAN. THE PLANES HAVE BEEN PAINTED WITH GREEN CROSSES ON A WHITE BACKGROUND, THE AGREED SURRENDER COLOURS. (PHOTOGRAPHER SSGT R. L. STEWART)
There were three 2/4th boys relocated from Java to Sumatra by Japanese during 1944 (to work on Railway) Harold Booth, Noel Banks Java Party 22 & Robert McAskil – Java Party 20 (Booth & McAskil died illness during 1945)
They joined 2/4th POWs Richard Annear, Arthur Magill, Quinn & Squance in Singapore to sail to Sumatra’s Railway Project. These four men had survived sinking of their POW Transport Ship SS Harujkiku. Another three 2/4th remained in Singapore either from injuries received or illness: Burgess, Semple & Harold Smith.
Ted Hopsondied 26 April 1944, was buried 200 yards south of 28 kilo peg on Blangkejeren-Tekencong Road.
Five 2/4th men were rescued from Sumatran Railway at war’s end.
Booth, Banks and McAskil were part of the 90 2/4th men who were AWOL from ‘Aquitania’ at Fremantle on 16 January 1942, and later landed in Java and not Singapore. (Please note these men were not necessarily AWOL by choice – remember MPs at Fremantle did not release the men from imprisonment to allow them to reboard ‘Aquitania’ before she sailed 16 Jan 1942) Please read story
Nearly all of the Australian POWs on Java were shipped out beginning 1942 to work on the Burma-Thai Railway in various work parties. Those left behind were ill and excluded. We know Banks suffered severely, and almost constantly with malaria.
McAskil departed Java with Java Party No. 20 arriving in Singapore on 21 May 1944.
Booth and Banks were transported to from Bicycle Camp Batavia with Java Party No. 22 arriving Singapore 1 July 1944.
On his arrival in Singapore McAskil was taken to River Valley Road Transit Camp. It was here assessment was made of the men’s their health before being forwarded to Japan. McAskil was removed from the draft of 777 men. The ship carrying this draft of men was sunk off Nagasaki by a US submarine on 24 June 1944.
Booth, McAskil, and Banks sailed from Singapore (with Annear ) were sent to Pakan Baroe when they arrived at Sumatra.
Booth WX8766 died 15 April 1945 of beri beri.
McAskil died of cardiac beri beri aged 44 years at Kampoeng 106km near Kota Baroe, Sumatra. After the war his body was taken to Djakarta War Cemetery. (As was that of Harold Vernon Booth).
Banks was the only survivor of these three 2/4th men who were AWOL at Fremantle and sailed to Java instead of Singapore.
Banks was seriously ill as were so many men, when war ended. He was one of the men flown out of Sumatra to Singapore AGH and flown home soon after to WA with the Duke of Gloucester plane, which had been made available to airlift the dangerously ill former POWs.
Banks suffered almost continuously with malaria and the reason he was NOT selected with work parties leaving from Java to the Burma-Thai Railway.
Built in 1939, it started as a British Royal Air Force (RAF) station called RAF Tengah, and in 1971 it was handed over to the Singapore Air Defence Command, the predecessor of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
RAF Tengah was commissioned in 1939. Tengah airfield was the target of Carpet bombing when seventeen Japanese navy bombers conducted the First air raid on Singapore, shortly after the Battle of Malaya began. It was also the first airfield to be captured when Japanese forces invaded Singapore.
‘The Airfield was completed by 1939 as one of the bases constructed for the air defence of Singapore. Along with Seletar Airfield and Keppel Harbour, it was one of the first targets bombed by the Japanese after their landings in Malaya and Thailand in the early morning of 8 December 1941. These bombings intensified from 29 December onwards and the air cover over Singapore was inadequate to provide much protection. The airfield also lost its Station Commander, Group Captain Watts, who committed suicide near the end of January due to the stresses of the campaign.’
From the 8th December 1941 Tengah was subjected to continual air strikes by the Japanese and later in December 34 Squadron moved north to Butterworth in response to the Japanese landings in north east Malaya.
In January 1942 approx 50 crated Hawker Hurricanes arrived in Singapore a number of which were sent to Tengah. However conditions at the station were now very difficult with continual bombing and artillery fire from across the Straits of Johore. 34 Squadron was withdrawn to Palembang on the 18th January 1942 followed by 62 Squadron who were now equipped with Lockheed Hudsons leaving only Hurricanes. These were reinforced by more Hurricanes from HMS Indomitable. However these were then withdrawn to Sumatra – this was how Singapore disposed of its air power and any protection for its land army.
Tengah Airfield was the main target of the Japanese landings on north west coast of Singapore. General Tomoyuki Yamashita wanted to capture Tengah within 12 hours, but was delayed by the dogged resistance of 2/4th MGB and 22nd Brigade. The north west coast was where 2/4th’s ‘D’ Company’s four machine gun platoons had dug in. Dug in as was possible – with the swampy shorelines some pits found it necessary use sandbags for protection and hide instead.
Each Machine Gun Platoon consisted of two sections each with two Vickers machine guns giving the Battalion a total of 48 Vickers machine Guns.
This defence line to Singapore’s north west coast was firstly and most significantly undermanned. The campaign was exacerbated by inefficiencies and the poor strategies of Singapore’s higher command.
‘The invasion commenced about two hours before midnight of 8th Jan. The 2/4th machine gunners bravely fought their best however could not contain wave after wave of enemy soldiers. There were 26 deaths (most in the first two days of battle and twice as many wounded who were evacuated.
As the Japanese moved so quickly many 2/4th were caught behind their lines. Some of these succesfully escaped to Sumatra or Java. Some were captured and we know of at least 4 or 5 who tried to escape captivity only to be shot. Others captured were returned to Changi after 15th Feb such as Cpl Doug Horn who was captured at Sungei Berih.
Cpl Doug Horn WX9418 of 14 Platoon was captured in the vicinity of Sungei Berih.
On the 10th February 1942 the airfield was in Japanese hands and was operated by the Japanese Army for the rest of the war.