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Edward Willis

'Independent Company' Documentary – a Neglected Visual Record of The Timor Campaign

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‘INDEPENDENT COMPANY’ DOCUMENTARY – A NEGLECTED VISUAL RECORD OF THE TIMOR CAMPAIGN

The documentary film ‘Independent Company’ is a neglected visual record of the No. 2 Independent Company’s (No. 2 IC) campaign against the Japanese on Portuguese Timor during 1942.  First shown on SBS in 1988 it has been rarely, if ever, broadcast subsequently.

The film can be viewed through the Doublereds website: https://doublereds.org.au/archives/video-and-audio/independent-company-videorecording-the-australian-22-independent-company-timor-1941-42-produced-with-assistance-from-sbs-tv-and-film-victoria-r21/

The 53 minute film is made up of interviews with No. 2 IC men (Bernard Callinan, George ‘Happy’ Greenhalgh, Gerry McKenzie, Jim Smailes, Colin Doig, Tom Nisbet, Rolf Baldwin, David Dexter, Percy Hancock, Joe Poynton, Arch Campbell, Keith Hayes, Don Turton, Jerry Maley, Ray Aitken, Ray Parry and Harry Sproxton), ‘Mad Mike’ Calvert (trainer of the No. 2 IC) [1], Maria Louisa Sousa Santos (wife of António Policarpe de Sousa Santos, the Administrator of Fronteira Province) and 5 Japanese veterans (Koichi Nakajima, Haruka Nishiyama, Kuwakichi Arakawa, Masatsugu Kambe and Onuki Shigenobu) who served on Timor.

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There are also re-enactments using of some of the key incidents during the campaign – the most notable being the rejection of the Japanese surrender demand at Hatolia and the construction of ‘Winnie the war winner’. [2] The footage is rounded out with extracts from Damien Parer’s better known ‘Men of Timor’ (1943) film.

The film was produced by Colin South of Melbourne-based Media World Pty Ltd [3] and the script was based on Bernard Callinan’s book ‘Independent Company’, archival research and interviews with participants in Australia, England, Portugal and Japan.  The production team had hoped to film the re-enactment scenes in Timor but access to do this was not possible during that phase of the Indonesian occupation.  Tom Nisbet was ‘technical adviser’ for the film.

The old 2/2 Commando Association was consulted about the production and they gave it active support.  The producers flew Bernard Callinan and Rolf Baldwin to Perth to participate in the 1987 Anzac Day parade and film interviews with some of the WA-based veterans.   A ‘Meet the Visitors’ get-together was held in Mandurah on the following Sunday. [4]

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Sir Bernard Callinan and Rolf Baldwin lead out the 2/2 contingent at the 1987 Anzac Day parade in Perth

Colin South kept the Association well informed by letter regarding progress with the production and this correspondence was printed in the ‘Courier’.  One matter that Colin attempted to follow up was the sudden termination by the Japanese of their ‘August push’ that had the No. 2 IC ‘on the ropes’.  The cessation of the Japanese assault was signalled by a green flare or ‘rocket’ on the night of 18 August 1942. [5] Colin reported.

‘My specific quest for the withdrawal of the Japanese in August 1942 unfortunately has not been answered fully, but two sources of fact are still being investigated; research into the diaries of Col. Doi the Japanese Commanding Officer in Dili, and the translation of two chapters of the 228 Regiment History, dealing specifically with ‘the Campaign against Australian Guerrilla force in East Timor’.

The 228 Regiment was based in Timor from the invasion till 6th September, 1942, when they were sent to Guadalcanal.  They reached Timor after serving in Manchuria, Hong Kong and Ambon.  The 1st and 3rd Battalions were based in the West, the 2nd in Dili.  Of the 2nd only a handful survived Guadalcanal.  Those who became P.O.W.'s still refuse, despite genuine encouragement, to join the 228 Regiment Association.  The general consensus was the troops were withdrawn under orders to be sent to Guadalcanal with the other troops, which came from West Timor and the South coast mobilized to replace the 228 from Dili.  Once each force made physical contact with one another, time had run out and the entire force moved back to Dili’. [6]

The documentation related to the production of ‘Independent Company’ was deposited in the Research Collection at the Australian War Memorial. [7]

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I belatedly thank Colin South and his colleagues for the considerable effort they put into the production of ‘Independent Company’ that resulted in this unique and valuable visual record of the Timor Campaign.  I also thank Colin for providing additional information about the production in our telephone conversation on 23 April 2020.

REFERENCES

[1] ‘Brigadier Michael Calvert (1913–1998) – Trainer and Long-Term Friend of the Doublereds’ https://doublereds.org.au/forums/topic/85-brigadier-michael-calvert-1913–1998-–-trainer-and-long-term-friend-of-the-doublereds/?tab=comments#comment-133

[2] ‘The story of how 300 Australians held of the Japanese In Timor: Winnie The War Winner’s Tale’ Canberra Times Monday September 28, 1987: 1, 6 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page12979370

[3] https://www.mediaworld.com.au

[4] ‘Anzac Day – Dawn Service – The March – The Get-Together – Meet the Visitors’ 2/2 Commando Courier June 1987: 3-4 https://doublereds.org.au/couriers/1987/Courier%20June%201987.pdf

[5] No. 2 Independent Company war diary entry, 18 August 1942 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1363501

[6] ‘Independent Company Timor Documentary’ 2/2 Commando Courier December 1987: 8-9.  https://doublereds.org.au/couriers/1987/Courier%20December%201987.pdf

[7] ‘Correspondence, scripts, research notes and other source material used in the production of two videos by Media World Pty Ltd ‘Flowers of Rethymnom’ (Crete 1942) and ‘Independent Company’ (2/2nd Independent Company on Timor 1942 to 1943). Language English, Portuguese, Tetum and Dutch.’ AWM PR91/136. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C242361

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Edward Willis
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Thanks for posting that, Ed. Somehow I'd never seen it before. It's a remarkable record.

 

 

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