Desmond was a member of the First Reinforcements that arrive at Dili, Timor, aboard M.V. “Koolama”, on 22 Jan 1942, prior to the Japanese landing. He joined the unit as a Private. After the campaign on Timor, he embarked with the unit, for Australia aboard the Royal Dutch destroyer “Tjerk Hides” on 16 Dec 1942. Desmond re-joined the unit on 18 May 1943 and he embarked with the unit for New Guinea aboard S.S. “DUNTROON” on 17 Jun 1943 as a Private. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 29 Oct 1943.
He transferred out of unit on 24 Aug 1944 and emplaned Nadzab, deplaned Townsville on 26 Aug 1944.
Joined “Z” Special Force on 31 Aug 1944 and qualified parachutist on 24 Jan 1945.
Desmond was promoted Acting Sergeant on 26 Apr 1945.
He was listed as Missing in Action on 17 May 1945 and confirmed Killed in Action, Timor. on 17 May 1945. He is buried at AMBON WAR CEMETERY, Coll. grave 11. C. 1-15.
Extracted from C D Doig’s “A History of the 2nd Independent Company and 2/2 Commando Squadron”.
After the Japanese landed, there was a party of 4 of these first reinforcement men, who had not been attached to any of the Sections, who decided to try and get back to Australia by boat and advise that the 2nd Independent Company was still intact and fighting on. The party consisted of Privates, Robert Sydney Larney, Johnny Freeman, Desmond Laurence Lilya and Arnold Samuel Webb. They eventually reached Darwin and then embarked with the No 4 Independent Company for Timor aboard H.M.A.S “VOYAGER” on 22 Sept 1942.
The men’s service papers state the following
Robert Sydney Larney He was in 119th Australian General Hospital, Darwin from 11 Sept – 17 Sept 1942 and disembarked at Darwin from Timor on 16 Dec 1942.
Johnny Freeman Disembarked at Darwin on 16 Aug 1942, He was in 119th Australian General Hospital, Darwin from 25 Aug – 8 Sept 1942 and disembarked Darwin from Timor on 16 Dec 1942.
Desmond Laurence Lilya Disembarked at Darwin on 16 Aug 1942, He was in 119th Australian General Hospital from 16 Aug – 17 Sept 1942. Research shows he returned from Timor with the unit either 11 Dec 1942 or 16 Dec 1942, as the embarkation rolls do not differentiate.
Arnold Samuel Webb Now reported “Returned to Australia” No Date, Disembarked at Darwin from Timor on 16 Dec 1942.
He was entitled to the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45, pictured below.