Older members and supporters of the Doublereds may remember a small publication entitled ‘The Independents’ that was written by an original member of the No. 2 Independent Company - James (Jim) Palliser Smailes (WX12381). This is an epic poem written in bush doggerel verse that recounts the exploits of the unit during the Timor campaign.
The Association has made available this unique publication for download as a digital book from its online store at a cost of $10 (https://doublereds.org.au/store/product/21-jim-smailes-the-independents-pdf/) and encourages all those with an interest in the campaign and don’t have to access to a copy to make a purchase – please spread the word about its availability to friends and family.
The funds raised from the purchase of the book will be used to support projects like those to be delivered by Timor Leste Vision and Palms Australia that the Association provided grants to earlier this year.
About three quarters of this whole poem was written on small scraps of paper as we moved about the island, and I used to leave it with different people for safety when in danger. Dr. Dunkley offered to carry it in his medical panniers because he was usually in a safe area. This I did, but his party were ambushed one day, and everything was lost. Upon arrival in the Northern Territory, I rewrote it on 20 pages of Salvation Army writing paper while at Larrimah. This was in the neck of my kitbag, and while passing through Mt Isa in Queensland it was stolen out of my tent. During our three weeks leave back in W.A. I wrote it all again from memory, and it lay in a drawer for many years. During the 1950s it was put into book form and sold for two shillings (20 cent) per copy and raised some hundreds of pounds to help finance and reticulate a special lawn area and some 40 trees, as a memorial to the 40 odd men who gave their lives in the Unit's three campaigns in the Pacific War.
Now that I have come to write the story of Timor after all these years, it is most interesting how accurate the poetic version of the story is. That is not really surprising when it is considered that the verses were written within days or hours of an event taking place, when names places and figures were so vivid in one’s mind. Paper was very short and hard to find, some was written on a tobacco tin label, some on the back of old letters.
The following small sample from ‘The Independents’ recounting the evacuation of the wounded and senior officers from Timor by Catalina that was featured in our previous post:
From now on things were not so bad, our folks were all advised,
That we were safe and fairly well, least those who had survived.
A seaplane came across one night and took our wounded men,
And all the surplus pips and crowns from down the Koepang end, The Brig. and all his retinue had
joined our little band, (Brigadier Veal)
But caught the first chance home again, this place they could not stand
An interesting feature of the publication are the line drawn illustrations prepared by the legendary cartoonist Paul Rigby – some examples of which are included with this post.