Jump to content


Edward Willis

Recommended Posts

  • Committee



The Participants – Japan



The Imperial Japanese Army 228th Infantry Regiment of the 38th Division enters Hong Kong on 8 December 1941 [1]

Callinan described one of the defining moments  of the Timor campaign – the end of the August ‘push’ by the Japanese 228 Regiment as follows:

“The nineteenth of August was zero day, and the closing of the net by the enemy seemed almost complete, so the twentieth would see the confirmation of the orders for our counter-attack.  During the night of the nineteenth to twentieth of August the alarm was given in Same, as several reports were received of a rocket or Verey light in the adjacent hills.  The hospital and all troops were moved out of the town, standing patrols placed across all tracks, and every man who could possibly fire a rifle sent to reinforce the platoons astride the track from Maubisse to Same.

During the next day reports came in that the Japanese were retreating.  All platoons reported no enemy in their areas.  This was amazing, and immediately every man who was not entirely exhausted was out on patrol and searching for the enemy.  It was essential that we maintain contact and harass his retreat.  While we had contact with him we knew where he was; if we allowed the enemy to escape us we presented him with the element of surprise.  This called for a very great effort from the officers and men in the platoons as now at least they were entitled to rest and food after holding a regiment at bay for ten days.

Why the enemy retreated just when he had success almost within his grasp will remain a mystery, but probably his supplies had given out, and, of course, to him the Australians were as elusive as ever, and his casualties had not been light, although not as heavy as we had hoped”. [2]


228 Regiment veterans interviewed by Colin South for the documentary Independent Company, Tokyo 31 August 1987 [3]

The abrupt cessation of the offensive certainly mystified the Australians.  Colin South, the producer of the documentary Independent Company attempted to address this issue when he interviewed 228 Regiment veterans in Japan.  He reported to the 2/2 Commando Association as follows:

“… the Japanese were as interested in us, as we in them.  We filmed interviews, via an interpreter, with veterans of Timor.  Generally, the response was one of respect and honour towards their Australian foe. …….

The 228 Regiment was based in Timor from the invasion [19-20 February] until 6 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”. [4]

The following 228 Regiment soldiers were interviewed by South for the documentary and made the following comments about their experiences during the Timor campaign:

Onuki Shigenobu

I was in Timor for about six months.  During that time, we were sent on four or five missions to mop up the enemy around Ermera.  The purpose of the campaign wasn’t so much to seek out all the enemy as to make our presence felt both to the enemy and the natives.  I think this was an important objective.

Kuwakichi Arakawa

… so, we were sniped at.  I heard at the time that during the mopping up campaign we had lost more men in the regiment than we had in the Hong Kong campaign. [5] Our regimental commander said to us that we lost so many men in the large-scale campaign, yet we lost even more in these small missions.  He was concerned at the loss, and I heard … mind you, I just heard that Captain Nara too was shot dead by a sniper.  So, we got a new captain.  We were sniped at many times.  The experience gave me the impression that Australian soldiers were brave and determined.

Masatsuga Kambe

We were engaged in the battle from 6 in the morning until 7 in the evening, that is, for 13 hours.  Both the Australians and the Japanese were determined, and we fought fiercely.  They showed such bravery and determination that though we were confident no one would beat us we marvelled to be honest … at their strength as it were.  When they resisted with an admirable courage which we hadn’t really expected from them, I must admit we were truly surprised.

South concluded:

“My specific quest for [information about] 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”. [6]

South deposited the correspondence, scripts, research notes and other source material used in the production of Independent Company in the Research Collection of the AWM. [7] The diaries of Col. Doi and chapters of the 228 Regiment History are not part of the collection.

The author, appreciating the importance of the Timor chapters from the 228 Regimental history arranged to have them professionally translated utilising funds from his Army History Unit grant for the preparation of WWII in East Timor: an Australian Army site and travel guide.

The translated chapters are attached here - the included maps have been adapted with English labels.


[1]     https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:228_regiment_in_HK.jpg.  Accessed 29 February 2024.

[2]     Callinan, Independent Company: 152.

[3]     https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C242361

[4]     Colin South “Independent Company Timor documentary” 2/2 Commando Courier December 1987: 8-9.

[5]     “The official figures of the Japanese casualties [in the battle for Hong Kong], which appear to have been heaviest round the Wong Nei Chong Gap, and at Stanley on the 24th and 25th December, are killed 675, wounded 2,079; total 2,754.  The commander of 230th Regiment states that he had lost 800 men by the night of the 20th and gives his total casualties as 1,000.  The 229th is said to have lost 600.  No figures are available for the 228th, but if they be averaged at 800 the total loss of infantry of 38th Division amounts to 2,400.  This is only an estimate, but since the infantry would be the chief sufferers it tends to support the official total of 2,754 for all arms.  There is however other evidence, which though unofficial cannot be altogether ignored, suggesting that the Japanese casualties may have been higher”. - S. Woodburn Kirby. - The war against Japan. Vol. 1 – The loss of Singapore / by Major-General S. Woodburn Kirby ... [et al.] London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1957: 150.

[6]     Colin South “Independent Company Timor documentary” 2/2 Commando Courier December 1987: 9.

[7]     https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C242361

228 Regiment - Regimental history - Ch.3 - 4 Timor.pdf

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...