George enlisted and posted to 2/40th Battalion on 10 Oct 1940. He joined the unit on Timor as a Private from 2/40th Battalion, after the fall of Koepang, approx. March 1942. He was one of the former Koepang men, who moved to the village of Mape for intensive commando training and on 8 May 1942, they were formed into a new Platoon, “D” Platoon under the command of Lieutenant Turton and later under Lt Doig.
After the campaign on Timor, he embarked with the unit, for Australia aboard the Royal Dutch destroyer “Tjerk Hiddes” on 11 Dec 1942.
He transferred to the 22nd Australian Motor Regiment on 12 Apr 1943 and promoted to Acting Corporal on 5 Aug 1943. He reverted to Trooper at his own request and re joined the unit on 9 Dec 1944. He embarked for New Britain aboard “TAROONA” on 9 Apr 1945 with the unit as a Trooper.
He returned to Australia aboard "ORMISTON" on 26 Jul 1945. George transferred to the Army Military History Section on 19 Sept 1945 and promoted to Sergeant on 8 Oct 1945.
He flew back to Timor with the Military History Section on 13 Oct 1945 and flew to Australia on 8 Mar 1946.
He was discharged on 12 Mar 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".
George James Beedham MILSOM (1918 – 1965) -TX4141
George Milsom was one of the 2/40 Battalion men who made their way from Dutch Timor to Portuguese Timor following the surrender of the rest of the Battalion contingent to the Japanese on 23 February 1942 after a heroic defensive battle against the invaders.
About 200 Sparrow Force men escaped to Portuguese Timor. Most of these men were trades and specialist staff such as cooks and clerks and unsuited for a combat role and were later evacuated to Australia; a number of 2/40 men including George Milsom, however, were taken on as No. 2 Independent Company members, retrained and formed into a new platoon (D Platoon) under the command of Lt Don Turton, and served with distinction throughout the remainder of the Timor campaign before being evacuated back to Australia in December 1942.
A major part of the art and photographs in the Australian War Memorial collection related to the 2nd Independent Company campaign in Portuguese Timor were created by two men who were members of the Australian Military History Section mission that went there in late 1945 and early 1946, namely war artist Charles Bush and photographer Keith Davis. The artistic and photographic contributions of these two men significantly add to the historical archive of the campaign not only by providing visual records of the places where the Doublereds lived and fought but also of some of the Timorese creados and Portuguese deportados who provided such essential support. The mission’s success was achievable by its being guided by Sergeant George Milsom, who through his war service in Portuguese Timor was very familiar with the sites visited and depicted by Bush and Davis.
One of George Milsom’s daughters Elizabeth (Liz) Milsom is an artist who lives in Melbourne. Back in May 2010 Liz exhibited some of her father's Timorese related art work and other items that are now in her possession. Liz has very kindly made available images of items shown in the exhibition including a brief biography of her father, photographs from his participation in the Military History Section’s Timor Mission, woven pouches, illustrated letters that he wrote home and watercolour paintings of scenes of Timorese life inspired by his service there during WWII.
The images provided by Liz are supplemented by others featuring George Milsom taken by Kenneth Davis during the Military History Section’s Timor Mission that are in the Australian War Memorial’s collection.
George James Beedham Milsom was born in Unley, South Australia on 1 April 1918. He moved with his family to Tasmania where his father worked as an engineer for the Hydro Commission at The Great Lake.
In 1940 George enlisted in the army and became a member of the 2/40th Battalion, which travelled to Koepang in Dutch Timor on the 8 December 1941. When the Japanese invaded what was then Dutch Timor in February 1942, the main body of Australian soldiers were overwhelmed and after three days of vicious fighting were forced to surrender. Around 300 soldiers refused to do this and set out to join the Australian forces in what was then Portuguese Timor. Only 40 soldiers arrived. The remainder were either betrayed to the Japanese or killed by West Timorese. George was one of the surviving soldiers and he joined the Australian 2/2nd Commando Unit stationed in Portuguese Timor.
George is in the back row wearing his hat
Source: Henning, Peter (2014). Doomed battalion : mateship and leadership in war and captivity : the Australian 2/40 battalion 1940-45 (2nd edition). Peter Henning, Exeter, Tas.
Each Australian soldier serving in Portuguese Timor was befriended by a young Timorese who became their guide, comrade, porter and assistant. They helped the soldiers set up ambushes, carried their weapons, found food for them and lead them to safety after engagement with the Japanese. These Timorese men were called Creados, a Portuguese word meaning servant. However, the relationship between the Creados and the Australians was much more than this. They regarded each other as mates and deep friendships ensued. George's Creado was named Manuberi and he was from Ainaro.
George returned to Australia after one year in Timor. He had developed malaria symptoms and was admitted to Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital. The war ended, George recovered, was promoted to Sergeant and became a member of a Military History Team. In 1946 a three-man team was sent to both Dutch and Portuguese Timor to record significant battle sites. George was the guide of this team; Lieutenant Charles Bush was the official war artist and sometimes used George as a model and Sergeant Keith Davis the photographer. In Dili they received help from two new Creados Fernando and Akiu.
When George returned to Melbourne after his second trip to Timor he was hospitalised with malaria, tropical ulcers and amoebic dysentery. Some of the watercolours that George painted were made on site in Timor and some when he was in hospital. One of his visitors while in hospital was Mary Adams whom he had met in Tasmania. Mary's father F.R. Adams was the headmaster of Launceston Grammar where George attended school.
George and Mary married at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne in 1947. After living in Tasmania for about two years, George, Mary and children Robyn and Margaret, moved to King Island where George was granted a soldier settlement farm. During the next thirteen years on the sheep farm George and Mary had three more children, Alison, Elizabeth and John. In 1965 the family moved to Melbourne when George was diagnosed with cancer. He died that year leaving behind a special collection of Timor memorabilia.
45 years later his daughter Elizabeth, an artist living in the City of Port Phillip and a member of the Friends of Suai, is learning about her father through his connection with East Timor and is keen to keep the friendship ongoing.
George Milsom was an avid letter writer and his parents kept all of his letters.
George wrote two letters home after his arrival in Koepang in 1942. In January 1942 he writes that he has "sores on his leg which developed from mosquito bites"; these sores became tropical ulcers.
During the second period in Timor (1945-46) George wrote around twenty letters home to his parents in Tasmania. In one of these letters he describes the meeting with Manuberi at a crowded market in Dili. When Manuberi heard that George had returned to Timor he walked over 50 miles from his village to see him.
1. Betano, Timor 15.12.1945 with the wreck of HMAS Voyager in the background, Sgt Milsom, Military History Section Field Team, and Jacob, who had: assisted the Australians against the Japanese, discuss the location of the evacuation of the 2/2nd Independent company in 1942. Photograph Keith Davis (AWM121479)
2. George and Manuberi from Ainaro
3. Sketch by Charles Bush of Manuberi
4. Timor, 10.11.1945. this boy Fernando was bayoneted by the Japanese, during their occupation of Timor. When the Australians returned in 1945, they kitted him out with a slouch hat, rifle and webbing. Photograph Keith Davis (AWM121423)
5. George and Manuberi, Dili, 12.1.1945. Photograph Keith Davis (AWM125263)
6. Dili, 29.12.1945 Military History Tours, left to right; Manuel Camara, Keith Davis, Antonio, Fernando, · Chas Bush, Georges Milsom, and Akiu. (AWM125248)
7. Our faithful staff; Alberto, Fernando, Akiu, Feb, 1946
8. Dili, Timor,9.12.1945 José Eduardo de abreu de silva Marques (Joe), seen with Sgt Milsom, reminisce over a map drawn by Milsom in 1942 when he was serving with the 2/2nd Independent Company. 'Joe' as he was known to Australian troops had assisted Milsom in recording the positions of Japanese troops. Photograph Keith Davis (AWM141403)
9. Sgt G. Milsom and war artist Lt Charles Bush, 1945
10. Military History Section Field Team 1945 - Sgt Keith Davis, Lt Charles Bush, Sgt George Milsom
11. Photograph of hand drawn map by George. The original is in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Photograph by Keith Davis. (AWM100888)
12. Sgt G. Milsom 1946
13. Tjamplong, Protestant church, Dutch Timor, used by the Australians in 1942
14. George in Catalina over Arafura sea en route to Timor, 13.10.45
15. [Church Ainaro] Photograph G. Milsom
16. [Waterfront Koepang?] Photograph G. Milsom
ART WORKS BY GEORGE MILSOM AND OTHER ITEMS DISPLAYED AT THE 2010 EXHIBITION
Native woven pouches
Natives attending market, Native with bananas for sale, Chief of a village and Portuguese ‘posto’
Untitled [Village scene]
Church - Tjamplong
Soldier passing through village, Soldier buying paw-paws, Timor ponies and On the track
View from a village in the mountains, Mountain village scene, Group of dancers, and Mountain scene
IMAGES FEATURING GEORGE MILSOM TAKEN BY KENNETH DAVIS DURING THE MILITARY HISTORY SECTION’S TIMOR MISSION THAT ARE IN THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL’S COLLECTION
Portuguese locals and the Australians they entertained at Christmas dinner . Identified are: (1) 252442 Flight Lieutenant Clive Maurice Hamer, of RAAF Intelligence; (2) an unidentified Portuguese local; (3) VX128381 Sergeant Keith Benjamin Davis, Military History Section, official war photographer; (4) an unidentified Portuguese local; (5) VX128043 Lieutenant Charles William Bush, Military History Section, official war artist; (6) an unidentified Portuguese local; (7) TX4141 Sergeant George James Beedham Milsom, Military History Section, formerly of the 2/2nd Independent Company; (8) an unidentified Portuguese local; (9) NX133274 Captain Reginald James Crilley, Australian War Graves Unit; (10) an unidentified Portuguese local; (11) 42005 Warrant Officer Deryck Noel Bingley, RAAF.
DILI, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-11. SERGEANT G. MILSOM (LEFT) TALKING TO VASCO MARIA DE MARCAL (RIGHT), A PORTUGUESE WHO HAD BEEN OF GREAT ASSISTANCE TO THE AUSTRALIANS OF SPARROW FORCE DURING 1942. HE FOUGHT WITH CAPTAIN DEXTER AND "A" PLATOON AT AINARO, SAUIE, FATUCAUE AND BETANO. HE EMBARKED FOR AUSTRALIA WITH THE 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY AT BETANO ON 1942-12-12 AND LATER WORKED IN A WAR FACTORY. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS)
DILI, PORTUGUESE TIMOR 1945-12-09. JOSE EDUARDO DE ABREU DE SILVA MARQUES, KNOWN TO THE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS AS "JOE", WAS COMMANDANT AT THE HATU-UDO POSTO (ADMINISTRATIVE HEADQUARTERS) WHEN THE AUSTRALIAN GUERILLAS WERE IN THE AREA IN 1942. HE AND PRIVATE G. MILSOM OF THE 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY WERE DISCUSSING THE DISPOSITION OF JAPANESE TROOPS USING A MAP DRAWN BY MILSOM, AND BY EXTREME COINCIDENCE, A DROP OF OIL FROM THEIR GOURD LAMP FELL ON THE EXACT SPOT AT THE EXACT TIME AS HMAS VOYAGER RAN AGROUND AT BETANO ON 1942-09-25. MARQUES LATER ESCAPED TO AUSTRALIA ON HMAS CASTLEMAINE AND RETURNED TO DILI ON SS ANGOLA ON 1945-12-08 WHERE HE AGAIN MET MILSOM WHO WAS NOW ACTING AS A GUIDE WITH THE MILITARY HISTORY SECTION. THEY ARE SEEN EXAMINING A PHOTOCOPY OF MILSOM'S MAP AS HE POINTS OUT THE OIL SPOT. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. DAVIS)
Informal outdoor portrait of, left to right: Sergeant (Sgt) George Milsom, ex 2/2nd Independent Company and Military History Section (MHS) field team; Staff Sergeant Paul Takeo Bannai, a Japanese-American interpreter with the United States Army Intelligence Service, later the first Japanese-American member of the California State Legislature; and Sgt Keith B. Davis, official photographer MHS and member of the field team.
MAPE, PORTUGUESE TIMOR 1945-12-12. SERGEANT G. MILSOM, FORMERLY OF 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY, AND NOW ACTING AS GUIDE TO THE MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM ATTACHED TO TIMFORCE, EXAMINES THE REMAINS OF BATTERIES IN THE BUILDING USED BY AUSTRALIAN SIGNALLERS AT FORCE HEADQUARTERS OF THE COMPANY. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. DAVIS)
125405 - MUREMA, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-25. THE MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM, HALTED ON THE ROAD TO ATSABE BY A LANDSLIDE ...
AINARO, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-24. SERGEANT G. MILSOM, MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM AND FORMERLY OF THE 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY, STANDS BESIDE THE GRAVE OF THREE PORTUGUESE PRIESTS. FATHERS PIRIS, ALBERTO AND LUIZ WERE KILLED BECAUSE OF THEIR ANTI JAPANESE SYMPATHIES. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS)
AINARO, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-23. SERGEANT G. MILSOM, MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM AND JAMIE, A TIMORESE WHO FOUGHT ALONGSIDE THE AUSTRALIANS, OUTSIDE WHAT WAS SPARROW FORCE BARRACKS DURING THE AUSTRALIAN OCCUPATION OF THE TOWN IN 1942. THE BUILDING ON THE LEFT WAS USED AS A COOKHOUSE. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS)
LAUTEM PLAIN, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-04. LIEUTENANT BUSH, OFFICIAL ARTIST, AND SERGEANT MILSOM, MILITARY HISTORY FIELD TEAM, EXAMINING ONE OF THE SHARPENED BAMBOO STAKES THE JAPANESE PLACED ON THE PLAINS AND OPEN SPACES THEY THOUGHT SUITABLE FOR ALLIED PARACHUTE LANDINGS. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS)
Lautem, Portuguese Timor. Senhor Gonsales seated on the verandah of a mud house built by the Japanese. VX128043 Charles William Bush (in shorts), Military History Section (MHS), an Official War Artist, is working at an easel. Also identified (far right, back to camera) is TX4141 George James Beedham Milsom, MHS.
AINARO, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-24. SERGEANT G. MILSOM, MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM AND FORMERLY OF THE 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY, RE-ENACTS WHAT WAS A REGULAR OCCURRENCE DURING THE AUSTRALIAN OCCUPATION OF AINARO. AS MANUBERI HIS CREADO OR NATIVE HELPER POINTS TO THE DISTANCE SGT MILSOM RINGS ONE OF THE CHURCH BELLS THAT WERE USED TO SOUND AIR RAID ALARMS WHEN THE JAPANESE AIRFORCE LAUNCHED BOMBING RAIDS ON THE TOWN. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS)
SAME, PORTUGUESE TIMOR 1945-12-16. SERGEANT G. MILSOM, MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM, FORMERLY A MEMBER OF THE 2/2ND INDEPENDENT COMPANY, RENEWS ACQUAINTANCES AMONG TIMORESE NATIVES. SERGEANT MILSOM ACTED AS GUIDE TO THE MILITARY HISTORY TEAM AS IT TRAVERSED THE AREAS WHERE THE 2/2ND AND 2/4TH INDEPENDENT COMPANIES CARRIED OUT GUERRILLA WARFARE AGAINST THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION FORCES.
Edited by Peter Epps