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Edward Willis

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  1. [1] At the time of the Japanese advance into Hatu-Lia in mid-March 1942 the town was occupied by three No. 2 Independent Company signallers. They were in communication with headquarters through the party-line telephone service, and by Aldis lamp with a small party of signallers under Corporal Harry Wray at Cailaco on the other side of the valley. As the Japanese approached Hatu-Lia the signallers remained in the town to report on the enemy's movements until they were almost upon them. After signalling by Aldis lamp that they were leaving due to the Japanese advance, the signallers withdrew from Hatu-Lia to an observation post overlooking the town. During the afternoon the Australians saw a party of men dressed in khaki uniforms approaching their observation post. Believing the approaching men to be Australians, one of the observers, Signaller Gerry Maley, stepped forward and waved to them. The advancing men went to cover and Maley, realising that they were Japanese, yelled to his companions to take cover before throwing himself down behind a tree. He was too late, and a burst of machine-gun fire shattered his thigh. Maley's companions dragged and carried him away to a native hut a short distance away. With the assistance of the inhabitants the wounded man was hidden in a storage area in the ceiling of the hut. The other signallers then set out for assistance through the Japanese-occupied countryside. The Japanese knew that one of the Australians had been wounded and for several days they searched for him questioning Timorese in the area. Fortunately, they did not carry out a thorough search of the hut in which Maley was hidden. For much of the time the Australian was delirious with the pain of his wounded leg, but the Timorese tending him were able to keep him quiet while the Japanese searched the area. Lieutenant Campbell, whose section was at Cailaco, wanted to lead a party to rescue Maley, but it was impossible as the Japanese were in force between his position and Maley's hiding place. Captain Dunkley, the unit medical officer, was determined that Maley would be rescued and, accompanied by Lieutenant Turton and a party of Timorese, he set off for Atsabe. After days of dodging Japanese patrols, including one group of about thirty Japanese who they found swimming in a buffalo wallow, the party rescued Maley. After Dunkley splinted and dressed Maley's wound the injured man was carried by Timorese in a litter back to Atsabe where he received the best medical care available. Later Maley was flown back to Australia with Private Hollow on the first flying boat to reach Timor. [2] Maley said many years later that he owed his life to the Timorese boys, whose initiative in making the stretcher got him to safety: ‘I owe my life to Antonio and Manere in the first place. If they weren’t able to rig up that stretcher in the first place I was gone’. [3] Gerry never forgot his debt to the East Timorese for saving his life in 1942. Following the influx of Timorese refugees to W.A. in 1975 Gerry, as the 2/2 Commando Association's liaison officer did a sterling job, helping them settle in their new country, encouraging them to maintain their culture and joining in their social activities. COL DOIG TELLS THE STORY The following account of Gerry Maley’s wounding and rescue was prepared by Col Doig for his unit history: A saga of the early Timor Campaign which to date has not been adequately told, was the wounding and rescue of Signaller Gerry Maley. "Sometime in the middle of March 1942 Sig. Maley was at Hatu-Lia with the Sigs attached to C Platoon. A patrol led by Cpl Alf Walsh, comprising Ptes ‘Rocky’ Williams, Carl Maher, ‘Slim’ Elder and Sig Gerry Maley, were detailed to go into Aileu to rescue Merv Ryan who had been reported by Timor rumour to be in the vicinity of that Posto. The patrol got into the vicinity of Aileu but somehow or other the whole plan went awry and anyhow word was received that Ryan had never left Dili. The patrol came back to Hatu-Lia. Orders were received for Sigs ‘Taffy’ Davies, ‘Rip’ McMahon and Maley to wait in Hatu-Lia and join another Section coming through. The rest of ‘C’ Platoon moved on. Signallers Observation Post (OP) Overlooking Hatu-Lia At this time the Nips came through from Vila Maria and Gerry Maley had time to contact Capt Callinan by party phone at Atsabe and Bernie told the Sigs to move to Calaico. The Sigs requested permission to set up an OP over Hatu-Lia. Permission was readily granted as Callinan was particularly keen to get the best possible information at this time of Jap movement and the methods of operation. This OP was set up on a spur (Timor absolutely abounds in spurs overlooking something or other) overlooking Hatu-Lia. The Sigs were still watching for the Section which was to come through as they did not want them to march into a nest of Nips. Gerry Maley Wounded From the OP the party saw a small body of troops in khaki moving along the track towards the spur. They covered these but they turned and went below the spur. Timorese, who were with the Sigs, said ‘Australie’. Gerry and co exposed themselves and waved to indicate their position. Gerry used a beaut white hanky to do the waving. Soon as the other party saw this they smelt a rat and broke up. Our boys soon woke up this was no Aussie party but a small band of Japs on the prowl. Gerry, Taffy and Rip dived for cover. Rip was a little slow still firmly believing it was some of our boys. Taffy whipped behind the biggest tree that could have grown on the island, Rip scrambled for cover behind Gerry as the fire opened up. Bullets everywhere. One grazed Rip's forehead and the very first burst of machine-gun fire got Gerry through the knee and shoulder. The three could not move as they were pinned down by Jap fire. This all happened about 8 a.m. Gerry Left In The Care of Local Timorese There was nothing for it but to wait and see just what the Nips would do. They did not advance on the position, so Gerry told Rip and Taffy to try and fashion a stretcher. With a couple of bamboos and stuff they made a stretcher of sorts and put Gerry on and carried him to a native village not so far away from the OP. As the stretcher party came into the village the Nips opened fire on the village. Gerry suggested to Taffy and Rip that they open fire on the Japs to draw their fire and leave him to the Timorese to look after. The Timorese were the staunchest of allies. They got Gerry into a hut, into the darkest possible corner and covered him up. The Japs moved in, occupied the village and searched right and left to try and find Gerry. They stayed in the village a day or so. Gerry was in this village for several days. He then sent a message to Cailaco by the Timorese advising of his plight and where he was. All this time he was in terrific pain with the wound in the shoulder and the broken knee. Gerry's message was acknowledged by Lt Arch Campbell. After a few days nothing happened so Gerry got the Timorese to build a strong stretcher and talked them into taking him to another village. All this was done while the Japs were having a siesta! The loyal Timorese carried Gerry to another village after dark. This village was on the Atsabe side of the ridge from Aileu. Probable route to and from Ainaro and Hatu-Lia via Atsabe taken by Dunkley and Turton to rescue Maley Doc Dunkley And Don Turton To The Rescue At this time 5 Section who had gone back to Nasuta to recover gear which had previously been buried, had returned to Atsabe. Also, there was Cpl Ray Aitken and Pte Charlie King who had gone with 5 Section to recover the gear, including a 108 [radio] set. Capt Dunkley had set up his hospital at Ainaro. Lt Campbell had got word to Major Spence that Maley was badly wounded and would require assistance. Capt. Dunkley got wind of this, God alone knows how, and suggested that he go and handle the rescue. Dunkley was firmly told that Sgt Major Craigie would handle the evacuation of Gerry from Cailaco. Dunkley was never the type of man to take no for an answer or an order and promptly set off from Ainaro to get on with the rescue. He moved to Atsabe and contacted Lt Don Turton who was there with a small number of Sappers, including Spr ‘Smash’ Hodgson. Dunkley left it up to Turton to decide the best method of going about the rescue. ‘Smash’ told this writer many months after that the cool, calm and collected manner in which Turton and Dunkley set about going after Maley, who for all they knew was still in a Jap occupied village, made his blood run cold. ‘Smash’ said if requested by Turton to accompany him on the venture he would have gone but he was just as pleased when he wasn't asked. As dusk started to fall Turton and Dunkley set off for the village. It was pretty dark when they ran in with some Timorese and managed to make them understand that they were seeking a wounded ‘Australie’ soldier. Lucky they were that these were Timorese of that particular village and they led the two officers into the village to the hut where Maley was hidden practically unconscious with the pain. Dunkley immediately set the leg and splinted it while Turton arranged for a strong stretcher to be made and a party of Timorese to carry it. The ingenuity of the Timorese in fashioning stretchers had to be seen to be believed. The Return Journey The concourse pushed and prodded by Dunkley got away from the village and headed for the hospital at Ainaro, via Atsabe. Aitken and Tapper went on to Ainaro to try and get someone to assist with the crossing of the river which ran below Ainaro. They weren't very successful and returned to the river just as the Doc and the party arrived. When Dunkley realised it was only Aitken and Tapper, he asked, ‘Where are the others?’ then ‘Don't tell me!’ and proceeded to give tongue. The river crossing was effected with much incident. All Timor streams are strewn with big boulders in the bed and flow at a rate of knots. Every jerk of the stretcher was sheer hell to Gerry and the poor native carriers got an impatient cuff from the Doc for their trouble. Once over the river it was plain sailing and on reaching Ainaro the Doctor had a few well-chosen words to say in a few pink ears for the lack of assistance. Ainaro hospital in 1938 The hospital was probably the best one used by Dunkley during the whole campaign and was built for hospital purposes originally. The beds were hard but there was one mattress normally used by the Doc, but Gerry soon found himself in a comfortable bed on the Doc's mattress. The writer also remembers, at a later date, having the use of this same mattress smartly surrendered by the Doc when he came into hospital a bit the worse for wear. Aftermath There remains little more to tell of this incident except that Gerry had his knee properly set, his shoulder dressed and after contact was made with Australia, Gerry, along with Allan Hollow, Eddie Craghill, the Brigadier and Col Van Straaten, was evacuated to Australia with the first landing by a Catalina. It was not long before he was in hospital in Hollywood. The whole of this epic from the time of wounding until the evacuation deserves a better pen than mine. It shows the terrific endurance of Gerry Maley. It shows the intense loyalty of the Timorese who not only secreted him from the Japs but acted as his stretcher bearers. It shows the rare medical skill combined with outstanding courage by Capt Dunkley who, with no regard to his own safety, went after a wounded man in what was thought to be Jap occupied territory. It shows the strength and dependability of Don Turton, a thing so much in evidence then and always as the various campaigns went on. If ever a show deserved recognition by way of a decoration, then this was it. Properly handled Dunkley should have received a DSO, but once again we missed out and all that came of Dunkley's many epics was C in C's Commendation Card and an MID. Captain Roger Dunkley’s MID citation All that can be said in passing is that we were, as a Unit, singularly fortunate in our Capt ‘Cadbury’ as our MO. [4] Gerry Maley’s Early And Postwar Life Gerry passed away in the Hollywood Hospital on Sunday 24thJune at the age of 78. He suffered indifferent health for many years brought on by a severe leg wound he received back in 1941. He was born in Subiaco on the 2nd August 1922 into a large family, having three brothers and five sisters. He enjoyed his school years excelling at sport and was a very bright pupil. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Perth Modern School, which had the reputation of being the most progressive school for learning in W.A. One of his teachers was the great Gerry Haire. Gerry was to meet up with his tutor later in the 2/2nd. His education at Modern School gave Gerry a sound grounding for his working life. Gerry Maley in later life Gerry enlisted in the A.I.F. at 18 and went on to join the 2/2nd as a signaller. He was badly wounded in the shoulder and right leg in an encounter with a Jap patrol near Hatu-Lia in March 1942. With the help of friendly natives who hid him in a hut for several days he was eventually rescued by a party led by Doc Dunkley and Don Turton. He then spent nearly two months in Ainaro before being flown to Darwin on a Catalina on 24th May 1942. A lengthy spell in a number of military hospitals followed. While in Heidelberg, he had 37 operations on his leg with many of the skin grafts not taking. It was a case of try and try again. It was a very stressful time for Gerry, but he stood up to it well. He was discharged in July 1944. He ended up with one leg shorter than the other, a disability that was to cause severe back problems in later life. Gerry spent his post war years in Sydney where he stayed with Jack O'Brien and did a course of accountancy under the rehab scheme. Jack had the honour of being the NSW branches first president and Gerry their first secretary. This was in 1946. Gerry moved to Melbourne in the early 1950s marrying his first wife Margo. They had three children and Gerry worked as an accountant for a wool firm. He was an active member of the Victorian Branch being secretary for six years from 1952-57. He returned to his home state in the 1960s living first at North Beach then at Yokine. He ran an Ampol Service Station in Nollamara for a number of years, during which time he met Dorothy whom he later married. They had one son Rodney. Gerry went on to work as a purchasing officer for John Court (Northwest} before ill health forced his early retirement. Gerry served on our WA executive and was Secretary from 1970-73 and president in 1978-79. He was made a life member in 1972. He had the distinction of being secretary in three state branches - a fine achievement indeed. His advice was often sought after when contentious matters arose concerning the Association. He also played a major role in the affairs of the TPI Association, Gerry himself being a TPI. He went on to become the State President of that association and later their National President. Under his leadership and guidance, he welded the state branches into a cohesive and effective lobby group, which eventually ensured its then 23,000 members, obtained their full entitlements. This took all of Gerry's guile as at the time the NSW and Victorian Associations didn't see eye to eye when it came to TPI matters. All in all, he made 13 train trips to Canberra on the TPI Associations behalf and each trip was a real effort for him. In 1987 Gerry was awarded an Australian Honour, an OAM for his contribution to the TPI cause. Gerry never forgot his debt to the East Timorese for saving his life in 1942. Following the influx of Timorese refugees to W.A. in 1975 Gerry, as our Association's liaison officer did a sterling job, helping them settle in their new country, encouraging them to maintain their culture and joining in their social activities. Gerry and Dot moved to Coodanup in Mandurah in 1989. A devoted couple this was a happy time for them until Gerry's health deteriorated to the point he was in constant pain. He was a well-read man, took a keen interest in botany and was a good lawn bowler when a member of the Yokine Club. He enjoyed our Anzac Days and always had a ready grin and was good company. We will miss him. The large attendance at Gerry's funeral service on 27th June [2001] was an indication of the respect and esteem in which he was held. [5] REFERENCES [1] Ayris, Cyril. - All the Bull's men: No. 2 Australian Independent Company (2/2nd Commando Squadron) / Cyril Ayris. - [Perth, W.A.]: 2/2nd Commando Association, 2006: 177. [2] Wray, Christopher C. H. - Timor 1942: Australian commandos at war with the Japanese. - Hawthorn, Vic.: Hutchinson Australia, 1987: 95-96. [3] Gerry Maley interview in ‘Independent Company: The Australian 2/2 Independent Company, Timor 1941–42’ (Documentary), Media World, 1988. [4] A history of the 2nd Independent Company and 2/2 Commando Squadron / compiled by C.D. Doig. - Carlisle, W.A.: Hesperian Press, 2009. [First published: 1986]: 89-91. [5] Jack Carey ‘Vale Philip Gerard (Gerry) Maley WX10772’ 2/2 Commando Courier September 2001: 4-6.
  2. Thanks John - discovered Merv Ryan's statement to the Australian War Crimes Section team in a file at the National Archives in Melbourne - a real 'eye opener' - I don't think his story has been fully told before.
  3. Merv Ryan [1] Sporting journalist Ross Elliott headed a story about No. 2 Independent Company veteran Merv Ryan: ‘Hobbling Army mate is not a ghost’ [2]. The reason for him heading the article this way is revealed as the story unfolds: It was February 1942 when the Japanese landed in Portuguese Timor in thousands. To oppose them were 350 [sic] Australian commandos of the 2/2 Independent Company. The Japs swept through the capital Dili and attacked the airfield. Knowing there was no hope of holding the field, a small section covered the retreat of their mates to the hills which was to be the base from which they harassed the Japs for 12 months. Bren gunner Merv Ryan was hit by a hand grenade and his leg shockingly injured. Corporal (later Lieutenant) Kevin Curran gave Ryan a field dressing and also gave him his water bottle. There was little else he could do. Ryan was one of 17 men who were wounded and unable to get away. In one of the first recorded atrocities of WWII, the wounded were shot and bayoneted. At that time all the men were thought to be dead. In 1948 Hawthorn ruck man Kevin Curran won the Simpson Medal as the best player of the match between WA and Victoria at the Subiaco Oval. WA had won the match and as the siren sounded, thousands of delighted local fans swarmed on to the ground. As the weary Curran trudged his way towards the Victorian dressing rooms he was brought up short as a man on a walking stick hobbled towards him. A shaken Curran stammered ‘It must be – but it can’t be’ …… [2] The hobbling man Curran encountered on the oval was his former compatriot, Merv Ryan who two years before this event, in late July 1946, had recorded a more detailed account of how he came to be injured in a sworn statement prepared for the 1st Australian War Crimes Section investigating the ‘Ration Truck Massacre’: STATEMENT BY MERVYN PETER RYAN IN THE MATTER of War Crimes and IN THE MATTER of the shooting of a party of Australian POW at DILI Aerodrome, Timor, during February 1942 I Mervyn Peter RYAN of 11 Federal Street, NORTH COTTESLOE, in the State of Western Australia, formerly WX13624 Private M.P. RYAN of 2/2 Aust Independent Company (AIF), being duly sworn, and say as follows: 1. I arrived with my Unit in Timor on or about 15 December 1941. From the 15 December 1941 I camped with the main group of my unit on the aerodrome at DILI. I was then removed with ‘A’ Platoon to an area known as 'Cactus Camp’ approximately 18 kilometres from DILI. We were stationed there until approximately the first week in February 1942 and then proceeded to relieve No. 1 Section of guard duty on the Aerodrome, where we remained until action started against the Japanese on 19 February 1942. 2. On the night of the 19 February 1942 I went into action with my Company against the Japanese and was wounded in the leg and arm. My mate, Private F. SMITH was also wounded and died later on. I remained lying on the ground for 24 hours. During that time, at approximately 1000 hrs on the morning of the 20 February 42, I happened to see a party of men being escorted by Japanese in front of the hangers our old gun positions. I couldn’t see much as I was fired upon by some Japanese. I was lying on top of a drain when they opened up on me and I rolled over into the drain, which was about six feet deep. I could see, however, that the men being escorted were Australians by their physique and their looks, although I did not recognise any of them. I did not actually see Private AIREY in this part as my visibility was poor and I was lying, on the ground. I only assumed later that AIREY must have been in this party when I heard what had happened from Private ALEXANDER. 3 . After rolling into the drain, where I found Private SMITH dead, I remained there for approximately 8 hours. I then crawled across the road to a seal drain where I must have laid for some time. I was next awakened by the sound of an Army truck, which was an Australian truck bearing a Japanese flag. I hailed for water and a Japanese officer got out of the truck and after interrogating shot me through the shoulder. I collapsed and later on awakening I crawled to a nearby native hut. On the morning of the 23 February 42 I came to again and tried to contact some natives travelling through the area. At approximately 1100 hours I eventually got one native to contact the Portuguese doctors, who arrived about 1300 hours. Travelling with the doctors were Portuguese Police who assisted me by having the doctors attend to me and remove me to the Portuguese hospital. The Japanese interrogated me and other POW in the hospital at DILI, where I remained until April 42. From hospital I went to the prison camp at DILI, where I met up with Private ALEXANDER. 4. The Portuguese Police were held responsible by the Japanese for holding me while I was in hospital at DILI. A Portuguese Police Officer gave me the information that he had been a witness to the burial of approximately 11 or 12 Australian soldiers who were executed by the Japanese on the DILI aerodrome. He could not give me information as to who was responsible for the executions although he tried to find out for me. I did know the name of this officer at the time, but I have now forgotten it. He actually took information from me to the Companies in the hills which can be verified by Private Mervyn WHEATLEY, who was a member of my unit and received information from him. This Portuguese officer had lived in DILI for the best part of his life and was the owner of the Australian Tearooms in DILI which was run up till the time of the invasion when the Japanese took it over. This Portuguese Officer was about 5'10" in height; weight about 10 stone; age about 45 years; could only speak Pidgin English. 5. While I was at the hospital a Portuguese Roman Catholic Priest came to the hospital. The Portuguese Officer referred to above told me that this Priest had said that he had buried 11 or 12 Australian soldiers at DILI aerodrome. This Priest visited me later on when I was still very low in health, but he would not give me any information about the men who were buried. He just refused to tell me anything about the burials because of my sickness. From what the Portuguese Police told me this Priest was a very creditable witness and these Police later brought me very accurate information on other subjects about the Japanese. I saw this Priest about four times while I was at the hospital but only conversed with him the once. The Portuguese Police said that the Priest could not identify the bodies as there were no identification discs and the bodies had suffered from attacks from animals. I did not learn the name of this Priest, but he was a tall man, about 6'; weight about 13 stone; age about 30 years; spoke English very well. 6. While I was in hospital I had a native laundry boy to act as my servant. He told me that he had heard from other natives that a party of men had been executed by the Japanese at the DILI aerodrome. Three of the men he said had escaped and from the description of one who was found dead in a culvert I took this man to be S/Sgt WALKER who was CQMS of 2/2 Independent Coy. I also learned :from this native boy that another soldier had died in a coconut plantation. The third escapee I was given to understand had been treated by natives and returned inland. When I returned to Australia I learned that this man was Pte. HAYES. 7. About two months after I became a POW I met Pte ALEXANDER at the DILI guard camp. He related to me that about 0800 hours on the morning of the 20 February 42 one section of ‘B’ Company [Platoon] who were stationed approximately 20 miles out of DILI on outpost duty were proceeding to DILI in a ration truck for supplies and four hours leave. He told me that he was a member of the party, which numbered approximately 15 men. As the truck was entering a cutting through the hills near DILI I they were surrounded by Japanese who came out of the bush and opened fire on the truck, causing them to stop. The party had no time to return the fire and they were all captured. Pte. ALEXANDER said that no-one was wounded. The Japanese then escorted the truck into DILI. At the DILI aerodrome Pte. ALEXANDER said they were all taken away behind the hangars where he, ALEXANDER, was released from the file and escorted to DILI town where he was interrogated by the Japanese officer there. He said that was the last he saw of the men. Pte. ALEXANDER said he thought the men were being used by the Japanese as a working party. I told him what I knew about a party of men being shot. 8. From April 42 I was a POW at DILI prison camp and then I went to KOEPANG about June 42. Until August the 3rd I was at KOEPANG and then I embarked for Java. SWORN by the said Mervyn Peter RYAN at PERTH in the State of Western Australia this 30th day of August 1946 Before me: G. Neal A Commissioner for taking affidavits in the Supreme Court of Western Australia. [3] Pte. Merv Ryan field tests the showers at Dili drome [4] The Portuguese Dr Mario Borges Olivera who treated Merv Ryan’s wounds at the Lahane hospital also gave a statement to the 1st Australian War Crimes Section: AFFIDAVIT I MARIO BORGES OLIVERA, being duly sworn state: I am a physician of the DILI HOSPITAL and reside at DILI. I am a Portuguese subject and a captain in the Portuguese Army. On 20th February 1942 I was in Dili when the Japanese landed, and I remained in Dilli for four months after the first Japanese occupation. At the time of the Japanese landing there was an Australian civilian named BRYANT living at the Australian Consulate. Mr ROSS was the Australian Consul. I had been treating BRYANT but when I went to visit him to give him an injection, I was prevented from entering the Consulate by the Japanese. Both Mr ROSS and BRYANT were confined to the Consulate and no one was permitted to see them. On the 20th February, a man named DOMING0S SALDANHA, a native, told me there was a wounded Australian soldier lying on the DILI aerodrome. Fighting between the Japanese and the Australians had taken place on the aerodrome. I sent four men to bring the wounded soldier to the hospital. He arrived at about 10 am and I examined him. He was conscious and gave his name as RYAN. He was suffering from a high fever and twenty seven wounds which appeared to have been caused by shrapnel. The soldier was covered in blood. He asked for water and I commenced my treatment of him. The Australian soldier stayed at the hospital for one month. During this time, he recovered and was able to walk. At the end of his months stay in the hospital, a Japanese officer and three Japanese soldiers came to the hospital and took RYAN away together with one Dutch soldier and three Javanese soldiers. All these soldiers had been wounded. The Director-Doctor of the hospital protested to the Japanese officer telling him that the Portuguese were neutral and that the hospital was showing the Red Cross and under International Law, they could not be taken away. The Japanese took no notice and the soldiers were taken away. I do not know what happened to the soldiers and furthermore I do not know of anyone who does know what happened to them. [5] Annotation on rear of photo: Taken January 1942 – One of the carts used to a great extent – L to R – M. Ryan, F. Smith, A. Delbridge. [6] News of Merv Ryan’s survival and capture by the Japanese was relayed to his parents after the No. 2 Independent Company was evacuated from Portuguese Timor: A crumpled note, its pencilled message hardly decipherable, is a cherished possession of Mr. and Mrs. W. Ryan, of Simper Street, Wembley, for it is the last direct link they have with their 20-year-old son Pte. Mervyn Peter Ryan, now a prisoner of war. The note was smuggled out to his mates by Ryan after he had been taken captive. At first he was reported missing; later came advice that he was reported to be a prisoner of war, believed wounded in action. Although he had fallen into enemy hands and was wounded Ryan did hot despair of his freedom. Members of his own guerrilla company also had plans made to effect his escape. A faithful native of the country in which they were fighting was their principal go-between. Partly crippled, he is understood to have been shot later by the enemy as a spy. Ryan's message, addressed to one of his company pals, was as follows: Here's the answer to your note. You will find it hard to read for I have lost the power of my right hand also my right leg. But it won't keep me from having another go at these Japs. I have been in hospital for five weeks now, but I won't be a pris[oner] for I am getting help from your native as you know. Give my regards to all the boys. I have some good information but dangerous to write. See you all in two weeks. Your 'old faith, Merv. ENEMY LANDING Story of Ryan's adventures has been pieced together from scraps of information communicated to his parents by members of his company. Ryan and another West Australian named Smith were out on patrol with a machinegun. They were hidden at a point hear the coast about midnight when they heard the noises made by a party obviously landing in force. At first they had reason to assume these were friends, not foes, but they soon learned to the contrary. It was an enemy landing and Ryan and Smith found themselves in a tight corner. They opened fire and in the exchange of shots Smith was killed by a grenade burst and Ryan wounded in the arm and leg. NEWS AT LAST For two days Ryan was able to lie hidden, thanks to the co-operation of friendly people. A revolver was procured for him and patrols from his company instituted a search for him and for others. A note was got through to Ryan and the message quoted was his reply. The enemy evidently got wind of the rescue attempts before escape plans could be fulfilled. That was the last heard of Ryan until recently when news came that he was well and that his people should not worry. Ryan was well-known in the Brunswick district and was employed there when he enlisted. A younger brother, Private Ronald Patrick Ryan, is serving with an A.I.F. engineering unit. [7] After his repatriation to Australia at the end of the war, Merv Ryan gave more detail about his wartime experiences in a newspaper interview: Wounded badly, in an agony of thirst, and on the point of exhaustion, Private Mervyn Peter Ryan pleaded with a Japanese guard for water. Laughing his request to scorn, the Jap whipped out his revolver and shot him through the shoulder. This was the worst but not the only example of the enemy's inhuman treatment which came the way of Ryan, now home at Shenton Park after being a P.O.W. in Timor, Java and Malaya since late 1941. Ryan, who is 23 and a strapping physical specimen, lost more than four stone during his incarceration. He belonged to the 2/2nd Commandos who landed on Timor shortly before Christmas, 1941. He and the two other members of his gun crew shared the brunt of the fighting when the battle occurred for Dilli drome. One of the trio escaped unwounded, a grenade burst open Ryan's right leg some inches above the ankle, while the third man was severely wounded and died two days afterwards. As the scene of the fighting moved away the two men lay in their 'nest’. With his mate dead Ryan crawled painfully towards the native house. Lack of food and water and the untreated, bleeding wound caused him torture and he had spells of dizziness and coma. It was while he was making this desperate journey that the water incident occurred. He was apparently left for as good as dead. It took him four hours to cover 25 yards. RAW MEAT Near the house he located a kerosene tin half-filled with brackish water, risked drinking it and munched buffalo grass shoots. He awakened from another fainting fit to find himself surrounded by a group of gesticulating natives. These gave him buffalo meat which he sucked raw, water and rice. They then brought Portuguese and native doctors to him and they got permission for him to be taken through the enemy defence lines to the nearby hospital. Here he had to be given intravenously such sustaining liquids as goat's milk. The doctors and natives established communication with his unit which was then engaged in furious fighting with the Japanese in the foothills. He planned an escape but was put in a prison camp. NIGHT RAIDERS One night in May, 1942 a small party of his unit daringly stormed the camp, apparently bent on rescuing him and Peter Alexander, of Kalgoorlie, who was also in the camp. They heard the sound of .303 bullets and a volley of these was fired on to the verandah of their camp hut, the guard being wounded. The whole camp was roused and the Dilli town alarm sounded while Jap infantry moved off with armoured cars and M.G. carriers. They claimed next day to have, shot one of the raiding party. With his leg wound still unhealed Ryan was moved south to Asaper Bessar camp from where, after a spell of hard work, he was sent to Batavia, still having to spend periods in hospital for treatment of his leg and shoulder. Here a number of Australians worked in the gardens and found the food situation greatly improved, but when there came another shift to Singapore the food was scarce and unsuitable, consisting almost exclusively of rice. They crossed to Singapore in a ship carrying 2000 prisoners who were so jammed they had to remain seated for the three-day voyage. TORTURE While working in the Singapore docks area they had a grandstand view of an Allied air raid which burned out the installations. Fires burned for four days. The Japs persistently tried to draw out Ryan regarding our guerrilla operations and were particularly inquisitive to find out why our men persisted in fighting in the interior. Once he was examined along these' lines by a Jap admiral and three generals. They usually had some fiendish torture to accompany these interrogations. Considering the great hardships and suffering he was forced to endure Ryan has made a remarkable recovery. [8] Merv Ryan was in fact much closer to the raiding party than they realised. Here is his account of the raid as experienced as a Jap prisoner: May 15, 1942 - was being held a prisoner of war by the Japanese at Dili. About midnight Peter Alexander and I were asleep in a house with about 30 soldiers of different nationalities, when all of a sudden hell broke loose. We had a window open to let some air into the room. I dived over and closed it so no silly bugger would throw a grenade in. The bullets were really flying around the place. 303s and Tommy guns could well be heard. After about a quarter of an hour the world around us became quite calm until the Nips started to have their say. They sure gave us a headache that night. Peter and I were repeatedly woken up to make sure we had not gone A.W.L. They came and checked us every hour. (Do you think I hated the army then?) The raid certainly worried the little ape men. They raced through the town like mad, bringing anything that would roll on wheels for we could count the carriers and trucks going up and down the road all night long. For a long time after they would patrol at night, so the raid gave them a lot of sleepless nights. May 16, 1942, 5.30 a.m. - We were all made to stand under a big tree and were told by Gorilla Pete that the Australians who made the raid were all wiped out. They produced one hat and one rifle, but we had found out that it was a Jap body, so we all started to laugh. The Japs didn't appreciate our mirth, so they made us face each other and told us to slap each our mate's face. (That Alexander sure can throw a good right). After the show had quietened down I went out the front of the house to have a look. Was I pleased to be behind a 12 inch stone wall in that raid for the verandah was just riddled with bullet holes. I spent a whole day digging out .303 bullets and Tommy gun rounds. [9] Merv Ryan’s parents were unaware of his fate after the report they had received in March 1943, so it was a great relief for them when a photo of him appeared in a newspaper report about released Australian prisoners of war in Singapore at the end of the war: Pte M.P. Ryan pictured in the group published in yesterday's issue of ‘The West Australian’. The first indication that her son, a prisoner of war in Japanese hands since his capture on Timor, was alive and well was when Mrs W. Ryan of 39 Evans Street, Shenton Park, saw his photograph in a group published in yesterday's issue of ‘The West Australian’ under the caption ‘The Australians Enjoy the Situation’. She recognised her son and hurried into this office to see the original print – ‘just to make sure’ she said. He is WX13624 Pte Mervyn Peter Ryan, who was one of the famed Timor guerrillas and a member of the Second Independent Company (commandos). Pte Ryan was wounded at Dilli aerodrome on February 19, 1942 and captured by the Japanese. He was immediately dispatched to a Japanese [Portuguese] hospital where he remained for about five weeks. This information was relayed to his unit by a native messenger who was subsequently shot by the Japanese as a ‘spy’. The next indication of his whereabouts was about five months later when he was located in Java X camp - the news also being received by a native messenger. During his internment his mother received no mail from him. On Monday, however, she was informed by a telegram from the Minister for the Army that Pte Ryan had been reported alive at Tangong Pagar, Singapore, on September 4. However, it was not divulged whether he was in good health. Mrs Ryan saw his likeness for the first time for nearly four years when the photograph was published in ‘The West Australian’. That morning she received a letter from him stating that he would be home in about a fortnight. ‘It is the greatest day in my life’, she said, ‘and I have never felt so excited. I did not know whether he was alive or dead and the photo in the paper dispelled any doubts I had. It was marvellous’. Pte Ryan is 23 years of age and was educated at the Leederville State school. He was born at Goomalling. [10] Merv Ryan’s travails and adventures weren’t concluded at the end of the war as related by Col Doig in this ‘friendly fire’ anecdote about the aftermath of the Association 1947 reunion dinner: Perhaps the highlight of this function was the aftermath. Jack Denman had his car and when the show was over got a few passengers to be delivered in all directions. Merv Ryan was precariously perched on the running board (yes, cars had running boards in 1947) and in swerving to avoid another vehicle coming onto the Causeway, sideswiped Merv on to a light pole, leaving him grounded, slightly bruised only (who ever heard of a drunk getting hurt in a minor accident) and proceeded over the Causeway unaware that one of his precious cargo was adrift on the roadside. [11] Merv Ryan passed away in 1986 aged 64 years: VALE - MERV RYAN With a great depth of sadness we report the passing of a man who put up a grand fight against tremendous odds and finally, after courageously attending the Canberra Safari, succumbed to the almost unbeatable scourge. Merv was an original in our formative days at Foster and was a member of 2 Section, 'A' Platoon, under Gerry McKenzie, his platoon commander, Rolf (Baldy) Baldwin. From the word go Merv made his mark in a very competitive section, the earmarks of a fine soldier apparent from very early days, so it turned out to be. He was tall, athletic, tough, full of humour, very much a man's man who acquitted himself in every possible situation with distinction. He was well liked by every member of the Unit and that continued into post war years. Merv's war years were destined to be served under the yoke of the Japanese for on the night of the 19th February 1942, when 2 Section took the brunt of the Japanese landing, he was badly wounded in close contact with the enemy and that was the last we saw of him until the war ended. The years under the Japanese were torrid indeed, that is putting it mildly, but Merv made of the right stuff, terrible injuries and all, was still in there punching, making his presence felt, as Nippon would well know. For a short while he had Peter Alexander from 7 Section as a mate but that was only temporary. Merv's injuries could not see him moved from Singapore and Peter was sent up to the ‘Railway’. August 1945 saw the Japanese surrender and in its wake came the emotional reunion of families long parted. So it was with Merv who settled back into civilian life easily for he had a tremendous partner in Dulcie, raised a family, worked hard on the wharves at Fremantle and threw in his lot with our 2/2nd Commando Association and he was an invaluable member. He showed the same fortitude post war as he did when a P.O.W., for life was not easy. The injuries received on that fateful night in February 1942 caused untold problems and pain, but he dismissed them all with the well-known Ryan grin. Over all the years Dulcie was a tower of strength to Merv, a wonderful wife and mother, a lovely person. We send our heartfelt sympathy to Dulcie and her family and trust time will in some way heal the great void left by Merv's passing. May God give you and yours strength to face the years ahead with peace of heart and mind being yours in abundance. We will miss Merv so very much, a well-loved mate and comrade. To all with whom he had contact his memory will make these words live for they are indelibly imprinted in our hearts. 'LEST WE FORGET' [12] REFERENCES [1] Cyril Ayris. - All the Bull's men : No. 2 Australian Independent Company (2/2nd Commando Squadron) / Cyril Ayris. - [Perth, W.A.] : 2/2nd Commando Association, 2006: 109. [2] [Newspaper article - Source unknown] [3] ‘Statement by Mervyn Peter Ryan’ in National Archives of Australia: MP742/1, War crimes - Timor Asia (general) : TIMOR 4 - War crimes - Timor Asia (general) [component 1 of 7] 336/1/1724 PART 1. [4] Archie Campbell. - The Double Reds of Timor. - Swanbourne, W.A.: John Burridge Military Antiques, c1995: 33. [5] ‘Affidavit of Dr Mario Borges Olivera, Physician, Dili Hospital (Lahane), Dili, Portuguese Timor, 25th June,1946’ in National Archives of Australia: MP742/1, War crimes - Timor Asia (general) : TIMOR 4 - War crimes - Timor Asia (general) [component 1 of 7] 336/1/1724 PART 1. [6] Source: 2/2 Commando Association of Australia photo archive. [7] ‘Japs thwart escape plan’ Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Friday 19 March 1943: 7. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page7966930) [8] ‘Wounded man shot when craved water’ Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), Saturday 20 October 1945: 15. (https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/rendition/nla.news-article78481096.txt) [9] A history of the 2nd Independent Company and 2/2 Commando Squadron / compiled by C.D. Doig. - Carlisle, W.A. : Hesperian Press, 2009. [First published: 1986]: 115-116. [10] ‘Son recognised in Singapore picture: WA mother's "greatest day”’ West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), Thursday 20 September 1945: 4. (http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51769482) [11] A great fraternity: the story of [the] 2/2nd Commando Association, 1946-1992 / compiled by C.D. Doig. - [Perth, W.A.: C.D. Doig], 1993: 28. [12] ‘Vale - Merv Ryan’ 2/2 Commando Courier vol. 62, August 1986: 7-8. Prepared by Ed Willis 29 June 2021
  4. At the end of WWII, ex No. 2 Independent Company soldier George Milsom (TX4141) was promoted to Sergeant and became a member of a three-man team Military History Team that was sent to both Dutch and Portuguese Timor to record significant campaign sites. [1] 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. [2] In Dili they received help from two new criados Fernando and Akiu. George Milsom was an avid letter writer and his parents kept all of his letters. This post features a letter dated 14 January 1946 that he wrote after the Military History Team had completed its patrol to campaign sites at the eastern end of Portuguese Timor. The twelve day patrol travelled through the following locations: Dili, Manatuto, Vemasse, Baucau, Lautem, Lore, Fuiloro and Ossu then back to Dili. Milsom’s narrative of the patrol is complemented by photographer Keith Davis’s photographs of some of the locations visited by the Team. The adventures and social activities of the men and their reliance on the hard working jeep as their mode of transport makes for interesting and entertaining reading. Map 1: Route followed by the Military History Section Team Date DECEMBER 1945 29 Dilli-Manatuto-Baucau 30 Baucau-Lautem 31 Lautem-River Laivai-Baucau-Manatuto JANUARY 1946 1 Manatuto, Baucau, Lautem 2 Lautem 3 Lautem, Fuiloro, Lore 4 Lore, Baucau 5 Baucau, Venilale, Ossu, Viqueque 6 Viqueque, Ossu 7 Ossu 8 Ossu, Mundo Perdido, Venilale, Ossulata Beach, Baucau 9 Baucau, Laleia River, Manatuto, Dilli Table 1: Military History Section Team’s itinerary Ossu, Portuguese Timor. Members of the Military History Field Team and local children in the team's Jeep. Identified, left to right: Sergeant (Sgt) Manuel Da Camara, Portuguese colonial forces; Sgt Keith Davis, Military History Section (MHS), official war photographer; Antonio; Fernando; Lieutenant Charles Bush, MHS, official war artist; George Milsom, MHS; and Akiu, the criado of Arthur Stevenson of Z Special. Dilli 14/1/46 I have not written to you this year and what with all the festivities and running round I have hardly had time to enter all the unusual and amazing experiences in my diary, we shall never forget New Year's Eve and New Years Day. When I write the entry in my diary I found I had put all the happenings in the one day, did not even bother to start a New Year. The QUANZA a Portuguese ship is in port unloading thousands of tons of supplies after which it will go to Fremantle on its return to Lisbon; I hope to send this let or by her. She may go out in about a week. I wish I had some more money to buy things off her; I have a lovely Omega watch and would like to get another but now I am short, there are some beautiful things here too. We cannot even get word to Koepang for some money; I suppose we shall find some way out of it. Cigarettes are pretty plentiful, many different brands and some from South Africa; I'll try to get as many as I can if only for souvenirs. To get back to where I left off in my last letter. We set off for the Eastern end of the island on 29th Dec, this time with a Porto sergeant named Manuel Camara; one big happy jeep-load of four Tuans and three Creadosplus a trailer of gear and food. Had a good trip round a glorious coast road that sometimes ran over salt pans, then round a cliff high above the sea and in places the roadway was built up over the sea. We climbed a range where the road was just a ledge cut into the steep side of the mountain. SUBAO GRANDE, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1945-12-29. SPARSELY WOODED HILLSIDES LEADING DOWN TO THE SEA BESIDE THE DILI TO MANATUTO ROAD. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS ) We forded some rivers and crossed others on Japanese constructed bridges. Had a nice lunch at MANATUTO and later pushed on to BAUCAU. Encountered very heavy rain at VERMASSE and the road became sticky, especially over the BAUCAU plateau. This town is the next largest to DILI but has been mauled and bombed till almost beyond repair. Somehow the Portos have things going again and are living in patched houses. We stayed a right there and went on to LAUTEM next day (Sunday). There we found the Administrator Senhor GONSALVES sitting on the verandah of a house that the Japs had built and used for their HQ. He is a big chap, big-hearted, and welcomed us with VINHO DA PORTO. Lautem, Portuguese Timor. Senhor Gonsalves 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. He has gathered round him all the Japanese junk from the area, broken down bombers and small motor cars; I have never seen such a collection before. We slept in Japanese beds with sheets and mosquito nets and had hot bathe in the concrete bath the Japs had built. Then we went to the airfield and you should see the wrecked planes, all in the most fantastic angles and positions, you will have to see the photo to believe it. LAUTEM, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-02. THIS JAPANESE TWIN ENGINED AIRCRAFT WAS PROBABLY DESTROYED BY THEM AT THE END OF THE WAR. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS) We did not run short of petrol there because there is a dump of 56,000 44 gallon drums there. The Administrator has trucks, cars and hundreds of bicycles. One shed he has is full of gear, one wall was covered with chiming clocks. He gave us some souvenirs. The junk heap was even able to supply us with two wheels for the jeep. LAUTEM, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-02. DAMAGED BICYCLES IN THE LAUTEM AREA WHERE THE JAPANESE MAINTAINED THEIR LARGEST DUMPS OF PETROL, EQUIPMENT AND STORES. THEY DESTROYED MUCH OF THIS MATERIAL AND MANY AIRCRAFT AT THE NEARBY AIRFIELD AT THE END OF THE WAR. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS) After staying the night and deciding to go on to LORE on 31st the Administrator said, ‘Would you like to go to the New Year Festival and Dance at MANATUTO?’ We accepted, and here the fun commenced. We left LAUTEM and had a good 11/2 hours run to BAUCAU, had afternoon tea, and continued on our way to MANATUTO. At the VEMASSE river we found the river swollen with muddy water and impossible to cross so decided to wait rather than go back and after about two hours the water had gone down a fair bit. Although it was 8 p.m. and dark I decided to give the jeep a go at the crossing, so I put it into low ratio four wheel drive and ventured forth. She went well till we got about three parts of the way over, then the front wheels went into a hole, the engine gave a choke and conked out. By this time the water was rushing in a torrent straight through the jeep over the seats and even with the glove-box. The rush of water moved the jeep downstream a few yards, so we climbed out and got a mob of natives to push us over. The head and tail lights still burned and I had previously connected the trouble lamp. When on dry land we pulled the plugs out, drained away the mud and water, gave the engine a kick over to empty the exhaust and silencer, and started up and went on to the LALEILA river to have a repeat performance. We reached MANATUTO just as everyone was finishing the dinner and setting off to the dance. As we were wet through and so was our change of clothes we had a bath and managed to borrow a change of clothes; I had a pair of grey trousers and a safari jacket belonging to the Administrator. Then we had a meal and set off to the dance. It was marvellous. A long shed had been especially constructed by the natives and gaily decorated inside and out. It was lighted with Chinese lanterns and in the centre was a raised platform for an orchestra supplied by BARTOLOMEO DIAZ. At the end of the stand was a drink bar with wine, brandy, a native cocktail, and ‘TUAKA’. I think I tried them all. It was not long before I was dancing round in a ring with the INTENDANT of BAUCAU and three CHEFES DA POSTO teaching them to sing ‘She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes’. This amazed the crowd because an INTENDANT is rather a high official; he is one of the Governor's aides. Well it’s the first time I have ever danced until eight in the morning. There were very few white girls there, but I danced with them all and many Timor girls. LAUTEM, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-02. A WOODEN JAPANESE SIGNPOST WITH EMPTY PETROL DRUMS AND MOBILE ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS IN THE BACKGROUND. We picked up the dances easily, they are very similar to ours. Charles and Keith faded out about 4 a.m. but everyone who had gone to sleep was awakened by the drums and parade round the houses; about 2000 natives and others went in a long crocodile and I took over the drum for a while, it was all great fun and seemed unreal. ‘FLEIZ ANNO NOVA’ end ‘FLIEIZ NATAL’ will always remain in my memory. At 11 a.m. we set out on our return journey pretty weary. WE had a good lunch at BAUCAU but then we got to the MALAI River that was in flood, so we had to wait again and with a number of natives built a roadway over the deepest part and: crossed over o.k. Had a good dinner at LAUTEM and went to bed and did very little their next day except to get the jeep ready to go on to LORE. Having got it ready it refused to start until I had taken out the plugs and cleaned them. We had a good lunch at FUILORO and arrived at LORE at four p.m. We were shown a crashed HUDSON bomber in which six Australians had lost their lives; the wreckage was fenced in by the natives. [3] The most peculiar thing we saw was some Jap defences on the beach below LORE; the Japs had put small sharp bamboo stakes up in the sand, thousands of them inclined towards the sea and they evidently anticipated a landing. Also on the LAUTEM plateau was a similar sight, thousands of sharp bamboo stakes about 7 or 8 feet long pointing straight up as a defence against para troops. 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) We left LORE at 2 p.m. and went back to BAUCAU. Our original plan was to go down the coast from LORE to VIQUEQUE but owing to rains the CHINO river was swollen. At OSSU we picked up the CHEFE DA POSTO and took him to VIQUEQUE where we stayed a night. Next day we tried to get up the coast to HATOLARE, but another big river stopped us (the BEVAI) - it is not marked on my map. We had some fun when the jeep fell through a small bridge, but we managed to lever it out and carry on as usual. Stayed two nights at OSSU which to my mind is the prettiest and best located place on the island. The surrounding mountains LAURTINE and MUNDO PERDIDO present a glorious sight, especially at sunrise and sunset. The CHEFE DA POSTO at OSSU is very young and full of life and we had a great time there. OSSU, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-07. AUSTRALIANS OF SPARROW FORCE USED THIS HOUSE AS HEADQUARTERS WHEN OCCUPYING THE TOWN IN 1942. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS) When we reached BAUCAU on the 8th we learned that the big bridge over the LALIELA River had a span torn out by the flood and that it was impossible to get through, so we spent another night at BAUCAU. Next morning we started out at 5 a.m. arriving at LALIELA at 7. Viewed the bridge and river with doubt, took some photos of the bridge, had a breakfast of pineapple. The latter event attracted such a crowd of natives that it gave me courage to give the river bed a go. It was about 200 yards across and for the third time we plunged into a volume of dirty water of unknown depth. We got completely stuck in some sand but about 50 yelling natives made light work of getting us across. The water did not come up to the glove box this time. When we got across the natives shouted with delight, so we gave them a 5 pataca note to split up amongst them. How they were going to do that would keep them occupied for the next fortnight I should think. That proved to be the last obstacle and we arrived in DILI for a late lunch. That night we went aboard the QUANZA had some beer in both lounges, had a look at what the bar tenders had to offer and came off the ship each with a nice new watch. Thursday night we went to a party at the HQ Sergeant's mess, more VINHO and VIVA PORTUGAL and singing. We were properly tired that night. On Friday night we went to the Officers' mess where we had another marvellous dinner with iced LAURENTINA beer from Africa. The best thing was the African soldiers' orchestra which played to us all night, lovely music with soft rhythm and many popular tunes. We have been feted so much that we shall have to go to AINARO in a few days for a holiday. Saturday night we went to a concert party put on by the artillery unit, it was very good and even if we did laugh in the wrong places we provided amusement for all. Must now go and post this on board the QUANZA. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Thank you to Liz Milsom (George Milsom’s daughter) for making George’s correspondence available for publication. REFERENCES [1] ‘George James Beedham Milsom’ https://doublereds.org.au/history/men-of-the-22/tx/george-james-beedham-milsom-r364/ [2] See Ed Willis ‘75 Years on - Art and photographs in the Australian War Memorial Collection related to the campaign in Portuguese Timor – Charles Bush and Keith Davis’ https://doublereds.org.au/forums/topic/108-75-years-on-art-and-photographs-in-the-australian-war-memorial-collection-related-to-the-campaign-in-portuguese-timor-–-charles-bush-and-keith-davis/?tab=comments#comment-172 [3] Milsom is referring to Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 13 Squadron Hudson bomber A16-166 that was shot down by Japanese fighters off Cape Lore while flying in support of an air raid on ships at Nova Ancora. All five [not six] crew members were killed in action. See David Vincent. – The RAAF Hudson story – book two. – Highbury, SA: Vincent Aviation Publications, 2010: 90-91.
  5. Perth-based members and supporters of the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia are encouraged to visit an upcoming exhibition at the Wireless Hill Museum, Yagan Mia Wireless Hill Park, 1 Telefunken Drive, Ardross WA 6153. The centre piece of the exhibition will be a 3D textile version of ‘Winnie the War Winner’ created by Sandy Mack whose father was original unit member Terry Paull (WX12340). Sandy’s representation of the iconic radio set is remarkable and should provide quite a conversation piece and draw card for the exhibition. Full details regarding the location of the Museum and the dates and times for the exhibition can be found at: https://www.melvillecity.com.au/things-to-do/museums-arts-and-culture/wireless-hill-museum
  6. Dear Ken: See the Doublereds entry for your uncle linked below that includes details of the medals he was entitled to - let me know if you need any additional information. Harvey's service record can also be downloaded from: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=6468894&isAv=N Regards Ed Willis President, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia
  7. WWII in East Timor – A Site and Travel Guide LIQUIÇÁ MUNICIPALITY MAUBARA 8° 36' 42.98" S 125° 12' 22.00" E Maubara is 26 miles (42 km.) from Dili at a bearing of 262°. This small posto and market town is situated on the north coast and at the terminus of the coast road. The posto itself is constructed on a knoll with its usual administrative and auxiliary buildings. Several buildings were destroyed by floods during 1939. Other buildings are church, school, and residences, most of which are built of stone with galvanized iron roofing. There is an anchorage on the open beach of Maubara. [1] Map of Maubara The town of Maubara is situated by the sea on a narrow frontage, with the core of the town extending inland towards the hills behind, bounded on the eastern side by the Rio Bahonu and a smaller stream on the west. Callinan was not as impressed with Maubara as he was with Liquiçá: "We did not remain long in Liquissa, but drove on to Maubara, located at the end of the road-and indeed it looked like it! The buildings were dilapidated, and the inhabitants were few. A couple of us walked into the only open building we could see and found it to be a Chinese shop. The occupants were distressed to see such martial figures and insisted on producing coffee and cakes whilst an old man told me how very old and ill he was, and that the only other occupants were women and children, flocks of whom were produced for our inspection. Feeling very embarrassed, we beat a retreat as soon as courtesy permitted after the refreshments". [2] In February 1942 the Dutch contingent stored rations and ammunition at the posto and school in the town as a transition base for their withdrawal by sea to Dutch Timor in anticipation of the arrival of the Portuguese reinforcements. [3] Escola do Padre Medeiros (Father Medeiros’ School) where the Dutch stored rations and ammunition – photo taken 18 April 2014 Despite Callinan’s reservations about the attractiveness of the town it features affectionately in one of the longest anecdotes in his book related to Bols gin, one of the rations stored at the posto: "One of our patrols which was around to the north of Ermera heard of a supply of Dutch stores at Maubara on the north coast. These had been placed there prior to the Japanese landing with the intention of moving them by barges into Dutch Timor. Our interest in the stores was increased when it was learnt that amongst them was some Bols gin, which was normally an issue with the R.N.E.I.A. After the Japanese landing the Chefe de Posto had moved the stores to his posto and sent an inventory to the Governor. The Japanese had visited the town but once, and had not searched the posto, so that the stores were still intact, but the Chefe de Posto, a most conscientious and good man, would not part with the stores without the authority of the Governor. Earlier there had been a misunderstanding between the Chefe de Posto and one of our troops, but this was smoothed over very well by Sousa Santos. Shortly afterwards, through Sousa Santos, I received a letter from the Governor stating that the stores were available and that I could collect them provided I gave a receipt for all the goods received. I was only too willing to supply a receipt, and the next day 200 natives left Bobonaro to skirt around the enemy and collect the stores from Maubara. Within a week they were back with sixty-seven cases of Bols gin-twelve bottles to the case. There were some other stores, but they were of little importance compared with the gin. We sent a case of gin back to the Chefe de Posto at Maubara, expressing our appreciation of his probity and courtesy, and another case went to the Governor. These gifts were entirely unofficial and, of course, were not acknowledged, but were probably enjoyed none the less. One case went to the Dutch headquarters, and gifts were sent to various good friends amongst the Portuguese. The remainder was distributed to the platoons. I do not think any of us really drank much gin in normal times, but I thoroughly enjoyed neat Bols gin out of pannikins of all shapes, sizes and materials. It provided a very welcome break for the whole company, and we lived in the memories and stories of that issue for a long time”. [4] Maubara Posto The posto at Maubara referred to by Callinan is one of the classics of its type. Sited south of the town it overlooks, in a dominant hillside position on the eastern bank of the Rio Bahonu it provides expansive views along the coast to the east and west and inland to the hills behind. Built in the late 1890s at the direction of Governor Celestino da Silva it was one of the network of military posts intended to provide for the effective colonial occupation of Portuguese Timor. The Maubara stronghold represented a particular case, as it was a Dutch heritage, consisting of a solid stone and lime construction with a circular shape, with a European-style “good house” for the commander, a barracks for an inferior officer and another, in Timorese style, for 30 soldiers. [5] "Naturally, the effectiveness of a military network depends on the interconnection of the units that comprise it. In view of the difficulties in establishing an effective road network, Celestino da Silva bet on a telephone network connecting the main towns, whose assembly would be in charge of the postal and telegraph service section of the public works division. In 1900, the first town to be linked to the capital was Maubara, later connecting to Batugadé, and branching to Boibau, Bobonaro, Aileu, Maubisse, Same, Lacló, Manatuto, Laclubar and Viqueque, arriving in Lautém in the last year of Celestino's government". [6] Casa e dependências do posto civil – Maubara, Timor 1925 [7] The posto underwent extensive renovation during 2012-2015 financed by Portuguese government under the Mós Bele Program to transform it into boutique hotel for tourists. It then lay unoccupied for several years, but in December 2020 the keys to the rehabilitated building were ‘handed over to the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce and Industry of Timor-Leste, the competent authority for the steps leading to the future concession of the building for the purpose of tourist exploitation’. [8] Maubara Fort The grey-walled fort that dominates the seafront here is of Dutch rather than Portuguese origin and dates from the mid-18th century. The Dutch had an active interest in Maubara at this time as a prime site for coffee cultivation and introduced it to the island here and at Liquiçá from whence it gradually spread elsewhere to become the important cash crop it is today. Dutch interest in the enclave waned over time and it was ceded to Portugal as part-payment part for a larger territorial deal finally concluded in 1861. [9] Several large shady trees shelter the expansive rectangular interior of the fort that is leaf-littered and weedy bare earth apart from a single centrally located modern building. Two old cannons are aimed seawards from bastions at either end of the northern wall. Rustic and neglected wooden gates provide access to the fort from the north and south; they are installed in arches that stand taller than the walls. [10] MAUBARA, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-29. THE OLD STONE … FORT. AUSTRALIANS OF SPARROW FORCE PASSED THROUGH THIS AREA ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS DURING 1942. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS). [11] Maubara Fort – photo taken 26 April 2014 Portuguese Internment Zone at Maubara In late October 1942, the Portuguese Governor reluctantly accepted the Japanese edict regarding ‘protective concentration’ and encouraged all Portuguese residents to move to ‘internment’ areas at Liquiçá, Maubara and the nearby hill village of Bazar Tete – this was deemed necessary for protection against the ‘rebeliões de indígenas (rebellious Timorese)’. Initially, the protection zone comprised the entire part of the coast stretching from Liquiçá to the mouth of the Lois River with people encouraged to gather in the towns of Liquiçá and Maubara. However, earlier on, several families stayed in the immediate vicinity where they were better able to cultivate subsistence crops. That situation changed quickly, with constant intimidation and confrontations with the ‘colunas negros’ (black columns). In May 1943, members of the Portuguese military detachment in Maubara were disarmed and demobilised. In the town, some internees still managed to maintain small vegetable gardens. Gradually, through more or less indirect pressure, the Japanese were also urging Timorese to stop selling their produce in weekly markets. Anxieties were further increased by sporadic Allied bombing and strafing attacks that sometimes caused Portuguese and Timorese casualties. In September 1944, without warning, the Japanese ordered the transfer of the approximately 200 people based in Maubara to Liquiçá, further undermining living conditions for the internees. [12] Monument to José Nunes, the Loyal Regulo of Maubara Departing the southern gate of the fort, in front of the grounds of the primary school there is a significant Portuguese monument; the plaque on this monument bears the inscription: ‘Homenagem do Governo de Timor au seu mui fiel regulo de Maubara José Nunes (1874-1952)’. In mid-November 1943, Maubara was defended from attacks by rebellious warriors from Balibó, Cailaco and Atabai by local men led by the loyal liurai José Nunes and his son Gaspar, who supported a small Portuguese detachment of indigenous soldiers. [13] Rui Brito da Fonseca has provided this description of the monument: "D. Jose was always faithful to the Portuguese, so his camp deserved the confidence of carrying out guard of honour to the Governor. I still remember in memory the impressive parade of the Cavalry of Maubara, commanded by the imposing D. Gaspar, son of Jose Nunes, accompanied by his principals, when Governor Alves Aldeia arrived in Portugal on the 20th of March April 1974. He was considered a hero in the Manufahi War in 1913. He helped the Portuguese in such a way when, from the end of 1942, they were confined to the Protection Zone of Maubara and Liquiçá, that many, undoubtedly, owed him for their survival". Monumento fúnebre do liurai José Nunes – photograph taken 26 April 2018 "At the end of the conflict and the Japanese expelled, the governor wanted to publicly show his recognition by granting the honour of being himself the first liurai to fly the Portuguese flag outside Dili, thus beginning the reception of the term by the Portuguese administrative authorities. It is said that, on a certain occasion during the Japanese occupation, some Japanese officials, on the birthday of the Emperor, invited D. Jose Nunes to propose a toast to the Great Japanese Empire, to which he acceded. Soon after, he asked for the floor and, tell the storytellers, that the assembly trembled in fear of what the liurai might say, such was his unbelievable spirit. Then, Jose Nunes, raised his glass, getting cold silence and in his gentle authority he said: - I toast Portugal, which is even greater! As an old man, he expressed to the Government that his greatest desire was to be buried under the shadow of the national flag that he knew. Years later, his will was done, and he was buried in a monument whose shade shadows his grave and the representation of the flag he served. This monument inspired a whole series of funerary monuments in the centre of the neighbouring villages with the rolled-up cover, symbolising the flag in which he believed in life". [14] MAUBARA, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-29. KING NUNIS OF MAUBARA WHO ORGANISED AN ANTI 5TH COLUMN CAMPAIGN AMONG HIS NATIVES. THE AUSTRALIANS OF SPARROW FORCE FOUGHT SEVERAL ACTIONS AGAINST JAPANESE SYMPATHISERS AND WERE AIDED BY LOCAL LEADERS LIKE KING NUNIS WHO REMAINED LOYAL TO THE PORTUGUESE. (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS) [?] REFERENCES [1] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 27-28. [2] Callinan, Bernard. - Independent Company : the Australian Army in Portuguese Timor 1941-43. - Richmond, Vic.: Heinemann, 1984.: 23. [3] J.J. Nortier ‘De bezetting van Dilly, Portugees Timor: geallieerd initiatief in de eerste weken van de oorlog tegen Japan [The occupation of Dilly, Portuguese Timor: Allied initiative in the first weeks of the war against Japan]’ Ons Leger 63 September 1979: 49-60. [4] Callinan, Bernard. - Independent Company : the Australian Army in Portuguese Timor 1941-43. - Richmond, Vic. : Heinemann, 1984: 119-120. [5] Isabel Boavida ‘Celestino da Silva, a rede de postos militares e a ocupação colonial efetiva de Timor português (1895–1905): Um processo (des)construtivo’ [Celestino da Silva, the network of military posts and the effective colonial occupation of Portuguese Timor (1895–1905): A (de) constructive process] Journal of Asian History, Vol. 48, No. 2 (2014): 249. [6] Boavida: 255. [7] https://www.archives.gov.mo/webas/ArchiveDetail2016.aspx?id=58081 [8] Timor-Leste: Delivery of Pousada de Maubara (https://www.instituto-camoes.pt/sobre/comunicacao/noticias/timor-leste-entrega-da-pousada-de-maubara) [9] W.G. Clarence-Smith “Planters and smallholders in Portuguese Timor: the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” Indonesia Circle no. 57, 1992: 15-30. [10] See also Steve Farram ‘The Maubara fort, a relic of eighteenth-century local autonomy and Dutch-Portuguese rivalry on Timor’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 50 (2) May 2019: 263–287. [11] AWM 125217 [12] See Manuel de Abreu Ferreira de Carvalho. - Relatório dos acontecimentos de Timor (1942-45) [Report of Timorese events (1942­45)]. - Lisboa: Edições Cosmos, 2003: 406-412, Antonio de Oliveira Liberato. - Os japoneses estiveram em Timor [The Japanese were in Timor]. - Lisboa: Empresa Nacional da Publicade, 1951: ‘A Zona De Concentração’, 153-208, and Jose Duarte Santa. - Australianos e japoneses em Timor na II Guerra Mundial, 1941-1945 [Australians and Japanese in Timor in the Second World War, 1941-1945]. - Lisboa: Noticias, 1997 for the most detailed account. [13] Rocha, Carlos Vieira da. - Timor: ocupação japonesa durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial (2a. ed. rev. e ampliada). Sociedade Histórica da Independência de Portugal, Lisboa, 1996: 107. [14] Rui Brito da Fonseca. - Monumentos portugueses em Timor-Leste. - Dili, Timor Leste : [Crocodilo Azul?], 2005: 52-53. [15] AWM 12516.
  8. ‘The RAAF boys who fell out of the sky’. Sgt John Jones with (mounted) RAAF Sgt Webb and Flying Officer Gabb. [1] Introduction No. 31 Squadron was formed on the 14th August 1942. It was to be a long range fighter squadron equipped with Beaufighter aircraft, the first of which was received on the 23rd August 1942. The arrival of the squadron at Batchelor in the Northern Territory on the 27th October improved the RAAF’s fighting potentialities in North Western Area. After a few weeks of intensive training and familiarisation flights, No. 31 Squadron moved to its operational base at Coomalie Creek on the 12th November. Beaufighters, later to be known to the Japanese as “whispering death”, joined the offensive for the first time during the early hours of the 17th November, when two flights of three aircraft each strafed Maubisse and Bobonaro in Portuguese Timor. At this time the RAAF were implementing a policy of bombing and strafing hostile Timorese concentrations in Timor and encouraging resistance to the Japanese authorities. This policy was translated into action by the combination of Hudson and Beaufighter attacks daily stepping up the number of sorties in Portuguese Timor, culminating on the 26th November in the biggest RAAF operation in this theatre to date, when, ten Hudsons and six Beaufighters from No. 31 Squadron bombed and strafed Hatolia and Beco districts, starting a number of fires in the villages of Nova Lusa and Beco. In the first two weeks of operations, the Squadron had recorded 53 sorties into enemy territory, the majority of which were strafing attacks. The targets for all these operations were identified and ‘called in’ by Lancer Force HQ on the ground in Timor. Line up of Beaufighters, Coomalie Creek, 1942 Callinan, by then commanding officer of Lancer Force, previewed the circumstances relevant to the topic of this story: Meanwhile, the Japanese had driven down and occupied Same in strength and had established a camp at Betano with approximately 300 troops. This was most disconcerting, as from there they were pushing eastward, and had already established daily patrols past the Quelan River area which had been used for the evacuation of the 2/2 Company and the Dutch". [2] The No. 31 Squadron attack on the Japanese camp at Betano that was initiated in response to the threat just described by Callinan. Shot Down at Betano Operation Coomalie 43 of December 29th, 1942 was a strafing attack directed at huts in the vicinity of the near coastal village of Betano, on the south coast of Portuguese Timor, just to the east of the mouth of the Sue River, by four Beaufighters of Number 31 Squadron, Coomalie Creek. Of the four planes that made up Coomalie 43 – one (COO 434) turned back around an hour after take-off due to failure of that aircraft’s intercom and WT equipment; the remaining three planes continued on to the target, through at times very poor weather. After eventually locating the target at 2:20 pm, COO 431 commenced their first pass followed by COO 433 and then COO 432 crewed by Pilot Officer Glen Gabb, (21) and Observer/Navigator Sergeant David Webb (22). COO 432 followed COO 433 in the first run over the target, flying in northerly course at 100 feet height, fired three bursts of cannon and machine gun at some native huts. COO 432 finished this run by turning to the west and is was then that Webb observed the tail fin smashed by fire either from a mortar or Oerlikon gun (he saw a red ball go through tail of aircraft) – the aircraft was also holed in several places in the tail and the port motor cut out. Remnant of an Oerlikon gun from the wreck of HMAS Voyager. [3] No. 4 Independent Company veteran Rex Lipman states that the Japanese had salvaged the anti-aircraft guns from the Voyager and used them against the Beaufighters involved in the action described here [4] Gabb then turned the aircraft in an easterly course, and Webb threw out propaganda pamphlets as instructed. The Pilot was unable to maintain height or speed, and after crossing the Quelan River headed the aircraft out to sea. At this time the speed had decreased to 100 knots and the temperature of the starboard engine had increased to 280° and the controls were acting erratically. Gabb then crashed landed on the sea about a quarter of a mile out to sea off Cape Mati Boot. The tail of the aircraft hit the water first and then the engines – the crew had braced themselves for this crash, Gabb also had moved the gun sight out of the way, and the men quickly escaped through the two top hatches. They climbed onto the wings which were then waist deep, and then swam to the shore. The Beaufighter sank in about 20 seconds, the front going down first followed by the tail – it is estimated that the aircraft sank in 15 metres of water, at low tide about a 200 metres off the shore near Cape Mati Boot. [5] [5] Given the fairly precise description of the location of the crash site, the wreck of this Beaufighter should be able to be located. Gabb and Webb Become Temporary Commandos The story is taken up again by Callinan: Then, from company headquarters, came the message that two Australian airmen were with the section posted above Alas. This was rather surprising, as we had not been informed that a plane was missing. Eventually the two men reached us, Pilot Officer Gabb and Flight Sergeant Webb; they had been the crew of a Beaufighter that had strafed the Japanese company at Betano. As they-swept over at tree top height, the Japanese had opened up with everything, and as far as one could judge their tail had been blown off by a mortar bomb. The pilot had managed to get the plane down in the sea a little to the east of Betano. Then, making slow progress they managed to cross unwittingly and without being observed an area subject to regular Japanese patrols. Then by good observation of scraps of evidence carelessly left by the evacuated (Australian) troops they got on to a track that led them towards Alas. They were fortunate enough to meet a native who willingly gave them some food and directed them towards the Australian position. These were great fellows and we were pleased to have them at headquarters. They were new faces with new ideas, and we learned from them not a little about the air side of the picture. Also from then on Australia received improved meteorological reports because we gave that duty to Webb who had attended a RMF school in the subject. We were also pleased to get these airmen as they augmented our guard list. Such was our lack of manpower that everybody on HQ staff from myself and Baldwin down did our turn on guard. And now with two additional men it meant that every third or fourth night a couple of us could get a full night's rest. They entered into the spirit of the show very quickly and were most adaptable. [6] Evacuated To Australia With Lancer Force Gabb and Webb’s sojourn with commandos was short lived as their arrival coincided with the decision to evacuate Lancer Force to Australia. The Force’s position had become untenable in the face of increasing Japanese territorial pressure in conjunction with their Timorese allies. The formerly used landing and evacuation sites at Betano and the mouth of the Quelan River could not be used, so an even less desirable location further east at Quicras was selected. The two men staged with Force HQ over three days from Belulic to Fatu Berliu (Nova Anadia) then Cledec to the coastal village of Quicras (Clacoc). Map of the Gabb and Webb's travels on Timor On the morning of the 9th January 1943 Lancer Force (now concentrated except for a detachment at Ainaro from whom there was still no word) set out with 50 Portuguese (all they could take of over 100 who had asked to go with them) on the last stage of their journey—over open grass country. It was raining heavily. The rivers between them and Quicras might flood and block them. They had to hurry. Soon after they started a Zero fighter suddenly appeared about 1,000 feet above them. They were afraid it would pick them up, but the pilot apparently noticed nothing. The afternoon march led through swamps, often up to a man's chest. The going beneath the surface was slippery with mud and twisted mangrove roots. But by 5 p.m. the whole party was in the bush which fringed the beach. Exactly at midnight recognition lights from the sea answered the signal fires. The surf was heavy. Boats sent inshore from a destroyer—the HMAS Arunta —were swamped. Time was running out. A few strong swimmers swam out beyond the broken water but reported this manifestly too difficult for most. At last, however, through great efforts, the whole group was ferried on board. The sailors were very kind to them. Most of the soldiers were so tired they slept almost all the way to Darwin where they landed on 10 January 1943. Both Gabb and Webb had caught malaria and were hospitalised for several weeks before being fit enough to rejoin their comrades at 31 Squadron. References [1] Rex J. Lipman. - Luck's been a lady. – Adelaide: [The Author], 2000: 87. [2] Bernard Callinan. - Independent Company : the Australian Army in Portuguese Timor 1941-43 / introduction by Nevil Shute. - Richmond, Vic. : Heinemann, 1984: 206. [3] Photographed in Same side street, 1 May 2018. [4] Rex J. Lipman. - Luck's been a lady. – Adelaide: [The Author], 2000: 87. [5] Given the fairly precise description of the location of the crash site, the wreck of this Beaufighter should be able to be located. The narrative of the attack and crash landing has been adapted from Garry Shepherdson ‘The losses of Coomalie 43: it could have been a lot worse’ ADF Serials Telegraph News 7 (2) Autumn 2017: 28-33. (http://www.adf-gallery.com.au/newsletter/ADF%20Telegraph%202017%20Autumn.pdf) [6] Callinan: 209-210.
  9. INTRODUCTION It is the 79th anniversary of the Japanese assault on Dili (February 19-20 1942) that began the almost year long Australian commando campaign against the occupying enemy in, then, Portuguese Timor. The earliest account of the history of the campaign was written by Bernard Callinan and titled Independent Company and published in October 1953. The book was reprinted in 1984 and is widely regarded as one of the best of the personal WWII campaign histories genre. Back in 1966 he gave an insightful address to engineering undergraduates at the University of Melbourne (his alma mater) in which he explained how the book came to be written. Callinan developed several ‘threads’ in his explanation with the primary one being ‘therapy’ in reaction to ‘the strain of waging a war against an always greatly superior enemy, and of being dependent for our existence upon a large all-pervading population’. He states that ‘We learnt to live with the strain, but there was a pronounced reaction when we were brought back to Australia’. He goes on to say: ‘Another strand for the thread lies in our success. We had been successful. MacArthur and others had told us so, but much more we knew it; and we knew we had been successful where others had failed - in fact where all others had failed. No other allied troops between the Philippines, Burma, Malaya and Java had met the enemy and survived. We had killed some fifteen hundred enemy for our own loss of less than fifty but, very much more importantly, throughout it all we had remained a cohesive, aggressive fighting force’. ‘Another strand was the desire to get accuracy to the story. I think I am not unusual because I find the part truth difficult to deal with and trying to the patience. This story was front page news when it was released from censorship, many versions sprang up and the emphases were sometimes on the wrong aspects. I wanted to record my version of the true story’. And finally this tribute: ‘After the Japanese landed there were a few weeks of doubt, but from then on, the Timorese became our supporters and loyal friends. They looked after our wounded, they buried our dead, they fed and housed us’. Over the months I moved, often unaccompanied, along our 60 mile front and I never hesitated to walk into a strange village, ask them to feed me and then lie down and sleep amongst them in a hut. They could have cut my throat without hindrance if they had wished’. Bernard Callinan was a Captain and second in command of the No. 2 Independent Company on their arrival in Timor and subsequently took over as Officer Commanding in May 1942 with the rank of Major. In November 1942 he was given command of Sparrow Force at the time it was renamed Lancer Force after being reinforced by the No. 4 Independent Company. Callinan was a peripatetic commander and travelled frequently and extensively visiting the dispersed locations occupied by the Australians. The book reveals that he was an acute observer of the people, terrain and localities over which the campaign was conducted and recorded what he saw with considerable insight and self-deprecating humour. Given Timor’s underdevelopment, especially away from Dili, many of the scenes he describes in his book are still recognisable today. Talk To Fourth Year Electrical And Chemical Engineering Under-Graduates WHY I WROTE ‘INDEPENDENT COMPANY’ Bernard Callinan UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE, FRIDAY, 1st APRIL 1966 Introduced by professor C.E. Moorhouse, D.Eng. and E.D. Howells, M.E.E. Dust jacket of the 1st edition of 'Independent Company' [Thank you to Craig Westerndorf for sending this to me - EW] As I grew up, I heard many ‘old sayings’ from the only one of my grandparents to survive my birth. A very strong charactered old lady who had been widowed early in life, but not lost either her spirit or kindly nature; she had many such sayings which were produced just as often to protect me from just punishments as to point a lesson to me. The saying that comes to mind is ‘A task begun if half done’; it is particularly applicable when the task is a difficult one. I have such a task today and I had one in the writing of Independent Company as you will learn. But now I have to talk to you on a subject in which you probably have little interest and, more probably, will never know much about. Professor Moorhouse has been mentioning such a talk to me for years; for so long that I was afraid it might lead us to having to avoid each other to reduce embarrassment to reasonable proportions. There was a time when he said he would prescribe it to be read. I agreed with this proposal ostensibly because of the suggestion that it would be good for the readers, but actually because it might encourage the publishers to bring out another edition, which would enable me to direct potential borrowers away from my bookshelves to the book stores. Professor Moorhouse has said that a primary reason in asking me to give this talk was to get, from someone who happened to have passed through this school, an answer to the recurring question ‘why do people write books?’. I think also he may have had in mind showing you someone who once flogged his way through the school and to encourage you with the thought that ‘if he could do it anyone of you can’. He may be more kind in his phraseology, but whether this be Professor Moorhouse's reason or not I shall be happier about the strain he has put upon me. If just one of you does get the little extra encouragement needed to produce a book - and I specifically exclude text books from my hope. Text books are only an occupational hazard these days. Whatever may have been his reason, time has gone by until the original and sundry other publishers have all said the matter is dead; and all I have is the self-flattery which comes from buying second-hand, at more than the original price, whatever copies I can get hold of to replace the copies borrowed, always of course with the most earnest promises to return. Recently one second-hand book seller telephone to say that he has a rather battered copy which would cost me thirty shillings, about fifty per centum more than the original price. When I expostulated at such extortion, he said he was sorry, but he had had to pay a lot for it because it was autographed by the author. Time having removed all taint of sordid finance from anything I may say to you I can address myself objectively to the subject given me, ‘Why I Wrote Independent Company’? - as bald and brash a title for a talk as ever there was. Even the title of the book Independent Company does not help me; it was not a good one at the time and now with ‘take overs’ and company conspiracies many would expect a financial treatise. I selected it as a second choice, the first having appeared on another book a month or two earlier: there is some consolation in the realisation that the first choice would have been worse. Independent Company was selected because when we went to Timor, we were Number Two Independent Company, but when it came back the unit became the 2/2 Australian Commando Squadron. We thought that the word ‘commando’ had a boastful ring about it, and we preferred the subtle anonymity of ‘Independent Company’ and, in its original conception, the title had been intended to be anonymous. The first two ‘Independent Companies’ were formed and trained in great secrecy under 104 British Military Mission on Wilson's Promontory, which was given the title of Number 7 Australian Infantry Training Centre. When questioned on the selection of this title for such a Special training project, one of the leaders of the mission replied that he understood there were at the time, only five infantry training centres in Australia so he thought that the enemy would spend so much time looking for Number Six that they might never find Number Seven. It is interesting that, a little later, Radio Berlin did make an announcement about the special troops Australia was training on Wilson's Promontory, and went on to comment upon how ineffective they were likely to be if they ever did see any action. The Companies were formed and trained to be independent, they had their own medical officer and section, their own signals and engineer sections, and a much higher than normal proportion of officers and non-commissioned officers. The total strength of a company was something less than three hundred. Every man was expected to be thoroughly trained in his own arm of the service and to be a volunteer for special service before entering on the special training. It was expected that the companies would have to act without the close support of normal army services and were organised, trained and equipped accordingly. As it turned out, we had thrust upon us an independence beyond anything envisaged. So, having been trained for independence and having fought quite independently of Australia and of the rest of the allies for some months, we had a fondness for the word ‘independent’. But I was wrong to select ‘Independent Company’ for the title, I presumed too much, I should have based the title on ‘Timor’ not on ‘Independent’. As I attempt to deal with the subject given me, I shall have to gather strands together and if you are patient - and understanding - there may be a thread to be recognised at the end. I do not think I can avoid spending a lot of time in the first person singular in this talk, and all I can do is to repeat another old saying ‘it hurts me more than it hurts you’; but you may accord this the same doubt as I used to. I recall a remark of another Bernard with the surname Shaw, who replied when the actress Ellen Terry asked if he would agree to the publication of their exchange of love letters, ‘if you don't mind undressing in public, I do’. I had this awful feeling of revealing myself for all to see just as Independent Company appeared in the book stores, and I have a similar feeling today. However, having braved the earlier exposure I shall have to hope for similar good treatment this time. I wrote the story of the Australians in Portuguese Timor as I interpreted it because I had to. It was only recently when 20th Century Fox were wondering whether they could do something with the story that a word was applied to its writing which surprised me, but I think it was apt, the word was ‘therapy’. If one word could describe the main reason for its writing this would be it. In 1943 I came back from twelve months of continuous warfare with its quiet times and its times of intense excitement; but there had been no boredom, because there had always been the strain of waging a war against an always greatly superior enemy, and of being dependent for our existence upon a large all-pervading population. I have said ‘waging a war against’ because this had been a dominant characteristic of the whole campaign, a small inadequate force protecting itself by attacking the much stronger enemy. The strain of such a campaign was with us continually; even in what might be called rear areas there was little real relaxation. I might give you an idea of how life passed for us if I tell you that I put nights into three classes: The usual ones - when you slept fully clothed with your weapon right alongside you. The good ones - when you took your boots of. The heavenly ones - when you took off everything with a reasonable hope that there would be no disturbance. For months on end we all ‘stood-to’ for an hour before dawn. As the bush or tree that you had seen moving and signalling to the unseen enemy became immobilised by the early shafts of light, and the jagged silhouette on the skyline turned into mountains again, you got that reaction which just sapped a little more of your reserves. We learnt to live with the strain, but there was a pronounced reaction when we were brought back to Australia. One very fine young officer who had done magnificent work there went completely off his head and was taken south in a straight-jacket. [?] My trouble was to get clear of the continuous circus of events which kept running around my mind. I shall come back to this strand again a little later. [?] Lieutenant John Rose, Signals Section Other strands are to be found in the factors which dominated the campaign, and I shall endeavour to put these succinctly to you. This island stretching east and west for about three hundred miles has a north-south width of only about thirty or forty miles and yet it rises to ten thousand feet in a confused tangle of spurs and ridges. The near presence of the large Australian land mass effects the climate so there is little jungle, but there were areas of friendly eucalyptus to help us in our struggle. The eastern half of the island - as well as a small enclave in the west - has been Portuguese for more than 400 years. We passed through and occupied small towns which have known Europeans for more than twice as long as this city. There is a heavy population of about half a million Timorese in the Portuguese part, a bright happy mixed Melanesian-Polynesian race of medium height who, in their agricultural pursuits, had cleared large parts of the mountains; so we could stand on a ridge and see friends or foes across the valley and yet know that there was a separation of ten or more hours of intense physical effort. After the Japanese landed there were a few weeks of doubt, but from then on, the Timorese became our supporters and loyal friends. They looked after our wounded, they buried our dead, they fed and housed us. Over the months I moved, often unaccompanied, along our 60 mile front and I never hesitated to walk into a strange village, ask them to feed me and then lie down and sleep amongst them in a hut. They could have cut my throat without hindrance if they had wished. Bernard Callinan on Timor - photograph by Damien Parer They fed us with whatever they had to spare from their own food, maize, rice, bananas, pigs, goats and occasionally water buffalo. After our stomachs had shrunk to match the quantity we could get, we did not feel that we were faring badly for food. But in fact, we were not far above subsistence level, and certainly not at what would normally be considered adequate or balanced enough for continuous fighting. We learnt to drive ourselves continually to meet the physical demands; I considered myself fit and well at eight stone. The young Timorese lads vied amongst themselves to become criados to the Australians; that was to go wherever his soldier friend went, accept whatever the war might send, to carry the personal belongings leaving the soldier free to concentrate upon the use of his weapons. As soon as the action started the criado disappeared to re-appear almost mysteriously alongside his soldier as soon as the engagement was over. Between the Timorese and us grew up a respect and liking that has become deeper with us as the years go by and, I am told, has become legendary with them. Portugal did not enter into World War II, so we and the Japanese fought in what was ‘neutral territory’. We exchanged notes with the enemy through the Portuguese administration; the Japanese Commander sent his compliments at the same time as he sent an invitation to a rather unequal contest. We exchanged courtesies with the Portuguese, and we learnt to respect and to admire them; not one of us has anything but undiluted gratitude to them and respect for their high standards of honour. Most of the Portuguese were government officials and had onerous responsibilities under these conditions to their post and to their fellow country people; they carried these responsibilities nobly and we would not have survived if they had not helped us. Many of the Portuguese risked death and some died horribly for us. Here is not the place to elaborate on what I am sure is surprising to you about the Portuguese as it was surprising to us when we met and had dealings with them. I shall say only that, of all those who have carried European civilisation to the east, the Portuguese have by far the most successful record. The Portuguese and Timorese strands in the thread are attractive and strong. Then there was the steady courage of the Australians - mainly from Western Australia - which changed our role from one of survival to that of the hunter. Our patrols were always probing the enemy and attacking whenever possible. We had a rough rule, if the enemy is only three times your strength attack immediately, if he is stronger attack if you possibly can. There was one over-riding consideration in our tactical decisions too many wounded men would render us immobile - we could have only the fighting and the dead. The Japanese had this problem to, and they dealt with it logically - they shot their own wounded. We had three badly wounded men whom we guarded and carried over the mountains for three months before we could evacuate them to Australia. We had sufficient ammunition because we had gone well supplied, and we had supplemented our own with some that we removed from the dump of the surrendered force in Dutch Timor before the enemy could get to it. When we did establish communications with Australia, we asked for some supplies to be dropped to us from the air; and what we asked for was significant - boots to permit us to remain mobile over those rocky mountains; quinine to alleviate the chronic malaria that afflicted us; and money to pay our Timorese friends for all that they had given us and for what we would need to maintain the fight. Another strand for the thread lies in our success. We had been successful. MacArthur and others had told us so, but much more we knew it; and we knew we had been successful where others had failed - in fact where all others had failed. No other allied troops between the Philippines, Burma, Malaya and Java had met the enemy and survived. We had killed some fifteen hundred enemy for our own loss of less than fifty but, very much more importantly, throughout it all we had remained a cohesive, aggressive fighting force. Not even then did we think that we would have done better than those who fought in those other areas, and I do not suggest it now. But we were proud of the Japanese statement in one of their demands for our surrender ‘you alone do not surrender’; and when I returned to Australia I was told by responsible men that the knowledge, in a time of surrender after surrender, that there was a small force still fighting in Timor had given national morale in Australia a significant uplift. Leaving this as a simple statement without the many qualifications it would require it did strengthen my desire to set the story down. It is easier to tell of success particularly if you are part of it; but this aspect also increased the risks which could come from exposing oneself to the public. Another strand was the desire to get accuracy to the story. I think I am not unusual because I find the part truth difficult to deal with and trying to the patience. This story was front page news when it was released from censorship, many versions sprang up and the emphases were sometimes on the wrong aspects. I wanted to record my version of the true story. I should confess also that there was some personal interest in the pursuit of accuracy. I had been in positions which called for decisions, I had helped with some and made others. Some - not all had been good; some, I still think, were original in their concept and I wanted to record the decisions and the circumstances in which they were made. As in many other parts of life - the initial piece of insight is often forgotten in talking of the acts which flow from it. You can place your own evaluation on this strand. I would add that following some visits in recent years to Vietnam I have taken, after twenty years, a renewed interest in guerrilla warfare. I have read Mau Tse Tung, Che Guevarra of Cuba and Giap of North Vietnam. Each has assembled thoughts on guerrilla warfare in a more orderly fashion than we ever did. Except for their overriding aim of eventual political action they have nothing we did not know and practice; and looking back, if we had not been withdrawn, we would probably have had to depart from our pure militarist approach; the Japanese had already done so. There was one significant difference between us, and the guerrilla forces these masters write about; they rely greatly upon the guerrilla being personally indistinguishable from the surrounding population; we were always distinguishable and proudly so. I have given you the main strands which went to form the thread, but there are a few more and these will be revealed if I tell you how the story became a book. Towards the end of 1943 I was commanding an infantry battalion in what was then Dutch New Guinea and is now West Irian. We were at Merauke on the south coast in what is one of the largest swamps in the world, rivalling that of the Amazon. There was some fighting, but it was mainly in the air or between patrols which bumped into each other as they struggled through hundreds of miles of swamp. Apart from occasional visits of inspection to out-lying posts, my tasks were mainly administrative, and so the story of Timor could still go round and round in my mind like circus ponies. Then I started to write the story in pencil on sheets supplied for letter writing purposes. These I sent to my wife for typing - the task had been begun. It has always seemed significant to me that I did not start to write at the beginning of the story; I started in the middle because this was the part which was always foremost in my mind. If I had not started there, I would never have written the story at all - once I had this out of my mind the other parts grew around it and I gradually wrote both ways from this central part - the beginning had indeed been half the task. What was it I wrote about first - and why? It was the ‘August Show’. In August 1942 the Japanese determined to remove this enemy which had annoyed them for six months, killed about a thousand and had rallied behind them the population both Portuguese and natives. They collected the necessary forces and drove at us with five lines of attack, two from the north, two from the west and one landed from the sea, came from the south behind us and overall was their air force. This we held off - but only just - we survived and followed the Japanese back to their bases. There was much courage and fateful decisions were made in those ten days and it would take too long to deal with them now, but those days were coursing through my mind then and for years after: they are often not far below the surface even now. This, first of all, I must get off my mind. Over the months the story grew into a typescript and I gave it the title ‘False Crests’ because as we crossed and re-crossed the tangled mountains which reach ten thousand feet, we were led on to heartbreak by the ‘false crests’. With near exhaustion as a constant companion it was a test of mind and character to struggle on time after time reaching what ‘must be the top’. This crossing and re-crossing of tangled mountain spurs was a physical strain, but an even greater mental strain. The typescript was read by Major Stuart Love about whom I must tell you a little. A one time under-graduate of this University he went to England about the turn of the century to study mining engineering. In addition to following his profession in sundry parts of the world, he had led an expedition through Arnhem Land in 1910, served with the Royal Engineers in France in World War 1 and had been decorated with the Distinguished Service Order and Bar, Croix de Guerre avec palme, and was three times mentioned in despatches. He had also Studied Renaissance art in Florence and could lecture interestingly and informatively on it; he was a recognised Chaucer authority and had written poetry in English, French and Spanish. Stuart Love had helped to train us at Wilson’s Promontory and, strange as it may seem, his contribution had been not so much towards toughening us mentally or physically as in showing us a fine understanding approach to men and particularly to natives. His contribution to our training played quite a significant part in building up and maintaining the loyalty of the Timorese to us - without this we would have perished. Stuart Love had followed the Timor story with deep insight and interest; he saw applied successfully the principles inculcated whilst we were training under him. He wanted to know the story as fully as it could be told, and my version was the only one there was. Now, we move on almost ten years to 1952, and in those intervening years, Stuart Love had pressed me from time to time to ‘do something about that story’, but the pressures of re-establishing a professional practice, of coping with an increasing family and, what I did not realise at the time, of recovering from six years of war, did not give me many opportunities. Then one day Stuart told me that he had arranged through a friend to get a copy of the typescript for himself if I would agree to it being re-typed. I agreed without hesitation; possibly with the hope that the requests ‘to do something’ would now cease. I did not take note of who the friend was; I was told, but it did not register with me. Later that year Stuart told me that his friend had returned from his long trip back to England, but the re-typing had not been completed as they had hoped; however, his friend had read parts of it that were lying about, and he thought that it should be published. I then realised that the friend was Nevil Norway, an aeronautical engineer, who has left a partial autobiography with the title Slide rule. Norway wrote books under his two first names of Nevil Shute, of these you have probably heard. The rest of my path to publication could be described briefly by saying that Nevil Norway was at that time Heinemann's best selling author, and Heinemann's published Independent Company with an introductory chapter by Nevil Shute. Before Heinemann's made their decision to publish, the typescript had to be recommended by their ‘reader in Australia’ - the author Paul McGuire - and subsequently be further assessed in England. The arrangements for these were made in Australia by an old English gentleman named Bartholomew, who had spent a lifetime with Oxford University Press; and I think, beneath his inexhaustible courtesy, he hid a difficulty he had in not viewing is out here as brash colonials. Bartholomew telephoned me to say that Mr. McGuire had approved of False Crests for publication and that the typescript would now be sent to England for a final decision. By then I was becoming alarmed at the additional work that might be thrust upon me, so I asked how long this would take - the longer the better for me. Bartholomew explained with every courtesy, that if it had been Mr. Norway's manuscript, it would go as quickly as possible by air mail; but, of course, mine would go sea mail. I think he was surprised when I laughed; however, he telephoned a few days later to say that although the cost had been enormous, they had sent the typescript by air mail; and he did not quite hide his disappointment when I was not elated. In England the decision to publish was made promptly and so I took Stuart Love and Nevil Norway to lunch to talk over what would happen from then on. I can still remember vividly sitting on a club sofa between these two charmingly pleasant, but very literary persons, while they discussed the need to polish up the English in the typescript. I had written as the need drove me and as opportunity permitted without any thought of literary polish; and I had drifted into this matter of publication with a vague belief that publishers and some sort of fairy amanuensis who turned rough typescript into smooth flowing impeccable English. As Nevil talked my belief was shattered and Stuart confirmed that the English was undeniably rough. I saw myself being drawn into a complete re-editing and I sank into silent despair until, almost doubting my ears, I heard from Nevil the comment that after all it had a certain ‘freshness’ and possibly it would be better to leave it as it was - and that is how it is. It had been agreed that the story needed to be set into its place in the World War II panorama and Nevil Norway agreed to do this. He wrote a long introductory chapter and he took considerable care to be accurate. He circulated drafts to people such as the official war historian, Gavin Long, our initial commander in Timor, now Sir William Leggatt, Stuart Love and myself; by the time I had received his fourth draft I was thoroughly depressed by the knowledge of my own single draft - comparably I should have been into double figures. This introductory chapter of Nevil's raised for him possible difficult problems of publishing rights, fees and copyright; so he placed the whole matter before his agents in London and when he had their reply, he sent me a copy. The crucial part of the agent's letter was the opinion that, as Colonel Callinan could not possibly afford to pay for the chapter at Norway's usual per line rate he, Norway, might as well donate the whole thing; which was what he had intended. One or two more strands are worth gathering. I kept no dairy in Timor. Conditions were not conducive and the possibility of the enemy getting it by capture or death made it foolish to have tried. But in 1943-44 my memory for places and dates was clear; however, I became filled with fear as the publication date came nearer. I was greatly relieved by the comments from my comrades in arms which had the theme ‘how did you manage to keep all the records you must have had to write that?’ There was none at all, and this is not a facility that I have had at other times in my life. You may see some significance in this. I purposely avoided comments on personalities in what I wrote, and the absence of this enlivening strand is a serious omission from any book. I would think the chief characters go through the pages like disembodied spirits with labels upon them. Where did they come from, where did they go, what were their personalities? I doubt whether I had the high literary ability necessary to give them the bodies and the personalities they carried so clearly for all to see in Timor; and I still do not think that, even if I had been so endowed, it would have been right for me to have attempted it. They were my comrades, some my very close friends; we were all, and as the years go by become more so, bound together by a common unforgettable experience. It would have been misleading to have given only strong points and would have been wrong for me to have attempted to portray a times of weakness and of indecision; it was sufficient to say, ‘they were there’. Timor was a time of trial for all of us and the intensity of the trial built up in each of us a clarity of thought and perception; we all knew our own weaknesses and we had no desire to parade any strengths if we had any. I had been one of those there and I wrote as such. The thread made from these strands appears to me to be more utilitarian than decorative as might be expected from an engineer. There are not many bright colours; mainly browns for the khaki we wore; greens for the courage of soldiers, Portuguese and natives; some red for the he of sacrifice again of soldiers, Portuguese and natives, and one bright steel strand for the shining loyalty of all. The national colours of Portugal are green and red, and they are well represented amongst my strands. What happened to this book? The first printing of 6,000 - four for Australia and two for England - appeared in October 1953 and was substantially sold out before Christmas. A further printing of 2,000 was released in February 1954 and sold fairly promptly; the next printing came out four months later to end the effort. It was widely reviewed and very few adverse criticisms were made; the best review was a long one on the editorial page of what was then one of the best London dailies. It formed the basis for the official war history of the Timor campaign being quoted at length by Wigmore and McCarthy in two volumes of the history. I have wondered sometimes this reliance upon it was too great and whether other views might not have been canvassed more thoroughly. It has been translated into Portuguese and is compulsory reading for the Portuguese army. I would like in later life to attempt another book. I have no idea of the subject - but if this does not eventuate, as is probable, I shall remain forever grateful and humble because I was given a part in the story, the opportunity to write about it, and the good fortune to have friends who took it to publication. It is not a great book; others might have made it one - I could not, but it is ‘mine own’. When I exposed myself to the public my friends clothed me with their charity. Posted by Ed Willis 20 February 2021
  10. Dear Ed, Thank you for your suggestion to submit a funding proposal for 2/2nd to contribute to the Veterans Training Centre, Daisua, Same. I have completed the submission as below. Our successful implementation of this will be our partnership with Veterans Care Association, AHHA Education and the Timorese Veteran Foundation in TL/Same. As a result I have copied in CD Singh from AHHA, Gary Stone and Colin Ahern from VCA and Ambassador Ines Almeida from the TL Embassy. I have also copied in MP for Stirling, MP Vince Connelly, who has been highly supportive of our cooperation in Timor-Leste. This will be a remarkable project. The more funding, the better the outcome, better tools, better safety - please push for as much as feasible - Govt spending doesn't look like it is coming any time soon. This budget would buy a few pieces of large machinery in an Australian Mens Shed. With our incredible partners in TL, the money will have maximum effect on the ground as has been demonstrated by all that has been executed so far in the wider VTC project. I was thinking we could paint this building red and paint the double diamonds on the side. Please let me know if there is further that I can provide. I have updated the website that has detailed reporting of the project over the past two years. We can get this done pretty fast. Warm regards, Michael Stone Michael Stone Program Director, Timor Awakening, Veterans Care Association Inc. Honorary Consul of Timor-Leste, Queensland - Australia T: +61 421 013 740 (Australia) T: +670 7771 9597 (Timor-Leste) e: michael.stone@tlembassy.net e: michael@veteranscare.com.au w: www.timorawakening.com 2:2 CDO Association Grant Proposal Trade Skills Workshop - Veterans Training Centre Same.pdf Veterans Training Centre Same VCA Report No 1 Jan 2021.pdf
  11. INTRODUCTION Dutch airmen who escaped to Australia after the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) were brought together to form Dutch squadrons under RAAF command. First among these special squadrons was 18 (NEI) Squadron, formed at Canberra on 4 April 1942. Although nominally made up of Dutch nationals, the RAAF supplied many co-pilots, air gunners, bombardiers, photographers, and ground staff. The US provided supplies and equipment. In December the unit moved to MacDonald airstrip in the Northern Territory and began transforming the undeveloped site into a workable airbase. From January the squadron commenced offensive operation missions over East Timor and the Tanimbar and Kai Islands. During a raid on Dili on 18 February 1943 a Mitchell aircraft was forced down at sea. The crew, later rescued by HMAS Vendetta, explained that the pilot and bombardier had been killed in the attack. This terrific story of courage under fire and persistence was told by WWII aviation historian Robert Kendall Piper in an article published in the January 1984 issue of RAAF News and is republished here. ESCAPE AND EVASION They didn't dally over Dili [1] By Robert Kendall Piper [2] Little Willy of Dili was a Japanese pilot famous for his daring attacks on the B-25 Mitchells of No 18 (NEI) Squadron during World War II. In fact, the mixed Dutch and Australian crews had encountered him on their very first mission when they bombed Dili with nine aircraft on January 18 1943. Beside him all other Zero pilots were second rate and Little Willy always pressed home his passes with enthusiasm and vigour. The Americans in long range B-24 Liberators had also met him when overflying the area. History does not record who dubbed Willy with his title but Allied intelligence sources at the time thought he was the commanding officer of the enemy fighters at Fuiloro 'drome, on the eastern tip of Timor. The No 18 Netherlands East Indies squadron was formed at Canberra in April 1942 within the framework of the RAAF and under their operational control. Initially, there were 242 Dutch and Javanese members as well as 206 Australians. Some of the former were ex-KLM and KNILM crews. Captains of the aircraft were always Dutch with the RAAF often acting as co-pilots, air gunners, navigators, bombardiers, photographers and ground crew. The cost of operating the unit was met by the Netherlands Government in exile, which also supplied the aircraft. But the squadron was largely equipped and maintained by the RAAF. Sometimes known as the unit with two commanding officers, the RAAF men were responsible and disciplined under their rules and senior officer, while the Dutch answered to theirs. Official notices were posted in both languages even though all the Dutchmen spoke English with varying degrees of fluency. It was an unique establishment, but it worked! The squadron operated throughout the former Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia) flying unescorted missions both day and night. Stationed first at MacDonald and later Batchelor, in the Northern Territory, medium-level attacks were launched against enemy-held towns, ports and air bases with occasional low level sweeps for shipping. Supply drops to guerrillas in occupied territory were also made. Their unofficial badge, ‘The Dutch Cleanser’, featured a Dutch housewife in traditional dress sweeping up with a large broom. Numbering on the aircraft consisted of three digit serials with the prefix ‘N5’, painted in white. Throughout the war the popular and robust North American B-25 Mitchell was the only aircraft used by No 18. Eventually, 150 served with this and No 2 Squadron (RAAF) during the conflict. On February 18, 1943, two flights, each of three aircraft, had been ordered to attack shipping, the aerodrome and general Dili area. Designated MacDonald Operation 15, it was marred by one of the squadron's Mitchells being shot down into the sea by a persistent Zero, thought to be none other than Little Willy. The six aircraft left MacDonald 'drome at 7.25 am local time and climbed to the planned cruise altitude of 10,000 feet. Each B-25 carried three 500 lb bombs as well as 34 small incendiaries. Weather was fine and warm with 20-30 miles visibility, except above the mountains of Timor and over the target, where half the sky was covered by stratus cloud. Unfortunately, there was not to be enough of the latter for evasive action by the allied planes. Two Zeros were sighted as the Mitchells made landfall on the inward run. Both were at the same height as the bombers and passed west to east without attempting to intercept. The enemy fighters apparently were content merely to shadow the B-25s. Four more Zeros were sighted again, to the rear and above, on the final approach to the target. Diving over Dili to pick up speed, the Mitchells pattern-bombed a heavily camouflaged 6,000-ton ship moored opposite the former Customs House. It was surrounded by power launches, which scattered in all directions on the bombers' approach. Nil results were observed despite the entire bomb loads of the six Mitchells being dropped. Intense Bofors and heavy anti-aircraft fire was encountered from the land defences and entire length of the ship. A pair of drab-green Zeros closed in behind the B-25s at the end of their bombing run, as they swung south for the trip back home. At this stage Two Flight was leading One Flight by about four miles. All Two Flight's top-turret gunners fired on the leading fighter as it began to attack. It seemed the Japanese pilot was hit, and the tail of his plane shot off. The Zero was last seen falling into the hills at the back of Dili, near the former Governor's residence. Both flights now descended into cloud cover and closed up for improved defence. The remaining fighter tagged along at a safe distance, above and between them. Obviously, he was relaying their progress and position back to base. Three more Zeros joined the one following, near the south coast of Timor. Splitting into pairs they re-commenced attacks on each B-25 flight. Approaches were made above and to the rear from the four to eight o'clock positions. As the island passed behind them the bombers, now at 2,000 feet, raced for home over the sea. Forty miles out from shore, One Flight's gunners also scored a Zero. The Mitchell crews saw it break off and head back smoking heavily. There seemed little chance of it reaching the coast safely. The B-25 pilots now adopted the evasive tactic of weaving each time they were approached. At the same time their gunners began firing at ranges out to 1,200 yards to keep the fighters further at bay. It seemed to have the desired effect as the incoming Zeros were now breaking off at 600 yards. But one determined Zero pilot, when the battle was 100 miles out to sea, closed to 60 yards and shot out the port engine of aircraft N5-144 with his cannons. Return fire from the Mitchell gunners' tracers appeared to strike the attacker but he flew off apparently undamaged. Undoubtedly this was the audacious Little Willy. The same Zero now made five more attacks from directly above and out of the clouds. FSGT W. S. Horridge (RAAF), mid-upper turret, discovered to his horror that his guns had jammed. Pilot of N5-144, Lieutenant B.J. Grummels (NEI), as well as the RAAF bombardier/nose gunner SGT R. J. Tyler, were killed by machine-gun fire in the first overhead pass. Dutch co-pilot Ensign C. M. Fisscher, although wounded, immediately took over the controls and called for help from the other five Mitchells. The next three vertical attacks were thwarted by Fisscher. Each time the fighter came in the co-pilot swung the nose guns of his staggering B-25 towards him. At the same time SGT Horridge followed around with his weapons, making a pretence of firing. The Zero pilot broke off. But in the final pass the fighter had pressed close home, hit the starboard engine, aileron and a rudder, which tore off. By now the rest of the Mitchells had seen and heard what was happening, returned to help and drove off the Zero, which headed back to Timor. Although N5-144 lumbered on for another 20 miles as its remaining engine steadily lost oil pressure and power, it was by now practically uncontrollable. Wind howled through the bullet holes in the front Perspex, making it almost impossible for Fisscher without goggles, to see. At 10.50 am the bomber skidded into the sea tail first and lower turret stilt down. Fisscher and the engineer. SGT W.L. van Hoek (NEI) escaped by sliding side windows near the pilots' seats. Although both wounded, they managed to launch a rubber dinghy. The aircraft sank in two minutes. This gave Fisscher just time to smash in the top turret Perspex with his hands and drag out, aided by van Hoek, the top and bottom gunners. These airmen were also wounded, the former seriously, but to make things worse they had also been knocked about in the crash landing, were dazed, resisted rescue and had to be forcibly extracted. As the last man was hoisted clear and hauled into the dinghy the Mitchell slid below the surface. In the rubber boat Horridge and Van de Weert (NEI), the lower gunner, were laid in the bottom while Fisscher and Hoek sat on opposite sides. The B-25s overhead, low on fuel, only had time to circle quickly and take a bearing before heading off home. Within ten minutes a shark broke the surface, rose across the edge of the dinghy and snapped at the co-pilot's back. He and the engineer beat the water to frighten it off and then also retreated to the bottom of the boat. By six that evening three RAAF Hudsons of No 13 Squadron found the downed airmen and dropped supplies. Their attention had been attracted by the men in the dinghy igniting five of the six flares on board. The RAN destroyer Vendetta hove into sight at 1 am the next morning, guided by the survivors' last flare. All aboard the dinghy were safely retrieved and subsequently recovered from their ordeal and wounds back at Darwin. History is vague about what eventually happened to Little Willy of Dili. Rumour has it though that a RAAF air gunner, on his first engagement, eventually sealed the Zero pilot's fate. Since that day nobody saw or heard of Willy again, which seems to prove that perhaps the claim was true. Anyway, that's the way the story goes …. The Dutch engineer, van Hoek, was awarded the Dutch Flying Cross and Ensign Fisscher received the RAAF's Air Force Cross, both as a result of the action on that fateful day. Sergeant ‘Tim’ Tyler, the RAAF nose gunner/bombardier who was killed, was posthumously honoured by having an airstrip officially named after him. It is just north of Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Japanese historian and writer Professor Ikuhiko Hata recently advised that the unit which attacked the Mitchells was the 59th Sentai (Army) flying Oscars (Nakajima fighters), not Zeros. Two pilots participating in the attack were Lieutenant Kuwata and Sergeant Shinichi Kubo. The latter, an ace, was credited with the downing of N5-144 and later went missing over Wewak the same year. JAPAN. 1945. JAPANESE AIRCRAFT, NAKAJIMA Ki-43 "OSCAR" FIGHTER IN FLIGHT. SINGLE ENGINE, SINGLE SEATER, LOW WING MONOPLANE. (DONOR: MR PETER SELINGER) REFERENCES [1] ‘ESCAPE AND EVASION’ (1984, January 1). RAAF News (National : 1960 - 1997), p. 16. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article259010183 [2] Robert Kendall Piper was a researcher and author of many articles and several books on World War II aviation and topics related to the Pacific War. As a young man he lived in Port Moresby and learned to fly in Papua New Guinea (PNG). He later became the official Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) historian for 15 years then worked with Veterans Affairs for another 12 years before retirement. He was also involved with studies of aircraft crash sites and erecting memorials. Since the 1980s he wrote for Australian newspapers and Flightpath Magazine and conducted research as ‘Military Aviation Research Services – Canberra’. He was the author of two books: Great Air Escapes (1991) and The Hidden Chapters (1995). See https://pacificwrecks.com/people/authors/piper/index.html
  12. Further to our earlier post reporting that Ed Willis, President of the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia, in partnership with ex-SAS officer, Jim Truscott, OAM, has been awarded an Army History Unit Research Grant of $10,556 for the 2020/2021 financial year. The grant has been awarded for the preparation of a ‘WWII in East Timor – an Australian Army site and travel guide’ with the following objective: ‘Australian Defence personnel and others travelling to East Timor and wishing to learn more about and visit sites connected with the commando campaign conducted by the No. 2 and No. 4 Independent Company’s and the clandestine operations of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) during WWII would benefit from better documentation and identification the sites associated with those events and how to locate them. The site and travel guide (STG) is intended to meet that need’. We are still in the information gathering phase of this project and would appreciate it if association members, supporters and followers have any of the following types of materials that they would be willing to make available: · print or hand written documents (especially diaries, letters, personal recollections or contemporary reports); and/or · photographs or art work (painting and drawings); and · contemporary maps (hand drawn or printed). We are happy to receive scanned images or photocopies of such items but can arrange for them to be scanned or copied off site if the owner is willing to make them available for this purpose. In the latter situation, the loaned items will be returned safely after being scanned or copied and the digital images made available to the owner. We are interested in obtaining materials related to all the national groups who participated in or were affected by the campaign – Australian, Dutch, American, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese and especially Timorese – and all service arms (Army, Navy and Air Force). If you think you can assist in any way as just described, please contact in the first instance, Ed Willis, President, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia by e-mail: president@doublereds.org.au All material digitised as part of this project will be added to the association’s website (doublereds.org.au) either in the East Timor part of the ‘Gallery’ or linked with the record of the appropriate individual soldier in the ‘Men of the 2/2’ pages. Contributing items in this way will not only provide valuable new information and images for use in the preparation of the ‘WWII in East Timor – an Australian Army site and travel guide’ and the association website, it will help preserve and make more widely accessible material that might otherwise be lost. In addition, your contribution will assist with two association objectives: to promote education about the achievements of the men who were, at any time between 1941 and 1946, enlisted in the No. 2 Australian Independent Company of the Australian Infantry Forces, also known as the 2/2 Commando Squadron (“the unit”); and to honour the memory of the unit and its members and to help people to recognise and appreciate those achievements. Thank you and kind regards. Ed Willis President, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia
  13. News item from Andrew Hastie, MHR regarding Ben Lindsay from Austin Cove Baptist College, the latest very worthy recipient of the Double Reds Resilience Award that he has introduced in the electorate of Canning. In the news item, Mr Hastie highlights the connection between the recent award of the posthumous Victoria Cross to Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy) Sheean of HMAS ‘Armidale’ and the 2/2. The corvette was sunk by Japanese aircraft on 1 December 1942 while approaching Timor to embark the 2/2 men who were to be evacuated from the island. Last Tuesday, on the anniversary of that event, the Governor General announced the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross to Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy) Sheean. The approval followed a rigorous campaign over some 30+ years for Teddy Sheean to be properly recognised for his courage and bravery under fire during the attack on HMAS ‘Armidale’ by Japanese aircraft. https://www.andrewhastie.com.au/doubleredsandteddysheean?utm_campaign=localupdate41&utm_medium=email&utm_source=andrewhastie
  14. WWII in East Timor – A Site and Travel Guide Commando Campaign Sites ERMERA MUNICIPALITY ATSABE 8°55′28″S 125°23′54″E Atsabe’s location in relation to other sites mentioned in the text [1] Atsabe (Nova Ourem - See Map No.7) is 9 miles (14 km.) at a bearing of 28° from Bobonaro. Atsabe is one of the larger postos and market centres and its buildings number about 20 in all. These stone buildings, most of which have galvanized iron roofing, comprise posto and administrative block, church, school and about 15 Chinese shops. About one mile (11/2 km.) along the Lete-Foho road six bamboo huts with thatched roofs are the native soldiers' barracks. These huts are about 10 feet x 10 feet (3 m. x 3 m.) and are evenly spaced. The posto is well covered from air observation and is well timbered on the southwest side. There is a large market square north of the posto, and many trees have been planted around the trading area. There is a motor road to Bobonaro which for one mile, has good air cover. Atsabe was the Australian H.Q. of a platoon from May to August, 1942. [2] SIGNIFICANCE Atsabe sits at an elevation of approximately 1,500 metres on the western slopes of Mount Ramelau. During WWII it was in a key ‘crossroads’ position overlooking important roads and tracks heading in all directions of the compass. 1. NORTH through Rotai and Lete Foho to Ermera. 29d. Track Atsabe (Nova Ourem) to Lete-Foho (Nova Óbidos Distance, 11 miles (17 1/2 km.). Time taken, 6 hours. With roads out of commission this is a very important track. An excellently graded track, suitable MT, though subject to landslides and with little cover from the air, leads down to the Bandeira River. From the river there is a steep climb to Rotai, situated on the rugged saddle between Mts. Daralau and Catrai. Again, the track descends with little cover to the Garrai River, after which there is a very steep climb to Lete-Foho. There was a wooden bridge across the Bandeira River. The track is a good one for ponies. [3] Ken Piesse of the 2/4 described this segment in notes he prepared for that unit association's visit in 1973: "Leaving Ermera, the road leaves the Ermera-Dili road after about 2 miles and goes up a 1-in-10 grade following a crest of a ridge before turning southwards along a valley before winding up to Lete Foho about half way between Ermera and Atsabe. It possesses the usual posto, Chinese shops etc. and was burnt out following bombing in August 1942. The road goes on past Rotai, where there is said to be an impressive cave. Rotai was shelled and burnt by the Japanese, but the Chefe Rotai kept A Platoon HQ high above Rotai at the village of Alsai near the summit of Mt Catrai (7,100 ft.) supplied with food up until late November 1942. Tourist pamphlets suggest an investigation of the Bandeira waterfall from the road between Lete-Foho and Atsabe. Atsabe ‘a pretty town and well cared for’ (page 83 ‘Independent Company’) whose Chefe de Poste, Senhor Alexandrino was a good friend of the 2/2nd and C platoon 2/4th, an excellent handler of the Timorese and incidentally, an excellent armourer, the reason he was known to the Australians as ‘Krupps’. Atsabe is one of the larger postos and market centres and late in 1942 was the centre of the 2/4ths 7 section operations". [4] 2. NORTH WEST to Hatu-Lia A road at one time connected Atsabe with Hatu-Lia. Owing to washaways and lack of maintenance, this road is untrafficable to MT [Motor Transport]. It could possibly be put into repair with suitable labour and equipment in a short time. From Bobonaro to the south coast the only means of transport is by pack animals along made tracks. There are no MT roads. Natives reported that the Japanese were using M.T. from Bobonaro to Dili in December 1942. [5] Callinan described utilising this track with Don Turton: "TURTON and I arrived at Atsabe in the afternoon, and the Doctor [Dunkley] made us comfortable. We stayed that night and the next day. Boyland was there and I got from him the details of his dispositions. On the following morning we set out for Hatu-Lia. There was a road from Atsabe to Hatu-Lia that was closed to wheeled traffic by numerous washaways, but it made travelling on horseback quite easy. The road was very well graded and wound in and out of the gullies and around the spurs so that the actual distance travelled was much longer than the distance between the towns. We had horses, but I was quite pleased to arrive at our destination". [6] Shortly afterwards, Dr Dunkley and Don Turton traversed the same route in more testing circumstances: "While here we heard of Signaller Gerry Maley, who had been wounded above Hatu-Lia when the Japanese had first entered that town. He had remained at the telephone there until the enemy were very close to the town; he had then established an observation post overlooking the town, from which he had seen some troops approaching and, thinking they were Australians, had signalled them. Not receiving a reply, he had become suspicious and took cover behind a tree, but a burst from a machine gun shattered his thigh. The other two with him had been unable to move him further than to a native village, and now the Japanese had heard of his hiding place and were searching for him. At this time there was a small post overlooking Hatu-Lia, but the Japanese were between the post and Maley's hiding place, and while a patrol was being arranged to go in to get him, Dunkley and Turton set off from Atsabe, and after a really marvellous piece of work in dodging Japanese patrols succeeded in rescuing the wounded man and bringing him back to Atsabe". [7] 3. SOUTH to the regional southern provincial capital of Bobonaro ATSABE TO BOBONARO: This comparatively short section of road crosses and recrosses broken ground with many creeks and re-entrants for 8 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km.). There are many hairpin bends and sharp turns along this stretch of road. Until it turns west and traverses a ridge crest it would present difficulty to any MT of 30 cwt. or over, and other reports state that certain repair work would be necessary before use. Along the ridge crest, to Bobonaro, a distance of about 7 miles (11 km.), it is fairly easy going; the steepest grade would be about 1-5 or 1-6. There is practically no air cover. [8] Heading further south from Bobonaro, a track traversed via Mape, Lolotoi and Maucatar to the vital south coast anchorage at Suai. 4. EAST through Tata Mailau (Ramelau) to Hatu-Builico and then on to Maubisse Looking eastward, a high track traversed the peak of Tata Mailau and linked Atsabe with Hatu-Builico then onward to Maubisse. 29a. Track Atsabe to Hatu-Builico to Tumela: Time taken, 8 hours. The track, which is approximately 15 miles (24 km.) in length, crosses Ramelau Range, after a long climb at nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m.). The track to Mt. Tata-Mailau is very steep in places. Good air cover. Once the range has been crossed there is a 6 ft. (2 m.) track, constructed, but very steep in places, for the whole distance down to Hatu-Builico. The track then climbs a gentle slope to Mt. Tumela at the junction of the Lete-Foho-Hatu-Builico (29) and Maubisse-Hatu-Builico (29a.) tracks. This track crosses the greatest mountain barrier on the island. The going is very exhausting for both ponies and porters, but the track is reasonably graded. [9] Callinan described the terrain along this track: "… the cool precipitous alpine country between Hatu-Builico and Atsabe in the Ramelau Ranges, where the timber was very similar to the woolly butts of the Australian Alps". [10] 5. SOUTH EAST to Ainaro 29b. Track Ainaro to Atsabe: Distance, 12 miles (19 km.). Time taken, 7 hours. The track leaves Ainaro in a north westerly direction and crosses rice fields and riverbeds with very little cover. Leaving the flats, the track climbs tortuously up the Ramelau Range until it joins the Bobonaro-Atsabe road at the saddle. The track is very difficult to climb, and cover is poor. [11] 6. WEST to Cailaco Atsabe could also be approached on tracks from the west: 23d. Track Cailaco to Atsabe, Marobo to Atsabe: There are several native tracks between Cailaco and Atsabe and Marobo and Atsabe. All are very difficult to cross as they pass through the large Atsabe rice fields. All portions of the tracks join the old roads and then depart from them cross-country again. There is practically no cover from the air. [12] MUREMA, PORTUGUESE TIMOR. 1946-01-25. THE MILITARY HISTORY SECTION FIELD TEAM HALTED ON THE ROAD TO ATSABE BY A LANDSLIDE. SERGEANT G. MILSOM IS STANDING BY THE JEEP AND LIEUTENANT C. BUSH, OFFICIAL ARTIST, IS STANDING ON A TEMPORARY BYPASS (RIGHT). (PHOTOGRAPHER SGT K. B. DAVIS) [13] EVENTS IN ATSABE Japanese First Probes South "[In mid-April 1942] It became clear that the Japanese were interested in moving up the roads which led to Ermera and Hatu-Lia. During the days following, the swift-moving Australians clashed sharply with the advancing Japanese and claimed 30 or 40 killed, without casualties to themselves, before the invaders occupied Ermera. Outflanked, the guerrillas then withdrew and later, from Villa Maria, watched the Japanese feeling out along the road towards them. By 9th April, however, these feelers had coalesced into a movement by about 500 men towards Hatu-Lia and the most forward commandos fell back to Lete-Foho. But the Japanese pressed farther on and, on 13th April, after shelling the little town they occupied it and once again the Australians fell back. What really worried them, however, was uncertainty as to whether the invaders would stop at Lete-Foho or would press on to Atsabe or still farther to Ainaro — and menace the Australian bases. In the event, however, the forward movement not only ceased at Lete-Foho but, by the end of April, the Japanese had all withdrawn to Ermera and Dili, having suffered annoying losses to the harassing tactics of the guerrillas". [14] Atsabe as key objective during the campaign [15] Patrolling From Atsabe “Meanwhile [by mid-April] we had developed a system of patrols which came up through Lete-Foho, moved across to Boyland by night, and then around through the Hatu-Lia area on the lookout for stray lone Japanese patrols, and finally back to Atsabe; the complete circuit took approximately a week. There were a large number of Japanese troops milling round in this area, and often one of their patrols would be allowed to walk through an ambush position because our position was itself covered by another patrol higher up. Portuguese reports placed the number of Japanese troops based on Ermera as not less than twelve hundred”. [16] D Platoon Based on Atsabe “…. by the end of April, an extensive Australian redeployment had been almost completed. Laidlaw's platoon was carrying out a wide and difficult movement to establish themselves at Remexio, fairly close in to Dili; Boyland's platoon was settling in the Maubisse area; a new platoon (‘D’), which had been formed from the Independent Company's sappers and from the fittest of the survivors from Dutch Timor, had been gathered at Mape and given a short intensive course of guerrilla training, and by early May, would be based on Atsabe under the command of Turton, who, though gentle by nature, was already proving himself an outstanding soldier and guerrilla engineer; Baldwin's platoon (which had been scattered widely to fill gaps as they developed) was to have the left flank positions in the general area of Cailaco”. [17] Callinan Appointed to Command the Company “I was in Atsabe when I received the message of my appointment to command the company and I was, of course, pleased. I had been given plenty of freedom and opportunities to move around, and to put forward suggestions which had always been given consideration, but I entered into my own command with considerable enthusiasm. It was the twentieth of May. I was very fortunate to take over when everything was in good condition. Turton and his platoon were now in position, and Rose was having a well-earned spell. I proposed setting up my headquarters at Atsabe, where I was well placed to watch the danger area around Ermera. Ainaro would have suited me even better, as it was more centrally located on our sixty-mile line, but it did not have the telephone connections that Atsabe had. The centre of the area for the telephone system, as for everything else, was Bobonaro, but it was half a day's journey further to the south, and away from the centre of activities”. [18] Reserve Arms and Ammunition Transported to Atsabe “The ammunition left near Hatu-Lia was still within striking distance of the enemy, and had not been safely hidden, so Callinan told a small party of men to pay the Timorese to help move the stores to a safer place. One of the men whom Callinan relied on to carry out this crucial task was not a senior officer or even an NCO; it was a lowly ranked sapper, or private, in the engineers corps, Vincent Wilby, 20, from Bendigo, Victoria, had met Callinan years before when he worked for a short time as an assistant in Callinan’s drafting office, and Wilby had joined Callinan on his journey into Dutch Timor. While returning to Portuguese Timor, Wilby had acquired a team of Timor ponies that he had stolen along the way. Callinan later admonished Wilby for taking the ponies, insisting that he should pay or at least promise to pay for any property that he acquired. These first few ponies proved to be very useful, forming the nucleus of the transport corps used by the 2/2 Company”. [19] “Wilby personally took part in six return trips to Atsabe, each leg taking about a day, traversing the rugged terrain on narrow walking tracks, until they reached a hiding place just outside Bere Mau’s [Wilby’s creado] home village. Some of the journeys started early in the morning and took until late in the evening; others went through the night. The hiding place was located about 200 metres from the town in a cave. The cave could only be entered by going through a ravine, and then up a steep slope. Over the course of six weeks, the pony train hauled a steady stream of ammunition—over 100,000 rounds of .303 bullets for rifles and Bren guns, 45,000 .45 inch bullets for the Tommy guns, and 2,000 grenades”. [20] Atsabe in the ‘August Push’ “Mobilising the ‘Black Columns’ was a particularly effective innovation. The Japanese used them like human shields, driving large numbers ahead of their soldiers and into the Australian and Dutch positions. The militias drove a wedge between the Australians and the Timorese population, and as the Dutch and Portuguese Timorese were ethnically the same, it became impossible to tell friend from foe. The Japanese thrust targeted the Dutch force near the south coast centre of Maucatar, forcing them to completely abandon their positions and flee towards the east". "Dexter’s A Platoon, based in the Fronteira Province, responded to the Japanese drive from Dutch Timor by blowing bridges and roads to slow the advance. As the Japanese and Timorese surged over the border, A Platoon fought a series of running battles as part of a staged retreat into the mountains around Fronteira. The attack from the west threatened the cornerstone of the Australian operation in Timor, the province of Fronteira which was run by the avidly-partisan administrator Sousa Santos. The Japanese assault made Sousa Santos fear for his life, and he abandoned his post and fled to the eastern provinces with his wife and young daughter”. …… A Platoons Fighting Withdrawal to Atsabe “Dexter realised that he risked being encircled. A Japanese drive from the south was also coming his way, so he ordered his less mobile men—the sick, the signallers, a medical orderly, and men with supplies—to withdraw to the east to Atsabe, where they would link up with Don Turton’s D Platoon, which had established a defensive stronghold. Atsabe, at the foot of 3,000 metre high Mount Ramelau, was the place where much of the 2/2’s store of ammunition had been stashed after being hauled up the mountain by Wilby’s pony train in March. As Dexter made preparations to stage another ambush on a narrow pass linking the road from Bobonaro to Atsabe, a local elder, Chief Martinho, approached him with a surrender note distributed by the Japanese. Martinho told Dexter that the Japanese were advancing towards him with big guns. Dexter’s party of 28 men contacted the approaching enemy briefly before they withdrew and joined the flight to Atsabe”. Turton’s ‘Hideout’ “Upon reaching the town, Dexter and his group learned that the Japanese were already there, so they climbed further up into the mountains, departing within minutes of the Japanese opening up on the town with mortars and artillery. Eventually Dexter regrouped at Turton’s ‘hideout’—a group of huts perched on a very steep hilltop—where the hungry men dined on a meal of grilled buffalo as the Japanese continued shelling the deserted nearby town. Joining the exodus to the cold and hungry high country was Callinan’s headquarters, which set up a new base on the western slope of the Ramelau range on the night of 13 August”. "The Australians faced an increasingly brazen militia force of Black Columns from West Timor who were prepared to throw themselves at positions. The Black Columns seemed well trained as they swarmed upon the defensive positions of A Platoon, sometimes under the cover of fire from Japanese mountain guns, other times without. One of Dexter’s Bren gunners was forced to shoot three attackers with his hand-gun in self-defence. The use of the militia forces by the Japanese completely changed the nature of the conflict; it now meant that in order to survive these engagements the Australians would have to shoot and kill indigenous people who might only be armed with spears". [21] End of the ‘August Push’ “As the push continued into the middle of August, the Timorese population took to the hills, taking with them most of their food and farm animals. The four platoons were now constantly on the run and they were getting hungrier as each day went by. By 15 August, after six days of relentless fighting, the Australians had been driven by troops and artillery into a ‘pocket’ formed by the highest peaks in the centre of the country— Maubisse, Hatu-Bulico, Ainaro, and Samé. In order to deal with this threat, Callinan created a ‘striking force’ by combining C and D platoons to deliver a ‘strong blow to the enemy column advancing through Aileu’. A Platoon, which had been engaged in the most intensive fighting, was to remain in the rear of these platoons in order to prevent an enemy encirclement via Ainaro. The commanders put observers along the Atsabe–Ainaro track so that they would be alert to any enemy movement from the rear". "Three days later, on the evening of 18 August, a green flare went up over the central mountains around Ramelau, where the Australians had been driven … . After seeing this flare, the Australians believed this signalled the start of the final phase of the Japanese drive. Many of the men, sensing that they would have to stand and fight against overwhelming odds, had a deep sense of foreboding about the following day, believing that it might be their last”. [22] No. 4 Independent Company Takes Over “In early October, C Platoon [of the No. 4 Independent Company] was spreading out over the south-western sector of the Company's operational area in Portuguese Timor. Platoon HQ moved from Hatu Udo to Ainaro on 15 October. Detachments located at Maubisse, Hatu Builico, Nunamogue, Atsabe, Beco, Cassa (native name Lias) and Cablak, performed the roles of monitoring all movements of Japanese troops and hostile natives in the sector. They harassed them whenever possible and kept open the lines of communication of ‘A’ Platoon in the north western sector”. [23] Through October-November 1942, the Japanese continued to increase their force strength in Timor, deploying four or five battalions in the drive towards the eastern part of the island. Faced with loss of food supplies and suffering from malaria, 357 members of the No. 2 Independent Company were evacuated successfully in three trips between 11 and 19 December along with 192 RNEIA and 69 Portuguese evacuees by the Dutch destroyer Tjerk Hiddes. Meanwhile the No. 4 Independent Company were left to bear the full brunt of actions mounted by the Japanese-led Black Columns. By December, however, the over position of Lancer force was extremely vulnerable especially owing to loss of access to vital food supplies as the Japanese pushed further east. By this stage, the Japanese had mobilised some 12,000 men and had successfully occupied all anchorages the north and south coasts east of and including Beaco. Ian Hampel’s Recollections [24] “But the Japs were giving a little bit of trouble gradually creeping back from Dili towards Atsabe which was our only base. So, we had to try to hunt them out. Just below Atsabe though, where the road goes down fairly steeply, there’s a pretty big cliff and at the bottom of that cliff a gully there filled with jungle. We had the job of trying to hunt the pro Japanese natives out of that area. Well, we should never have tried it because that was their territory and they knew how to handle it very well indeed. Well, we tried to creep through there and of course they were shooting at us from the cover of the foliage down below while we were at the top shooting down at them”. ……. “Anyway, also, too, though during that Sid Bell [25] …. was creeping forward, crouched down as we always were when we were trying to advance, and he collected a bullet down, directly from the front, and it went down, beside in his neck, straight beside his windpipe. And as he was crouched over of course the bullet went down almost parallel with his spine. It came out his back between his shoulder blades, but it missed all the bones. And all of us are a heap of plumbing in there, we’ve got all sorts of arteries and veins and all the rest of it. It missed all of that stuff”. [25] “In some miraculous way, it made a hole in his back about the size of your fist and he bled a lot of course. And he wasn’t feeling too good after that, but we got him out of it, carted him back to our little, little shack, our uma, but he was gurgling a bit and he was coughing up a bit of blood. And this sort of disturbed us we didn’t quite know what it was. But he was breathing all right. And then, during the night he gradually got worse and worse and he was gurgling a lot more and the next day he died. We had no idea what it was, but we had a bloke called Jo Boothman [26], who had been in the Queensland Bush Nursing Service, and Jo was very, very practical and clever so he did a very rough autopsy and he found out that when the bullet went in Sid’s neck it actually just nicked the wind pipe and so it cut the inside of the windpipe and it just dripped, dripped, dripped blood all the time so he actually drowned in his own blood”. “These were the sorts of things you just had to contend with”. [Question] Once again, did this make a fair amount of impact on you? “Yes, because we thought Sid would survive it and he was a pretty good sort of bloke. He was a curly-headed, you know, I suppose the women would say he was a good-looking bloke, I don’t know but he was pretty good as far as we were concerned. And, we had quite a few little adventures from that era. It was quite odd. So, we had to bury Sid, we just dug a rough old grave for him and put a little cross made out of a bit of kerosene tin and put, you know, wounded on such and such a date and died on the 13th. [?] It was the 11th he was wounded, the 11th of December”. [27] PORTUGUESE HERO - SERGEANT JOSÉ ALEXANDRINO OF ATSABE (‘KRUPPS’) Sergeant José Alexandrino, who had served in the colony for 20 years and was well known to Callinan and the other men who had used Atsabe as a base. The Australians had fled to Alexandrino’s redoubt in the foothills of Mount Ramelau during the August offensive. Callinan described meeting Alexandrino around this critical time: “The next day I had a long talk with Senhor Alexandrino of Atsabe. He had remained at his post throughout and had exerted a considerable influence on the natives. I had great respect for his opinions on the handling of the natives. He had been in Timor for over twenty years, coming there as a young man from Macau. During those early years his one hope had been to get back to Portugal to his family and friends, but as the years went by, and his applications for leave were refused for one reason or another, he had resigned himself to living and dying there. He had a native woman and three beautiful little children, who were kept in spotless condition. His rank in the army was sergeant, but when he retired, he would be given the honorary rank of lieutenant. He was a short, dark man, quiet and quietly spoken, and not easily aroused, also he was a very competent mechanic. To him we had given the one piece of transport which we had saved from destruction in February - a Lee Enfield motor cycle. He had very carefully dismantled and thoroughly overhauled it and manufactured any new parts that were necessary. We knew him as ‘Krupps’ because of his activities in altering rifle's to suit his requirements. While Turton had been staying with him their experiments with captured Japanese ammunition and their attempts to make explosive bullets had caused some alarms. After one such experiment there was a frantic telephone call from Bobonaro ten miles away wanting to know if Atsabe had been bombed!” “This morning when he came up to platoon headquarters, he looked a little careworn, but he was prepared to grapple with the problems before us. He did not consider it wise to arm the natives as he thought that it would lead to general chaos in which the Australians, being more dependent upon the natives than the Japanese, would be the more affected. Also he said the Australians had fought so far, a clean fight against the Japanese, and he hoped they would continue to do so. A touch of idealism which was perhaps out of place in a ‘total war’, but very pleasant to meet. He thought that with a Bren gun, some ammunition, and another Portuguese, and provided the Japanese did not enter his area, he could maintain law and order, and even win back some of the surrounding areas from the Japanese by talking to the natives and assisted by the bad behaviour of the Japanese". "The Japanese were already settling down to the work of organizing the areas along the frontier, and all natives had been ordered to hand in their weapons and return to work. Taxes were being enforced. Where villages appeared difficult to handle the occupants were herded together and taken down to Dutch Timor and replaced by ‘co-prosperity’ natives from Dutch Timor. Work on the roads was being forced, and the natives were beginning to realise that the old life had not been too bad after all". "We supplied the Bren gun, and Senhor Alexandrino kept his word. The last I heard of him, some months later, was that he was still fighting in the Ramelau Range between Atsabe and Ainaro, supported by some few natives whose loyalty stood up to a losing fight. He is one of the many quiet, efficient men who do the task before them, sometimes reaching heroic heights, but seldom noticed. As a sergeant or an officer he was a man of whom any army might well be proud". [28] "A concerted Japanese attack on Alexandrino’s base was led by Lieutenant Hoshino Tetsuichi, who had been brought to Timor from Java in September 1942 to work with the Tomi Kikan intelligence unit and train local militia. Hoshino attacked with an infantry company, a machine-gun company, an infantry gun unit, and 70 militia. Alexandrino and his men were eventually captured and later died in captivity". [29] ‘DIED IN THE SERVICE OF PORTUGAL’ - DOM CIPRIANO GONÇALVES (1912-1943) OF ATSABE In his war diary entry of 24 August 1942, Callinan wrote of the Timorese in Atsabe: "… the natives there being in general friendly but bewildered, they did NOT appreciate the JAPANESE taking food without paying for it". [30] The Australians distinguished themselves from the Japanese approach in the war diary: "A plentiful supply of small denomination Australian currency which has lately been received by the Unit and distributed to the platoons is making the purchase of food much easier. The natives here are very keen on silver coins and are quite willing to accept them as payment for all commodities". [31] Dom Cipriano Gonçalves was the ruler of Atsabe at this time. “According to accounts of the Atsabe people's historical experiences during the Japanese occupation, the population engaged in passive resistance through non-compliance of demands for labour and material submissions of livestock and field products. Therefore, the Japanese, in order to curb this resistance and prevent its escalation to armed rebellion, incarcerated the Atsabe ruler and six other relatives of his house who were all in the line of succession. They were tied to a tree in the village square and, if a subject of the Atsabe kingdom did not comply with Japanese demands, one member of the ruling house was executed. All seven lost their lives, including Dom Siprianu, and open opposition was curbed. More subtle forms, such as the hiding and aiding of Australian soldiers, however, continued. Dom Siprianu was buried with much pomp, befitting his status as ruler with enormous sacred power and as the recognized direct descendant of the founding ancestor. The grave was located facing the residence of the chiefly family. The customary secondary burial had to be postponed however, with economic reasons cited. Exorbitant expenses are involved in such an undertaking, not just for the hosting family and village, but also for all groups under the authority of the former kingdom. Atsabe people explained that economic recovery was slow after World War Two with severe shortages being the norm, and by the time they would have been able to perform it during the early 1970s they faced civil war followed by the Indonesian invasion and occupation. It was finally in 2000 that financial assistance became available through a generous donation from Portugal. This made it possible to perform the most important traditional ritual of the Kemak, the secondary burial that required the sacrifice of many animals. The secondary burial ritual resulted in the expensive white-tiled Catholic grave, bearing the inscription in Portuguese: 'Died in the service of Portugal'. In some ways the inscription contrasts with views and attitudes expressed by the majority of the Atsabe people during discussions about local history and social organization of the former kingdom. On the one hand, this was clearly a new grave in an area where only old graves of the historical period bear Portuguese inscriptions, a language very few Atsabe know. Even the surviving sons of Siprianu expressed vehement anti-Portuguese views, in spite of having served as administrators during Portuguese times. The lack of pride in Portuguese ancestry, heritage or links among the members of the Atsabe ruling kin group is contrary to views expressed in older ethnographies on East Timor cultures. Given these attitudes, the size and boldness of the inscription compared with the tiny script of the name of Siprianu, declaring 'died in the service of Portugal' appears contradictory”. [32] The tomb of Dom Cipriano at Atsabe [33] REFERENCES [1] Area study of Portuguese Timor / Allied Geographical Section, South West Pacific Area. - [Brisbane] : The Section, 1943. – (Terrain study (Allied Forces. South West Pacific Area. Allied Geographical Section) ; no. 50.): Map 1 – Portuguese Timor. [2] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 25. [3] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 48. [4] Ken Piesse Notes on some places and points of interest – 2/4th Aust. Commando Squadron Association - Return to Timor 1973 – copy held in 2/2 Commando Association of Australia archives. [5] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 37. [6] Bernard Callinan. - Independent Company : the Australian Army in Portuguese Timor 1941-43 / introduction by Nevil Shute. - Richmond, Vic. : Heinemann, 1984: 34. [7] Callinan, Independent Company: 94. [8] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 37. [9] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 48. [10] Callinan, Independent Company: 34. [11] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 48. [12] Area study of Portuguese Timor: 44. [13] https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C221229. [14] Dudley McCarthy. - Appendix 2 ‘Timor’ in South-west Pacific area - first year : Kokoda to Wau / by Dudley McCarthy. - Canberra : Australian War Memorial, 1959. - (Australia in the war of 1939-1945. Series 1, Army ; v. 5) : 601. [15] John Coates. - An atlas of Australia's wars. - 2nd ed. - South Melbourne, Vic.: Oxford University Press, 2006: 225 [Map 82] [16] Callinan, Independent Company: 95. [17] McCarthy, South-west Pacific area - first year: 604. [18] Callinan, Independent Company: 113. [19] Paul Cleary. - The men who came out of the ground: a gripping account of Australia's first commando campaign : Timor 1942. - Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2010: 116. https://www.hachette.com.au/paul-cleary/the-men-who-came-out-of-the-ground-a-gripping-account-of-australias-first-commando-campaign-timor-1942 [20] Cleary, The men who came out of the ground: 118-119. [21] Cleary, The men who came out of the ground: 174-175. [22] Cleary, The men who came out of the ground: 178-179. [23] G.E. Lambert - Commando, from Tidal River to Tarakan : the story of the No. 4 Australian Independent Company AIF later known as 2/4th Australian Commando Squadron AIF, 1941-45. - Loftus, N.S.W. : Australian Military History Publications, 1997: 139. [24] Alexander Ian Hampel VX62541, C Platoon, No. 4 Independent Company - Archive number: 677 - Preferred name: Ian - Date interviewed: 19 August 2003 - 2/4th Independent Company http://australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au/archive/677-alexander-hampel [25] Pte Sidney (Sid) William Bell VX68291, C Platoon, No. 4 Independent Company [26] Cpl Joseph (Jo) Leo Boothman QX19574, AAMC, No. 4 Independent Company [27] Sid Bell’s remains were subsequently recovered, and are now buried in Ambon War Cemetery - https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/4006885/SIDNEY WILLIAM BELL/ [28] Callinan, Independent Company: 179-180. [29] Cleary, The men who came out of the ground: 298. [30] No. 2 Independent Company war diary entry 24 August 1942. [31] No. 2 Independent Company war diary entry 11 September 1942. [32] Andrea K. Molnar ‘Died in the service of Portugal': legitimacy of authority and dynamics of group identity among the Atsabe Kemak in East Timor’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 37 (2) June 2006: 335-355. [33] Rui Brito da Fonseca. - Monumentos portugueses em Timor-Leste. - Dili, Timor Leste : [Crocodilo Azul?], 2005: 56-57. Prepared by Ed Willis Revised: 10 November 2020
  15. Thanks Louis for this and the Facebook post. Regards Ed
  16. Ed Willis, President of the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia, in partnership with ex-SAS officer, Jim Truscott, OAM, has been awarded an Army History Unit Research Grant of $10,556 for the 2020/2021 financial year. The grant has been awarded for the preparation of a ‘WWII in East Timor – an Australian Army site and travel guide’ with the following objective: ‘Australian Defence personnel and others travelling to East Timor and wishing to learn more about and visit sites connected with the commando campaign conducted by the No. 2 and No. 4 Independent Company’s and the clandestine operations of the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) during WWII would benefit from better documentation and identification the sites associated with those events and how to locate them. The site and travel guide (STG) is intended to meet that need’. The grant money will be used to cover costs associated with additional site survey work in East Timor, particularly in the central and eastern areas of the country, and further library and archival research in Darwin, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne. Thankfully, the conditions of the grant allow for an extension of time to complete the travel associated with the project because of current COVID-19 travel restrictions. The award grant along with donations made to the Association will allow the completion of the ‘Commando Campaign Site Survey Project’ that the Association has been working on since 2018 (see https://doublereds.org.au/forums/topic/231-commando-campaign-site-survey-project-completing-the-remaining-survey-work/). Previous research and survey activity has enabled the preparation of articles on commando campaign sites that have been published on the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia website; e.g. https://doublereds.org.au/forums/topic/258-wwii-in-east-timor-–-a-site-and-travel-guide-commando-campaign-sites-viqueque-municipality-lacluta/. All these articles will be revised and adapted to provide content for the STG. Progress reports on the project will be posted on Doublereds.
  17. Association President, Ed Willis met with Andrew Hastie, MHR for Canning, on August 20. Ed lives in his electorate and was invited to meet Mr Hastie after he had read a paper Ed had prepared on the ‘Future of the Dare Memorial and a possible WWII Memorial In Dili’. Progress on the outcome of that discussion will be the topic of a future Facebook post and Doublereds news item. Finally, Mr Hastie said would like to use the 2/2 Timor story as the basis of a new award he wished to introduce for schools in the Canning electorate (those that are presented at assemblies and the like). He asked for one or two words that would sum up the 2/2’s Timor campaign and off the top of his head Ed said ‘resilience’ and it was agreed that the award would go ahead as the ‘Double Reds Resilience Award’. Ed undertook to supply additional background material to Mr Hastie’s office staff that would help them to proceed with preparations to commence making the Award. In a Parliamentary speech made on 21 October, Mr Hastie announced: “This week the first awards will be presented to students in Canning. Unfortunately, we're all here so I won't be able to award them myself, but I do want to pass on my congratulations. First, congratulations to Micaela Paterson, a grade 12 student from Byford Secondary College who received the award last night. Micaela has displayed a high degree of support and care for her family whilst working hard at her academic studies. She hasn't allowed hardship or adversity to define her, even under the most difficult circumstances. Second, congratulations to Dylan Harris, a grade 12 student from Mandurah Baptist College. Dylan will receive the award tonight for his perseverance and tenacity over the past two years, despite dealing with significant health challenges. His efforts have enabled him to attain an early offer of entry into university in his chosen field. Finally, I'm very proud to say that the award has received the endorsement of the 2/2 Commando Association of Australia. I'm confident that the next generation of Australians can continue their legacy of toughness resilience in the face of adversity”. Mr Hastie’s Parliamentary remarks about the award can be seen at: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/Hansard_Display?bid=chamber/hansardr/9e0d09c5-3d23-44af-b6af-d28a2aeef43f/&sid=0102 The revised version of the award brief is attached.
  18. Wayne Havenaar, President of the NSW Commando Association, has advised that the Commando Memorial in Martin Place, Sydney, will be re-dedicated in a ceremony to held at 10:30 am on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 (Remembrance Day). Wayne advises: ‘[The re-dedicated memorial] has a new plaque with all units and deployments since WWII added. If you have anyone over this way, please let them know they are invited to attend however there are limited places due to Covid 19 restrictions, so booking is essential. Please see our website www.commando.asn.au on the notices page’. For information about the memorial, see: https://monumentaustralia.org.au/display/23156-commando-memorial Ed Willis President, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia
  19. Dear Mina: Thank you for your enquiry. Bobonaro and Atsabe were both important towns during WWII in Timor-Leste with Australian troops based in them for lengthy periods, especially between March – September 1942. After that time the towns were occupied and garrisoned by the Japanese. Both towns were heavily bombed by both the Japanese and Allied air forces at different times. The following description and map of the town was published in the ‘Area study of Portuguese Timor’ (1943). The location of the Chinese shops is indicated on the map: Bobonaro … is 35 miles (56 km.) at a bearing of 205° from Dili. It is at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (790 m.) on the southern slopes of the Ramelau Range and looks south over the valley of the Lone-Mea River. Bobonaro is a posto town and capital of Fronteira Province. The regular posto buildings are stone and are enclosed by a high wall. On the west side is a row of about 10 Chinese shops and on the north 3 long buildings used as cavalry barracks and large enough for 60 soldiers. There is a small Catholic church to the northwest. There are in addition to many stone houses of the native officials about 100 native huts widely dispersed around the town and along the road leading north to Atsabe. The town has a water supply piped from nearby hills to a small concrete reservoir. Bobonaro can be easily recognised from the air because two large Maltese Crosses in a background of white stone are set in a large garden plot in front of the posto. These crosses are easily visible and identifiable from the air. The Chinese quarter of the town is on the northwest of the central square; beneath the trees here a number of slit trenches have been dug. Bobonaro has a cemetery, which is north of the town and west of the road leading to Atsabe and Dili. A similar description and map of Atsabe was also included in the same publication: Atsabe (Nova Ourem) is 9 miles (14 km.) at a bearing of 28° from Bobonaro. Atsabe is one of the larger postos and market centres and its buildings number about 20 in all. These stone buildings, most of which have galvanized iron roofing, comprise posto and administrative block, church, school and about 15 Chinese shops. About one mile (11/2 km.) along the Lete-Foho road six bamboo huts with thatched roofs are the native soldiers' barracks. These huts are about 10 feet x 10 feet (3 m. x 3 m.) and are evenly spaced. The posto is well covered from air observation and is well timbered on the southwest side. There is a large market square north of the posto, and many trees have been planted around the trading area. There is a motor road to Bobonaro which for one mile, has good air cover. Atsabe was the Australian H.Q. of a platoon from May to August, 1942. Many Australian men passed through Bobonaro and Atsabe at different times, and it is difficult for me to accurately identify the ‘older soldier’ referred to in your message, however the following anecdote, written by Corporal Harry Wray, will be of interest: "Soon after Dex [Lieutenant David Dexter] took over, he sent Do-Dah [nick-name of an unidentified signaller] off to Ainaro to the Doctor [Dunkley], as he was constantly ill with malaria. A day or so after he left I too was sent to Ainaro, as I had suffered with severe tooth ache for days, and the only way I could get any ease was by taking large numbers of Aspirins. I passed through Marobo the first day of my journey, and arrived at Bobonaro that night. The Saint [Captain Bernard Callinan] was living at Bobonaro at that time. I also found Do-Dah there, and our Signals Sergeant [Sergeant Frank Press]. Do-Dah and I had a good rest in a nice little house, with about twenty native cavalrymen guarding the house. Bobonaro was the seat of the Administrator [Sousa Santos], and a few troops of Portuguese native cavalry were stationed in barracks there". …… "We had breakfast at a Chinese shop, boiled rice, fried eggs and soya bean sauce. Another man, who was a Sapper from Koepang, was with us and had plain boiled rice without salt or any flavouring as his meal. This Sapper was a huge fellow, a one-time wrestling champion, but was now very thin. He had suffered from some kidney disease after malaria, and had arrived at Bobonaro in a very bad state. The local Portuguese dispenser cum doctor took him in hand, and for six weeks had him living on the boiled rice without salt or flavouring. The doctor told him that if he did not stick to the diet he would die. When I arrived in Bobonaro the Sapper was well enough to travel to Mape and then on to our Doctor at Ainaro". The man Harry Wray referred to was identified by unit historian Col Doig as: "‘Tiny’ [Archie] Bowman [who] was a tremendous figure of a man and was a blacksmith with the 2/11th Engineers. He was a top grade amateur heavyweight wrestler who had beaten such personalities as Scarf and Knight who had represented Australia in the Olympic Games at Amsterdam and Los Angeles". Both Harry Wray and Tiny Bowman were ‘older men’, being in their early to mid-thirties at the time so either could be the soldier remembered by your grandma. Regards Ed Willis President, 2/2 Commando Association of Australia
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