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  • John Frederick HARTLEY

    Peter Epps
    • Regimental Number: NX78025

    John 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. 

    After leave and reorganization he embarked with the unit for New Guinea as a Trooper in No 3 Section, “A” Troop, aboard S.S. “DUNTROON” on 17 Jun 1943. He was appointed paid Lance Corporal on 29 Aug 1943 and enplaned for Australia on 22 Mar 1944 and posted as an Instructor, to 1st Australian Commando Training Squadron on 30 Mar 1944. Promoted to Acting Corporal on 7 Apr 1944 and transferred to "Z" Special Unit on 17 Aug 1944. He was promoted Sergeant on 23 Nov 1944 and attended 1st Australian Parachute Training centre on 21 Dec 1944, returning to "Z" Special Unit on 29 Jan 1945.

    He returned to Timor with "Z" Special Unit on 19 Apr 1945 and returned to Australia on 3 May 1945., then again to Timor on 19 Jun 1945, returning to Australia on 24 Jun 1945. On 2 Aug 1945 he left for Borneo with "Z" Special Unit, returning to Australia on 16 Dec 1945.

    He transferred to Special Investigation Branch (Maritime Group) AIF on 25 Jan 1946 and embarked from Sydney for KURE Japan, on 7 Aug 1946 aboard "RIVER NORMAN", arriving in KURE on 29 Aug 1946. He returned to Australia on 19 Sept 1946 and was discharged on 10 Apr 1947.

    He was entitled to the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal and Australian Service Medal 1939-45, pictured below. He is now also entitled to the Australian Service Medal 1945-75 with a clasp "S.W.Pacific".



    Hartley JF.JPG

    ASM 39-45.JPG

    ASM 45-75.JPG


    During the Queen's Birthday Long Weekend in June 2000, my father John Frederick Hartley passed away at the age of 78.
    Dad was a Barraba boy, born on 22 July 1921, his father a "Chinaman" Henry Samuel Richard Park, and mother Mary Jane Hartley. He was the 10th child born of 13 children, and grew up in Barraba NSW, leaving school by age 13 and working as a drover and whatever else came his way.
    It was Monday evening, 12th June 2000, at about this very moment 7:15pm, when Dad breathed his last, and went to eternal rest, sitting in his favourite lounge chair in our living room at Fairfield West.
    Dad was watching some TV, and Mum had just given him a light dinner. She took that tray from him and offered him some dessert. She left the room and entered the kitchen, putting some homemade vanilla rice custard topped with cinnamon in a small bowl, and returned the few steps to Dad. She had been gone just 90 seconds, and in that time, Dad sighed deeply, his heart stopped and he had left us.
    The ambulance was rung immediately, my then brother-in-law was on the spot to instantly commence CPR, and he persisted for 20 minutes, handing over to the ambos who had arrived within 1o minutes, setting up their gear and observing the CPR process before taking over. But it was all to no avail.
    Our wonderful father was gone. Mum had lost her husband of 45 years.
    At the time I was at my own home, just 10 minutes away, and I got to my parents' home straight away to meet with the ambos, and then the Police, who attended and took particulars. Mum was distraught.
    The funeral parlour people soon attended and did their work, gently lifting Dad and wrapping him tenderly for the journey to the funeral home.
    We would have the Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Cabramatta on the following Monday 19th June 2000, and from there we proceeded to Pinegrove Cemetery, Minchinbury for the burial.
    Surviving members of Dad's Commando unit joined us in farewelling Dad.
    Dad was a proud member of the No. 2 Australian Independent Company, first deployed to Portuguese Timor in Dec 1941, just a week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. This unit of barely 286 men were the "Double Red Diamonds", so named by their colour patch, and would serve with distinction on Timor for all of 1942, waging guerilla warfare against the Japanese invasion and occupation. They would be the only unit (just 286 men) of the entire 8th Division (some 15,000 men) who would not be destroyed as a fighting force, and who were not captured or surrendered in those dreadful days of December 1941 to March 1942.  
    The unit would be re-named 2/2 Independent Company, then 2/2 Commando Squadron, as they progressed through the war years.
    Throughout his life, Dad never forgot Timor. The fate of the Timorese people always was in his mind, as were the sailors of the RAN who supported their Timor Campaign in 1942.
    HMAS VOYAGER would be lost at Betano Bay, Timor on 23 Sep 42, when she ran aground while landing reinforcements of the 2/4 Independent Company.
    HMAS ARMIDALE would be lost on 01 Dec 42 while trying to reach Timor to evacuate the men.
    Small vessels like the KURU and VIGILANT would also sustain the Independent Company on Timor. 
    Corvettes and Fairmile ships would also provide support, especially during times of re-supply and/or evacuating wounded and sick.
    Dad would meet mighty men like Damian Parer and Bill Marien when they visited Timor in Nov 42 to gather information for reporting and propaganda purposes. Their stories, pictures and film would only been seen later in 1943, after the Independent Company had been evacuated. 
    Below you can see photos of Dad, the first in early 1945, and the second is ANZAC DAY 1947 in Sydney, near the Martin Place Cenotaph. The second pic also shows the man who would be my "Godfather" at my Baptism some 8 years later, in August 1955. He is Francis (Frank) (aka Curly) Vincent Terence O'Neill, NX50133, who served with Dad in Timor and New Guinea. After the war, Frank O'Neill would become an international correspondent with the Mirrors newspapers, working for the Murdoch empire, though always rebellious and speaking and writing his own mind.
    There is so much to be said about these men, my Dad, my godfather Frank (Curly) O'Neill, and so many more, but that is for another time.
    Suffice to say that we all still bear the grief and sadness of losing our Dad, a husband, a truly kind and intelligent gentleman, a hard-working soul who cared for his family and friends.
    This song says it all:



    Prepared by Chris Hartley

    12 June 2021



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