Execution of WX16675 Rupert John MILLBROOK & WX7336 Harold Bertram OCKERBY 19 FEB 1942

23 YEAR OLD RUPE MILLHOUSE WAS ONE OF 15 AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS HELD IN A SMALL ROOM AT JAPANESE HQ, at BUKIT TIMAH ON 19 FEB 1942.

 

During the fighting in Singapore on 11th Feb 1942, SRB had crossed through scraggy bush land and entered a basin shaped piece of land without vegetation, they could see native huts at the end of the clearing.    They had hours earlier, in great haste evacuated their last position which was overrun by Japanese soldiers.
Suddenly all hell broke out – SRB, plus one Indian and one British Company walked straight into a Japanese ambush.
Officers managed to yell sufficient orders to a large number of soldiers to form a bayonet charge against the Japanese machine guns located ahead in the huts and to the sides.  Soldiers were falling either KIA and wounded. The Indians panicked.  Those at the rear realised their best chance of surviving was to run from the shooting.
Those left behind Japanese line sought safety in the scrub.   Most were hunted down and killed.
Les McCann with a wounded leg sought safety in a native hut where he found 2 wounded British officers and an Indian soldier – together they tumbled into a dugout shelter beneath the hut and waited in silence.
The four men spent at least a night if not two before McCann took a gamble and poked his head out of the below ground shelter – they had had nothing to eat or drink.  Les was in luck, he immediately spied a demijohn on the other side of the hut and quickly crawled over and grabbed the container, some coconuts and a few pieces of food before disappearing out of sight.  They were able to wash their wounds.
The following morning McCann decided to venture outside and further away into the nearby native village.  As he carefully crept between huts he heard a voice call out.  It was Rupe Millhouse from his Platoon.  Rupe was seriously wounded with four GSW in his knee and unable to walk at all.  McCann immediately dressed his wound, found a rifle to use as support the two men quickly returned to the underground shelter and interim safety.
The British and Indian soldiers decided they would leave the next morning, take a chance and head for the coast.  Millhouse was in great pain and in no condition to walk.  He and McCann decided to stay for what would be another two nights during which time McCann cleaned and dressed Rupe’s wounds, fed and watered him.
With no clue of what was ahead Millhouse and McCann left the shelter and began walking towards Singapore. It was 14 Feb 1942.  They saw a few elderly native women with young children, even a Japanese convoy.  It rained again and they took rest in the first kampong hut they came across.  In the morning two monks came by and advised them the war was over and the Japanese wanted all soldiers to quickly return to Singapore and showed them the direction of the coast road.  They came across an Australian Naval man who advised them to abandon their weapons – he was travelling north intending to escape.
16th February McCann and Millhouse moved out again along West Coast Road where they met 3 other Australians near Pasir Panang Village. The 5 men were stopped by Japanese sentries standing outside an arched building and ushered inside. They were then locked in a room fitted with barred windows. At about 1800 hours that evening they were taken outside and put on a truck. At the gate they met another Japanese who was escorting more Australians including R.S. Fred Airey and Private Harold Ockerby; the remainder were all members of 2/28th Battalion. The group no numbered 15.  R.S.M. Airey had been conscripted from. Singaporeto drive trucks for the Japanese for the purpose of collecting Japanese bodies to be taken to the crematorium.
Below:  WX7736 Private HAROLD BERTRAM OCKERBY died aged 42 years.  A WW1 veteran Ockerby had been Driver to 2/4th Battalion’s CO   Lt. Col Anketell.

 

It was five days after the Allies had surrendered to Japan.  The previous day the prisoners had been questioned one by one and returned to their ‘cell’.
 On 19 February, the 15 Australian prisoners were called out of their room/cell one by one, each had their hands tied behind their backs with hessian, and then ordered to march.
First past the jeering Japanese soldiers who had shown nothing but contempt for the Australian soldiers.  They were especially bitter towards the machine gunners who had fought them to the end.
They were ordered to march towards remote scrubland until they reached a creekbed.  Here they were ordered to line up, turn their backs towards the Japanese (7 soldiers).
It was probably at this point the Australians realised the seriousness of their situation.  The had initially believed they were to be questioned again.
Who knows what went through their minds.We can only be thankful it was over quickly – well for most.
Following the first volley Rupert Millhouse was left standing alone, the only prisoner standing.  The Japanese were playing their usual spiteful games – they had singled Millhouse out during the march and now they wanted him to suffer further.  He yelled what he thought of them right up to the moment he was shot.
He had received four GSW to his right knee during the ambush at SW Bukit Timah on 11 Feb.   He was barely able to stand let alone walk.   The Japanese can be likened to wild animals when they turn on the weaker of their species.   Millhouse’s captors took great delight in tormenting him, viciously poking Millhouse and McCann him with their bayonets till they drew blood and never letting up.  Millhouse was the slower marching of the two men and hence attached greater attention.
Below:  Millhouse was born SA and came to WA several years prior to enlisting.  He was born 1919 into a large family of 6 boys and 5 girls at Port Lincoln.

 

Les McCann had found the badly wounded Millhouse following the ambush.  They were two of several 2/4th men left behind Japanese lines, most of whom were wounded

Below:  WX17837 PRIVATE LESLIE ‘LES’ WILLIAM MCCANN

 

 

Two men from 2/4th survived the execution that day although neither had any idea the other had done so, Fred Airey and Les McCann.    Airey made his way to Sumatra and then to Java.  At Java he was was taken POW of Japanese about 8 March 1942.
The twice injured McCann slowly made his way back to Changi where he remained until the end of war.

Above: Warrant Officer Class 1, WX13977 GEORGE FREDERICK ‘FRED’ AIREY
The following has been copied from Airey’s statement for the  United Nations War Crimes Commission
“I could not tell the men of the Japanese intentions. I next went out refusing to be tied, I was handled roughly being struck both before and after my hands were tied. I asked as best I could for an officer. The wounded men, McCann and Millhouse were not tied to the best of my belief. We were then told to march, proceeding under the eyes of about 1000 Japanese soldiers, up Reformatory Road. The men were quite unconcerned; in fact they thought it funny.
The Japanese in charge of the party appeared to me to be an officer or a warrant officer he was about 5 foot feet 6 inches tall, well built, about 24 years old. He was fair and good-looking for a Japanese. Turning off the road into light growth we proceed south. Looking around I discovered that McCann and Millhouse were distressed. Breaking ranks I went back to McCann, who was being forced along with a bayonet in his rear. I sent McCann forward, the Japanese soldiers who had forced him along staying and threatening me. Millhouse was practically exhausted when he reached me having been forced to walk fast with a bullet wound to his knee, the Japanese bayonets drawing blood every time he slackened his pace. I went with Millhouse and we joined the party, taking up my former position. 
Proceeding a further distance along the bank of a small stream we were told to form a single file. The Japanese in charge halted and pointed across the stream, calling an order the men immediately turned right to see how to cross the stream, when the first volley was fired. I saw two men falling forward into the stream, others crumpling up where they stood. A bullet whiz past my head (it had been impossible to form any plan to escape and up to this very second I had no idea that there was a chance in a million), I somersaulted into the bed of the stream and lay still. Millhouse couldn’t do anything and the Japanese in their usual cruel way left him to the last. In the meantime he told the Japanese in no uncertain terms just what he thought. I considered this extremely gallant.
After dropping everyone the Japanese proceed to make certain by giving us all an extra round. I heard the strike of the bullet into the body next to me and awaited mine. When it came the bullet grazed my forehead, taking skin only and covering my face with gravel, water and blood. I remained in this position until I heard the voices of the Japanese fading away. After sometime had elapsed I opened my eyes and cautiously looked around to make certain that the Japanese had gone. Sitting up I then cut my hands free with a razor blade which I had been able to extract from my haversack and then went around to possibly eight of the bodies that were screened from Japanese sight to ascertain if they were dead or had miraculously escaped as I had. They were all dead; the bodies that were lying above on the bank I called to them and getting no reply, I assumed that they were also dead also. I then attempted my escape.

Returning to Singapore from Java in 1943 I discovered that McCann was alive.”

 

2/4th Soldiers evacuated to Australia prior to commencement Singapore fighting 1942

Eight 2/4th Soldiers returned sick to Australia February 1942 prior to outbreak of fighting.

 

WX7333 Arthur John BURNS Corp, ‘B’ Coy. Evac Java to 2/12th AGH Ceylon 4 March 1943.  Disemb. Fremantle ex-Ceylon 6 May 1942.
  • 1) 25th Australia Div Cavalry 2) Guerilla Warfare Group 3) 43rd Water Transport Coy.

 

WX1655 Leo Patrick BRYNE C Coy.  Evac sick Java.   Emb Wuseh Java 9 Feb 42  to Colombo 4 March 1942.  Ship to Melbourne – train to Perth.

 

WX10622 Claude William GAULT – HQ  No 1 Platoon, Signals.  Trained Signaller. Last seen Ulu Pandan.  Reported missing from 18 Feb 42.  Evac. No. 1 Malaya General Hospital to Colombo – Returned to Australia – disembaking Melbourne ‘Stirling Castle’ 6 April 42.  Returned WA – hospitalised and convalesced. Posted 423rd Gun Station.  Return of headaches forced transfer to 4th Australia Signal Training Unit – transferred 51st Waster Transport Coy.

 

WX8611 Laurence James McGRATH Acting Sgt ‘B’ Coy 9 Platoon. Remained on board ‘Aquitania’ Java returned sick to 110 (P)MH – Hollywood Hospital 25 Jan 42. Discharged 31 Jan 42.  Served Wewa, Lae and Aitap.  Served 43rd Water Transport Coy.

 

 

WX8200 William Richard MORRIS Storeman ‘C’ Coy 10 Platoon.  Evac Sick Java.  Embarked Stirling Castle, Ceylon 13 March 42 to Melbourne arrived 28 March 42. Transf 5th Military District.  ‘Egra’ to Fremantle 13 April 42.
Classified medically fit 27 Apr 42.  ToS 20 May 42 with 2/3rd MGB.  Admitted hospital 25 Nov 42 following explosives accident transf 113th Australian General Hospital.  Transf 115th AGH 18 Dec 42.  Right Hand amputated above wrist on 9 Feb 1944.

WX8228 William Darcy O’NEILL Technical Storeman ‘B’ Coy HQ.  Evac from Java Wu Sui 20 Feb 42.  Admitted 12th AGH Colombo, Ceylon.  Sailed 12 Oct 42 Stirling Castle to Melbourne.

WX8176 Frances Kenneth PRITCHARD HQ Coy Driver.  Returne to WA Aquitania.  Had earlier fallen 10 feet on ship injured knee.  Returned Hollywood.  Operation on knee left with plaster for three months.  Convalesced four months.  ToS 35th Infantry Battalion 25 Sep 42.
Then reformed 2/2 Pioneers brought into replace 2/16th.

 

WX7750 Stanley Henry George ROBERTS ‘A’ Coy 6 Platoon – Java with ‘Blackforce’.  Returned sick to Australia 28 March 42.

 

WX23079 Bravery & Tragic death of Ron ELLIS, Wagin – 2/4th MGB

THE TRAGIC DEATH OF RON ELLIS 1942, SINGAPORE – BRAVE YOUNG BOY FROM WAGIN

 

Singapore 11 Feb 1942 at 2/13th Australian General Hospital then located at St Patricks School a young Western Australian soldier who had fought so hard to survive, took his last breaths.    In order to save his life medical staff amputated his badly wounded arm 2 inches below his shoulder.  The patient also had a shrapnel wound to his chest and had been in a badly shocked state when brought in.

 

WAGIN boy Ron ELLIS was 21 years old. 

 

WX13079 Ron Ellis enlisted AIF 17 May 1941. At Northam Army Camp in late Dec 1941.   Ron Ellis was one of 246 soldiers selected to reinforce  2/4th Machine Gun Battalion.  Several men had only just enlisted and a larger number had only the barest training.  They were given leave and ordered back to Camp after New year.  On the morning of 15 February 1942 the men marched through Northam and boarded a train to Fremantle.  The carriages were filled with  excitement and bravado.  They had no knowledge of their destination nor what lay ahead. Their train slowed down when passing through small towns allowing locals to farewell them.
As the train neared Fremantle the boys could see a massive ship.  The ‘Aquitania’ with about 4,000 troops was anchored at Gage Roads off Fremantle.  The reinforcements  were taken out to ‘Aquitania’.  Climbing aboard they encountered hundreds of soldiers attempting to leave the ship without permission and desperate to see their families.  Some were exiting port holes, others over the side.There was madness.
The following day ‘Aquitania’ prepared to sail for Singapore just after midday on 16th Feb 1942.  Left behind were about 90 well trained machine gunners.
On the day before landing at Singapore, half of 146 soldiers  were designated to form ‘E’ Company,  SRB and the remainder would reinforce 2/4th’s platoons, in particular to fill the places of the men left behind in Fremantle unable to free themselves from Fremantle goal.  A large number were locked up in Fremantle gaol by over- zealous MPs and local Police who failed to enquire when their transport ship was departing.
Ellis was one of three reinforcements to join the newly formed 16 Platoon. At Singapore 24 troops transferred from D Coy’s four Platoons and with three Reinforcements formed 16 Platoon under C.O Sgt Arbery, Platoon Sergeant Colevas & L/Cpl Stribley.  
22nd Brigade (3 Battalions) had the eight mile NW coast Sector and was supported by 2/4th’s ‘D’ Company 13, 14, 15, and 16 Platoons.
‘D’ Company 14 & 16 Platoons were supporting 2nd Brigade’s 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 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.
During the early fighting Stribley was KIA. CO Arbery & Colevas WIA & evacuated.
 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 Surrender on 15 Feb 16 Platoon had 8 men standing.  Nine were KIA, two escaped to Sumatra, at least 6 wounded and at least 2-4 missing in action.

16 Platoon was made up of 27 men

By Surrender on 15 Feb 1942

9 men KIA
3 Men WIA evacuated 8/9th Feb 
3 men shell-shocked
(Harrison did runner & boarded ship to Fremantle,  Wilson MIA 8/2 returned to Unit 15 Feb, Richard Annear escaped Sumatra, Wood escaped to Java )
8 Men Standing

 

The following insert was printd in the Wagin Argus and Arthur, Dumbleyung, Lake Grace Express (WA : 1924 – 1954) Thu 16 Apr 1942 Page 1 
Late  Pte. RON ELLIS, No. 16 Platoon
Heroism at Singapore 
An interesting letter has been received by Mrs. G. Ellis, of Wagin containing news of her late son, Pte. Ron Ellis, who was recently reported as having died of wounds at Singapore.
The Letter comes from a very reliable source, and having seen the original for ourselves, we can vouch for its authenticity. However, as permission has not been given by the writer to publish her name, we will not disclose the source of the information. The letter is sufficient to show that Ronny Ellis, during his tragically short period of actual service, proved himself to be a real Australian soldier, with everything that it takes to be a hero!
Efforts are now being made by local Authorities to see that the action of the late Pte. Ellis, in rescuing an officer under heavy enemy fire is reported to and recognised by the Military Authorities.
The letter received by Mrs. Ellis reads as follows: –
‘Dear Mrs. Ellis,
You will no doubt be very surprised to receive this letter from a stranger, but as my brother fell in the same battle as your son Ronald, and I have been able to gain some details – particularly in relation to your boy – I am taking the liberty of writing this to you in the confidence that it will bring you pride and some consolation. I feel sure that you will want to know all that can be found out, as much as I have wished to learn about my brother’s death, but without success.
The news I have for you was given me by a Corporal of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion, who escaped from Singapore near the end of the battle, and has been back in Perth some three weeks. I, of course was anxious to learn if he knew anything of my brother, but, unfortunately, as they had been in different Companies, they were unknown to one another. However your son Ronald was known to the Corporal, and I am glad to be able to tell you that your son’s courage and devotion to duty were all that anyone could hope.
In the Cpl.’s own words, “Ronnie saved my life”.
As related to me, it appears that about a dozen men were endeavouring to carry out a retirement, when they found that they were caught on three sides by Japanese troops and were consequently forced to swim a river to escape. Discarding all equipment, they entered the water and endeavoured to reach the opposite bank. All succeeded in doing so except the Corporal, who is a bad swimmer and he got into great difficulties in midstream. Thereupon, your son returned to him and assisted him to the far bank, all the time under dangerous fire from the enemy. It was a great example of absolute unselfishness and fearlessness and, I am sure will be a source of great pride to you.
The above occurred on Monday, February 9th and the Corporal was with your son until Wednesday the 11th, when they lost touch with one another. I understand that it was on the next day that your son was reported to have died. Please accept my sincere sympathy in your sad loss, and I know that you will understand that I can enter fully into your feeling of sorrow and loss, as my brother fell on the next day and I did truly love my brother ________
Yours sincerely, _______________

Please read about Rowland

 

Below:  Aquitania.

Please read about ‘Stirling Castle’ Ceylon to Melbourne 1942.
And Please read about HMT ‘Egra’

There was another 2/4th who also escaped using same route and date as Rowland.

WX8448 Private George TAYLOR 12 Platoon. He was listed as Missing in Action, believed to have been killed at Sungei Jurong – 2/4th ‘C’ Coy was supporting 44th Indian Brigade, located at southern most defensive line. Scottish born Taylor had been working as a clerk at Bunbury Courthouse when he enlisted 18 Oct 1940.

It was later discovered Taylor escaped to Sumatra, had been picked up by HMAS Hobart at Padang on the west cost of Sumatra and taken to Ceylon.  On arrival  9 March 1942 he was admitted the  to 2/12th AGH. Four days later on 13 March 1942 Taylor boarded the ‘Stirling Castle’ and disembarked Melbourne on 6th April 1942.  From Melbourne to Fremantle he sailed on ‘Egra’ disembarking on 13 April.
The following is an extract from My War Diary, HMAS Hobart, 27th of February 1942 – 20 March 1942 written by Thomas P Fisher and explains the lucky extraction of George from Sumatra
“The reason that we were not with Perth and Houston was and I quote from my diary;
Tanjong Priok Harbour, Java onboard HMAS Hobart
‘On 25 February 1942 we secured alongside the oil tanker War Sirdar to fuel HMAS Yarra was just casting off from the other side of the tanker.
At 10:25 we were attacked by 11 Jap bombers. Bombs dropped all around us making the Hobart jump around and bounce.
We were attacked twice and 44 bombs landed all around us. One bomb went through the stern of the tanker and exploded underneath it.
The Hobart was heeled over by the force of the bombs bursting down our starboard side. At 1100 we cast off in a hurry and put it to sea at high-speed. We could not complete fuelling due to the air raids and damage to the tanker.
As we did not have enough fuel, the Perth left without us and went down to the battle of the Java Sea. Our time in this war zone was running out and I was not aware of it then.  At midnight on 27 February we put to sea from Tanjong Priok, Java. A huge fleet of Japanese ships were reported due to land at Java in the morning. In company with the HMS Dragon and HMS Danae, we put to sea to try and meet the enemy and destroy as many as possible. We made a sweep towards the north but did not make contact.
Orders were received from Commodore Collins that if we did not meet the enemy we were to leave the area by way of Sunda Straits which we did at dawn on 28 March and proceeded to Padang on the west coast of Sumatra.
Once again we were lucky because the Perth and USS Huston, an American cruiser, attempted to go through Sunda Straits 18 hours later and were both sunk. Their crews that survived were taken prisoners by the Japanese. They had run into the enemy fleet that we had been sent to try and intercept. The Exeter was sunk the day before. Of our cruiser force of seven ships only the Trump and ourselves survived. The Dragon and Danae were not attached. The Java and the De Ruyter were sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea.
At 7:30 pm on 1 March we arrived at Padang, and our ship evacuated 550 men, women and children. The men were mostly soldiers who had escaped from Singapore. At 9 pm, we put to sea with one destroyer doing 28 knots. On 3 March we took 106 evacuees from the ‘Dragon.’ The transfer was carried out at sea. Among them were Indian troops. Also on board was a soldier from the 2nd 4th Machine Gun Battalion, George Taylor from Fremantle.
Next day we fuelled the destroyers at sea and the following day, the 5th, arrived at Colombo where we disembarked the troops and evacuees.”
‘Hobart was fuelling at Tandjong Priok on 25 February 1942 when 27 bombers attacked her and the tanker from which she was fuelling. It was estimated that 60 bombs fell near and around her. She suffered some damage from bomb splinters and some casualties and it was her inability to complete fuelling on this occasion that prevented her from taking part in the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea on 27 February 1942.’

Please read further about HMAS Hobart 

FYI
Each Machine Gun Platoon consisted of two sections each with two Vickers machine guns giving the Battalion a total of 48 Vickers machine Guns.
No. 1 and 2 on the gun were to be issued with revolvers, but in the case of 2/4th, this never happened.
Supposedly each Platoon was to be equipped with a Boyes Anti-Tank rifle – but these were never issued to 2/4th. For each platoon six 15 cwt trucks were provided, giving each Company a total of 21 vehicles.
The battalion was organised by attaching certain personnel from Battalion HQ and HQ Companies to the Machine Gun Companies – enabling each Machine Gun Coy to be self-contained administratively.
Battalion transport included 122 vehicles as well as motorcycles – the reason for the inclusion of a high number of driver trade groupings in the Battalion. The handling and maintenance of all these vehicles was paramount to the efficiency of the Battalion. Therefore the Transport Sergeant, Corporals and Light Aid Detachment (L.A.D.) who serviced these vehicles had a big responsibility to ensure serviceability of the Battalion’s transport.

X BATTALION – LT COL BOYES – SINGAPORE WW2

‘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, BrisbaneQueensland.  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.’

 

Read Capt Fred Stahl’s description of conditions on ‘F’ Force Thailand

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.
These incidents remind me of the Americans at Omuta Camp, Japan. Please read.
We ask you to please read Fred Stahl’s record of ‘F’ Force.  The above is just a excerpt from his report
When Stahl was at Tanbaya Hospital Camp, there were a couple of notable ‘Dross’ POWs who again caused chaos with purchases without approvable and which caused angst.
Please read history of ‘F’ Force Thailand

AUSTRALIAN POWs OF ITALY/GERMANY WW2 – incarcerated Italy

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.

You may like to read further about Sam Blewett.

 

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?
https://www.awm.gov.au/sites/default/files/road_to_ruin_australian_war_memorial_svss_townsend_0.pdf

Please read NZ’s view of this First Battle of El Alamein

https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1059&context=ljh

 

 

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:
https://www.birtwistlewiki.com.au/wiki/2/32nd_Australian_Infantry_Battalion

https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/1942-ruin-ridge

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.

 

Hiroshima’s First Year High Students die in Atom Bomb 1945

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.

https://www.sbs.com.au/hiroshima/

 

 

JOHHNY FUNK, SANDAKAN, VISITS WA

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.)
Read further about the activities and consequences of Sandakan’s Underground movements.
‘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’
Please read further about the locals of Sandakan who risked their lives and those of their family members to assist the Underground and 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Above: 24 May 1951.

 

 

COMFORT WOMEN for Japan’s WW2 Armed Forces

‘Comfort Women’

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
‘Comfort Women’

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, MalayaManchukuoTaiwan,  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, MalayaManchukuoTaiwan,  Papua New Guinea, Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Women of European origin were also involved from  Netherlands and Australia and other European countries.  It is estimated there were 200-400 Dutch women alone.
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:  Shanghai

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.”
Comfort statue unveiled
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 charity and the local Korean community were under pressure not to display the statue.
In the past, Japan had refused to accept formal legal responsibility for the women, who were victims of sexual exploitation during WWII, including Korean, Chinese, Dutch and Australian women.
But last year, an agreement was reached between SouthKorea and Japan, with Japan offering an apology and compensation for surviving comfort women.
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.’

 

If you wish to read first hand the harrowing stories of several comfort women please go to
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.
War is terrible.  With war comes rape and abuse.

Japanese Delegation walks out 1933 League of Nations Assembly

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 – Fall of Singapore – 12 Feb 2023 Service Kings Park

‘Don’ Company 2/4th MGB – The following synopsis was prepared by Cheryl Mellor (daughter of Cowboy Matthews) for 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.

Above:  Loller

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 11 Feb 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.
Ellis Shackleton WX7330

 

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.