Timeline 1942

1st January - Headquarter, C and D Companies competed in the 16th Infantry Brigade sports meeting at Katana, and lost the aggregate points trophy to 2/2nd Infantry Battalion by a margin of only five points. D Company's exposed camp on Jebel Mazah received three day blizzard and the area was blanketed with many feet of snow.

4th January - The railhead guard was relieved when a new guard picked its way through deep snow followed by a carrying party of thirty men. A detachment of 2/2nd Infantry Battalion's signal post near Katana who staggered into Headquarter Company lines, and who had been without rations for some days, were billeted until the storm abated.

6th January - Intense cold cracked the cylinder heads and blocks of 12 transport vehicles.

l0th January - Companies finished clearing roads and tracks when the thaw set in. C.O. J. M. Williams pushed Headquarters 6th Division to concentrate the Battalion to carry out collective training. The new camp was five miles north-west of Baalbek. Captain A. H. J. Ross, of B Company, supervised construction of the camp. Taking some selected men from B Company, he moved up to A Company.

15th January - Carpenters, plumbers and bricklayers arrived at B Company on their way to the new site but were sent back to Headquarter Company after orders for a move to Palestine were issued. For the next two days all companies packed and crated stores.

18th January - C.O. J. M. Williams drove direct to Palestine (photo of historic plain of Esdraelon), leaving Major E. R. Meagher to direct the move. The convoy negotiated the narrow, winding route through Kuneitra, Rosh Pinah, Nazareth and Affule to the new camp site without incident, except for an accident to Private Knights, a motor-cycle despatch rider, who crashed over a bridge into a rocky creek bed soon after leaving Affule Staging Camp. Evening meal on the shores of the Sea of Gallilee (Lake Tiberius).

19th January - Arrived at Hill 69 (camp in background; Khassa Camp in foreground) at 0550 hours. Quartermaster Captain I. D. Nicolson started work com­pleting the war equipment, issues of summer clothing were made and companies brought up to strength when 4 and 5 Reinforcements marched in. A further 98 men arrived from the Machine Gun and 21st Infantry Training Battalions. Most of these men were from Western Australia and had been assigned as reinforcements to 2/16th Infantry Battalion. Lieutenant C. J. Mitchell, Lieutenant G. H. Lamb, Lieutenant F. H. Tubb and Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton, all original Battalion N.C.Os, also posted. Officers and N.C.Os attending schools recalled where possible; some even went A.W.L. and rejoined the battalion. A number of men discharged them­selves from hospital and rejoined the unit, in­cluding Captain S. J. Handasyde, who was recovering from an operation. Lieutenant H. J. E. Page, at the School of Signals, and Lieutenant E. C. L. Etches, at a school in Damascus, were unable to rejoin. Major E. F. Aitken, Captain W. H. Mitchell, Captain C. D. Jackson and Lieutenant D. Martin, serving on the staff at the Pioneer Training Battalion, could not be replaced and were left behind. Captain A. H. Bishop left the School of Engineering at Gabel Marion a day early, and boarded the troop train at El Kantara on the way to Suez.

25th January - Trucks loaded.

26th January - Captain I. Campbell with Driver G. Healey joined 1st Australian Corps advanced party at Gaza and moved to Suez.

26th January - All vehicles and motor-cycles, with Lieutenant J. Ludlow (Transport Officer), Sergeant A. F. Cregan and 56 other ranks (drivers, fitters, cooks, etc.), moved out to join the main convoy (1800 trucks and 400 motor-cycles) at Barbara Camp for move south to Suez. Despatch rider Private D. G. Whitehead evacuated to general hospital at El Kantara after collision with a car.

28th January - Private N. O. MacPherson and 51 other West Australians transferred to the Battalion from Dimra Training Camp at Hill 69, Palestine.

30th January - Main body of Battalion moved by train from El Majdal and Gaza under command of Major E. A. Daly and Captain R. F. H. Winning. Baggage party of Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine and Lieutenant D. McKewan with 28 other ranks travelled on a special baggage train.

31th January – Battalion arrived at Suez then embarked via tenders to S.S. Orcades. Captain I. Campbell and some others from the trans­port party rejoined, and the Battalion, less the baggage party and the bulk of the transport party was included in the 3000 troops embarked.

1st February - 0930 hours S.S. Orcades leaves Port Tewfik, with the Battalion aboard (less the baggage party and most of the transport party).

3rd February - 1830 hours S.S. Orcades passed through "Hells Gate" and turned east.

5th February - Last Action Station drill held. Troops warned that the next time they heard the alarm it would be genuine, as the ship's radio had intercepted reports of the shelling and torpedoing of a ship just 50 miles from Colombo, Ceylon.

9th February - S.S. Orcades arrives at Colombo to re-provision. Private G. P. Evans evacuated ashore to hospital with appendicitis.

10th February - S.S. Orcades leaves Colombo with H.M.S. Dorsetshire as escort (later bombed and sunk on 05/04/1942 100 miles south of Colombo).

13th February - Warning over ship intercom to troops that attacks from aircraft, surface vessels and submarines were to be ex­pected. All Bren guns and anti­tank rifles mounted on deck for immediate action. H.M.A.S. Hobart joins convoy. H.M.S. Dorsetshire leaves convoy.

15th February - S.S. Orcades arrives at Oosthaven, Sumatra (port of Teloek Betoeng) and troops ferried ashore at dusk via the Van Spilbergen. Enemy paratroops landed 300 miles away at Palembang and seized the oil installations and one airfield. Battalion to form part of Boost Force under the command of Lt-Col Blackburn V.C. However, the troops were re-embarked to the S.S. Orcades almost immediately the Van Spilbergen tied up when advised Japanese troops were only 10 miles away and there was no port defence possible. S.S. Orcades leaves with a destroyer escort. Oosthaven port facilities destroyed by Allies to deny its use to the enemy.

16th February - S.S. Orcades arrives at Tandjoeng Priok (port of Batavia, Java). Singapore falls to the Japanese. Heavy rainfall.

17th February - S.S. Orcades moves into harbour and ties up at a wharf. Looting of the wharves by deserters stopped by patrol under Lieutenant W. W. Tilney.

18th February - Battalion disembarks from S.S. Orcades and is moved to defend the airport at Tjililitan against paratroops. They now form part of Black Force under the command of (newly promoted) Brigadier Blackburn V.C. The force is badly equipped with insufficient weapons and very little ammunition. Each man carried 50 rounds of ammuni­tion and there were only 1000 rounds for each Bren gun. Java Campaign starts.

20th February - Reorganisation of the Battalion to offset loss of transport, stores and weapons. Twelve Bren gun carriers, five assorted armoured cars and ten miscellaneous vehicles became a carrier platoon under Sergeant K. L. Young and an armoured car troop under Captain Henry. Another platoon was formed from bandsmen and tradesmen under Sergeant F. A. Chivers, and a reinforcement draft of 198 men was taken on strength. Other changes : Lieutenant W. I. Summons to Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant G. W. Richards to Liaison Officer, Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter to Supply Officer, Staff Sergeant A. D. Connan to Orderly-Room Sergeant and Sergeant H. Black to Records Sergeant. Sergeant G. H. G. Topfer, Sergeant J. H. Walters, Sergeant A. A. Mitchell and Sergeant C. W. P. Lang were appointed Lieutenants.

21st February - B and C Companies bussed 40 miles south to defend the airport at Semplak (near Buitenzorg) under command of Major E. A. Daly. Heavy rain at Tjililitan.

22nd February - 0930 hours, Semplak attacked for 35 minutes by 27 Japanese Zero fighter planes (1 possibly shot down); resulting in considerable damage (6 Hudson aircraft of No.1 Squadron R.A.A.F. destroyed on the ground, hanger damaged and oil depot gutted). Captain Henry salvaged six Vickers guns, two Browning machine guns and the guns from the wrecked Hudsons and helped R.A.A.F. Warrant Officer (II) Draper to convert them from power to manual control. About one third of the reinforcement draft stated they would not fight and were returned to Australia on one of the last ships to leave.

23rd February - Remaining four aircraft of No. 1 Squadron took off at 1530 hours.

24th February - Some sick troops evacuated to Australia including Major H. M. Joss and Private R. Whitmore. Captain D. D. Guild now O.C. A Company, Lieutenant A. I. Stewart 2.I.C. A Company and 1 Platoon under Sergeant T. M. Croft. Tjililitan bombed and strafed by 27 planes. 8 Platoon (Lieutenant W. W. Tilney) moved to Llewiliang-Buitenzorg road position with two armoured cars (these patrolled 30 miles to the west). Air raid at Kemajoran (civilian airport).

26th February - Main force moved from Tjililitan to Tjampea.

27th February - Semplak airport attacked at 1000 hours by 12 Japanese bombers (about 24 bombs dropped); resulting in considerable damage (2 Dutch aircraft and 1 R.A.A.F. aircraft destroyed on the ground, the landing strip and hangers damaged; no casualties). Semplak Force embussed in heavy rain to Tjampea.

28th February - Defensive positions prepared at Tjampea and Llewiliang. 12 Platoon under Lieutenant J. H. Templeman occupied position to cover bridge at Llewiliang. Lieutenant A. A. Mitchell, Lieutenant G. H. Lamb, Lieutenant C. G. Hamilton and 24 other ranks posted to reserve battalion. Platoon under Lieutenant A. A. Mitchell included Corporal J. B. Dickson, Corporal A. E. Martin and Corporal W. G. Nutt. B and D Companies moved into positions near the Llewiliang bridge. D Company : 10 Platoon under Lieutenant R. G. Houston on right side of road. 12 Platoon under Lieutenant J. H. Templeman on left side of road. 11 Platoon under Lieutenant G. H. G. Topfer in reserve at rear. B Company : 4 Platoon under Lieutenant J. M. Pemberton on the right. 5 Platoon under Lieutenant N. G. H. Tranter on the left. 6 Platoon under Lieutenant F. H. Tubb in reserve.

1st March - Mortar platoon under Sergeant J. P. Hayden formed from Headquarter Company's trademen. 2 Platoon (Anti-aircraft) defended Headquarters. Armoured car patrol under Corporal J. W. Richards reconnoitred roads leading to the rear in preparation for any subsequent withdrawal and camped at Tjimahi. Battalion ordered to move 1500 hours toward Tjampea but this was cancelled and the men returned to Llewiliang by midnight. Party under Sergeant A. W. Gordon recalled from setting up the new camp. Party of Captain A. H. Bishop, Sergeant A. W. Gordon and Sergeant N. L. Smith sent to Bandoeng.

2nd March - Despite the C.O. instructions, Dutch army engineers partially de­molished the bridge at Llewiliang. A and C Companies patrolled continuously to six miles forward of Llewiliang. Armoured car patrol under Lieutenant J. H. Walters sent to investigate report of motor transport with bright headlights heading east but unable to locate. Dutch forces now withdrawn from area with no other troops west of Buitenzorg. Company commanders informed that they could expect no air cover or artillery support at all. Positions were to be held at all costs; survivors of overrun positions were to rally, move back to Bandoeng via Soekaboemi and, if necessary, into the South Java mountains. 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion (without its machine guns) included in defensive positions. 6 Platoon, B Company moved to right of 4 Platoon. Captain C. H. T. Nason changed over 11 Platoon and 12 Platoon. Natives cleared from kampongs and civil telephone lines were cutforward of the Company area. C Company sent patrols forward from Tjampea to find likely river crossingsof 12 miles. Dutch area commander advised C.O. that "As far as I know there are no Japanese on the island; I guarantee that there are no Japanese within 100 miles." Other than Sumatra being occupied, no information of any kind about the enemy or disposition of Dutch troops was made available. Lieutenant W. I. Summons (Battalion Intelligence Officer), seeking information from Dutch Head­quarters, was told the morning newspaper had not yet been delivered.

3rd March - C Company patrols sent out : 7 Platoon under Lieutenant A. F. D. Rodie, 9 Platoon under Lieutenant G. N. Webster and 8 Platoon under Lieutenant W. W. Tilney. At 1150, a Dutch intelligence report relayed the information "no Japanese landings on Java". At 1155, five Japanese light tanks approached the Llewiliang bridge (2 were disabled by anti-tank rifle fire from 10 Platoon and enemy casualties resulted). 7 Platoon, C Company then arrived as B Company reserve (later returned to C Company). Intelligence was so bad that no one knew the Japanese had landed at Banten (north-west Java) on 1st March. Forward positions under mortar fire with enemy attempt to cross river ford 300 yards south of bridge stopped by 5 Platoon, B Company (some enemy killed). Forward positions under mortar fire with enemy attempt to ford river 300 yards south of bridge stopped by 5 Platoon, B Company (some enemy killed). 131st Field Regiment, United States Army fired artillery in support with enemy using heavy mortars and battalion guns. 6 Platoon, B Company under very heavy fire on a hill. 75mm gun moved to defend bridge against tanks after D Com­pany reported enemy was assembling bridge ­repairing materials. Nine casualties (four fatal) during the day. Bren gun carriers under Corporal J. W. Richards attacked on left flank with Private J. H. Little killed. 10 Platoon and 12 Platoon patrolled knee deep in mud and water until dawn.

4th March - 2 (Anti-Aircraft) Platoon sent to destroy small party of enemy on left flank. A Company moved out from Tjampea to prepare counterattack on this flank. Late afternoon orders received from Black Force for entire force to withdraw to Soekaboemi. Lieutenant J. H. Marshall sent with non essential transport. D Company, 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion and B Squadron, 3rd King's Own Hussars acted as rearguard. The order of withdrawal was B Company then D Company via main road to one mile away. C Company to withdraw across country to Tjampea. Contact lost with A Company. The C.O. in an armoured car could not find them. Captain S. J. Handasyde forced to return on foot to Soekaboemi after searching too. Battalion less A Company withdrew by 2100 hours.

5th March - Last vehicle drove into Soekaboemi. Casualties had been heavy, 128 (including 118 officers and men of A Company still missing in action).

8th March - Dutch forces surrender.

9th March - Black Force ordered to cease fighting. Destruction of Allied war materials (ammunition, weapons and transport) by the Battalion.

10th March  - The Nigerstroom arrives at Fremantle, Western Australia.

11th March  - Battalion convoy returned to Arehnem kampong to hand over remaining weapons and ammunition to Force Headquarters for delivery to the Japanese.

12th March   - Battalion moved to Soemadra tea plantation. 788 men present excluding missing A Company (4 officers and 114 other ranks) and 7 killed in action (Headquarters and B Company).

12th March   - The S.S. Sophocles and the Shillong arrive at Fremantle, WA. The three ships contain the transport, ammunition and stores that were so desperately needed in Java. The Pioneer baggage and stores party under Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine (now senior surviving Pioneer officer in Australia) is also aboard. All personnel were disembarked at Adelaide (including equipment) and sent to Sandy Creek Camp.

15th March   - Battalion moved to Leles village marketplace.

26th March   - Advance party of Captain I. A. Campbell, Lieutenant F. M. S. Rossiter, Lieutenant J. H. Walters and 150 other ranks sent to Batavia to set up a camp. Not allowed to make the camp and did not rejoin battalion until 14/05/1942.

30th March   - Another party of Captain A. H. J. Ross and 108 other ranks of Headquarters and A Company sent to Koenigsplein (Batavia suburb), detrained and marched to 10th Battalion (Dutch) barracks (known as Bicycle Camp).

31st March   - Remainder of Battalion marched to Tjibatoe and back when the expected train was unavailable.

13th April   - Remainder of Battalion entrained at Leles to Bicycle Camp, Batavia.

13th April   - Lieutenant F. G. Bellmaine informed that the Battalion would not be reformed (this decision was reversed six weeks later and Major J. T. Lang brought from Darwin to take command). Major H. M. Joss rejoins unit (returned ill to Australia 24/02/1942 from Java).

14th April   - Lieutenant J. Ludlow goes on leave and is posted to another unit.

20th April  - 87 members of A Company now at Soekaboemi Camp, Java.

Early May   - 34 Pioneers arrive in Adelaide aboard the Felix Roussel after having experienced mutiny, arson, assault, attempted murder and wholesale desertion on the 11 week voyage back to Fremantle, WA. Major E. F. Aitken and the second flight of the Pioneer Training Battalion arrived at Adelaide in the same convoy.

10th May   - 42 NCOs at Soekaboemi Camp forced to watch execution of 2 Dutch soldiers accused of attempting to escape (1 bayoneted and 1 decapitated).

26th May   - Lieutenant Colonel J. M. Williams, Captain R. F. H. Winning, Captain S. J. Handasyde and Captain A. H. J. Ross tortured and returned to Battalion 24/06/1942.

17th June - Anniversary of Battalion's attack on Fort Merdjayoun by A and B Companies with 73 killed in action.

20th June   - Major J. T. Lang travels from talks in Melbourne to Sydney and selects Captain N. F. Garrard as adjutant and quartermaster. The decision has already been made that the reformed Battalion would be organised on the normal infantry scale with signals, mortar and carrier platoons. The first draft of five officers (Lieutenant R. Philpots, Lieutenant F. D. Ray, Lieutenant A. F. Knights, Lieutenant S. A. Coles and Lieutenant B. G. Stevenson) and 400 other ranks arrived at Wagga Wagga, NSW. Major E. F. Aitken appointed second in command.

28th June   - First church parade conducted.

29th June   - Training of instructors for 2 weeks commenced at Wagga Wagga Showgrounds (Battalion then moved 4 miles away to Kapooka Camp).

4th July   - Battalion members forced by Japanese to sign document that they would not try to escape.

9th July   - A Company members at Soekaboemi Camp moved by train to Tjimahi and met up with sick men (evacuated from Leles and Bandoeng) and men wounded in action to total 172 Pioneers in camp.

Mid July   - The second large reinforcement draft of 4 officers (Captain W. A. Robertson, Lieutenant R. B. White, Lieutenant J. St. Vincent Welch and Lieutenant R. E. Harris) and 308 other ranks arrive at Kapooka from No.1 Pioneer Training Battalion, Bathurst, NSW. Medical officer Captain V. M. Putland, Major H. E. Tope, Captain C. D. Jackson and 16 N.C.O.s arrived shortly after. Captain D. McKewan given command of Bren gun carrier platoon.

15th July   - Major H. M. Joss, Captain H. J. E. Page and 32 other ranks arrive. All but Captain Page are transferred to Pioneer Training Battalion.

22th July   - Sick men moved to Tjimahi hospital. Remainder moved to Bandoeng to provide working parties.

26th August   - Lieutenant R. W. Allen, Private V. L. J. McCrae and Private S. A. Baade arrived in Bicycle Camp. They had evaded capture in the hills until now.

27th August   - Private A. G. Banfield died in Bicycle Camp.

14th September   - Private A. Tyrrell, Private A. C. Sommerville and Private K. E. Radcliffe moved to Singapore then Borneo (where they died at Sandakan).

Mid September   - Three mile trek at night to a surprise barbecue on the Murrumbidgee River.

30th September   - Battalion marched out of Kapooka Camp in battle order with carriers and loaded trucks to Wagga Wagga Showgrounds for a sports meeting. The Pioneers won by aggregate points.

1st October   - Lieutenant C. J. Mitchell and a small party moved to Changi Camp, Singapore.

6th October   - Prior to departure, rations that could not be transported used in a feast.

7th October   - Personal belongings searched by the Japanese.

8th October   - More than half of the Bicycle Camp inmates entrained to the port of Batavia then embarked on the Japanese hellship Kenkon Maru.

8th October   - All of the reformed Battalion now en route via train to camp at Strawberry Camp (near Mingenew), Western Australia. Strawberry was completely lacking in all amenities. It consisted of a tin shed on the railway station and a few scattered farmhouses. Captain C. D. Jackson transferred from Battalion prior to move. Lieutenant H. L. Liston given command of the new Anti-Tank Platoon.

12th October   - Japanese hellship Kenkon Maru arrives at Singapore.

14th October   - Japanese allowed first cards from P.O.W.s to be sent (none of these made it back home; may have been used by Intelligence and then destroyed). Some were broadcast on Singapore Radio. Japanese hellship Kenkon Maru P.O.W.s with Lieutenant C. J. Mitchell and his party embarked on Japanese hellship Maebashi Maru. A total of 1500 P.O.W.s were aboard when she left port the same day.

14th October  - Party under Captain A. H. Bishop arrived in Changi, Singapore from Bicycle Camp, Java.

Mid October   - A Company with extra drivers attached sent to Morowa to do road construction for one week. Remainder of the unit resumed platoon training. Battalion took part in 2 day "Robber" exercise. Lieutenant W. A. Hood with two detachments of mortars and Lieutenant Drummond and a party were attached to Brigade Headquarters. Lieutenant R. E. Harris and his platoon protected Mingenew. Captain Mitchell, Lieutenant R. B. White, Lieutenant J. B. St. Vincent Welch, Lieutenant F. D. Ray, Lieutenant P. H. Scholz, Lieutenant E. B. Reid, Sergeant H. B. Pountney and Corporal Sutton attended schools. Captain W. Copp seconded to 4th Division and Lieutenant D. Martin seconded to 6th Infantry Brigade. Captain W. A. Dott of 2/5th Dental Unit attached.

23rd October   - Japanese hellship Maebashi Maru arrives at Rangoon, Burma.

24th October   - P.O.W.s transhipped to Yamagata Maru for trip up Salween River to Moulmein, Burma. Ferried ashore by pontoons towed by tugs then marched to Moulmein District Jail.

26th October   - Williams Force (comprising 2/2 Pioneers, H.M.A.S. Perth survivors and R.A.A.F. Lieutenant N. Platt) and Black Force (Captain R. F. H. Winning attached as Adjutant) marched to South Moulmein Station and entrained to Thanbuzayat Base Camp as No.3 Branch Thai War Prisoners Camp. Base camp comprised of large bamboo and attap (palm leaf) huts into which 200 P.O.W.s were squeezed. Execution of 8 members of 2/4 Anti-tank Regiment for escape attempt Tavoy, lower Burma.

27th October   - Williams Force organised into 50 men sub-units called a Kumi and commanded by a Lieutenant called a Kumicho. 2 Kumis were a Han commanded by a Hancho (usually a Captain). All men given small wooden tag marked with their prisoner number to be suspended from the belt.

28th October   - A few sick men left at base camp. Remainder taken by motor transport to 35 Kilo Camp (Tanyin) 35 kilometres away. Williams Force gradually split up over time until unrecognisable by March 1944.

29th October   - Work started on the Burma Railway.

6th November   - Men at Bandoeng moved to Maksuri Camp (near Batavia, Java).

Mid November   - Battalion moves to camp at Bellevue, Perth.

25th December   - Christmas Day was traditional. Battalion exercise in which D Company acted as the enemy in defence.