'Sparrow Force', so named mid-July 1941. 'Lark Force' was destined for Rabaul, 'Gull Force' for Ambon
Upon embarkation from Darwin to Timor on 10th December 1941, unit strengths were...
2/40th Infantry Battalion (766 officers & men)
2/11th Field Company, No.2 Section RAE (46; officer & men)
2/1 Heavy Art. Battery (126 officers & men)
2/1 Fortress Engineers (52 officers & men)
2/1 Fortress Signals (36 officers & men)
23rd Brigade Signals (6 other ranks)
18 Anti-Tank Battery , B Troop (26)
2/12 Field Ambulance (13 officers & men)
75 Light Aid detachment (10 officers & men)
Army Service Corps (36 officers & men)
22nd Army Dental Unit (5; officer & men)
2nd Independent Co. (268 officers & men) landed at Koepang, went on to Portuguese Timor
Many men had already left for Christmas leave home.
79 Light A-A Battery (c.180 officers & men) British later sent from Java in Feb. 1942
Dutch forces at Koepang (188 officers & men)
No.2 Squadron RAAF with 12 Lockheed Hudson Mk II bombers
Reconnaisance of Koepang, Timor carried out in March 1941. Again mid-April.
It was common knowledge that the Japanese would enter the war on the side of the Axis powers.
In April, HQ was considering defence of Darwin from Japanese attack
Sparrow Force comprised of about1,330 men & 70 officers, including 2nd Ind. Coy.
2/40th Infantry Battalion (Tasmania) - recruited July 1, 1940, 23rd Brigade, 8th A.I.F.
CO: Lt.-Col. G.A.D. Youl [replaced Oct 1941 by Lt.-Col. W.W Leggatt]
July 01 Colonel G.A.D. Youl was announced as the proposed commander of 2/40th
July 20 Recruiting drive launched for 2/40th, many transferred from local militia units
Sep Brighton camp, just north of Hobart city
Oct Brighton camp
Nov Brighton camp
Dec Brighton camp
Jan 07 Departed Hobart on the Zealandia at 1845 hours with 33 officers & 817 men, bound for Melbourne
Jan 08 H.M.A.T. Zealandia
Jan 09 Disembarked Zealandia, train to Bonegilla in northern Victoria, near Albury 1700
Feb 14 March through Melbourne streets, to & from by train
fri At Bonegilla, new reinforcements were mostly Victorians, many to ‘C’ Coy.
Feb 28 Friday march through Albury streets
Mar 29 left Bonegilla by train for Adelaide
Mar 30 on train for Adelaide
Mar 31 arrived 0800 hrs
Apr 01 Wayville showgrounds, Adelaide S.A. for one week, training
Apr 08 Left by train for Terowie S.A., where they camped in tents. 10 mile route march
Apr 09 Terowie. Six special trains required
Apr 10-12 Alice Springs. Then left by 30-40 trucks for Darwin. Dusty first, then lots of rain
Apr 13 Barrow Creek
Apr 14 Banka Banka, resumed convoy north, halted at night at No.3 bore
Apr 15 No.3 Bore - left 06.30. Arrived Larrimah 0800, entrained for Katherine
tue Left 1000 hrs, arrived 1430. Tennant Creek?
Apr 16 Katherine, 1st group
Apr 20 Katherine, 700 of 2/40th there.
No swimming in river (crocodiles), local plonk warning,
No fraternising with aboriginals; leprosy and VD problems
Apr 25 Katherine for Anzac Day, sports day afternoon
Reconnaissance undertaken of surrounding areas, to Qld. in east & W.A. to west
May 01 Katherine, continuing preparation of new camp site
May Reconnaisance to Timor by Lt.-Col. Youl
end May Still staying at Katherine
Advance party to Koepang, supplies & setup for battery & Ops.
[Jun-Dec] Outside Darwin, working like ‘navvies’ on roads, bridges, &c.
Jun 02 Draft reinforcements, 78 taken on charge, many from Victoria
Jun 04 One company moved north to Darwin vicinity, for new camp site
Jun 07 Another company left for Adelaide River
Jun 14 C Coy. left for new camp at 28 mile (Noonamah, 28 mile, Adelaide River)
Jun 16 HQ Coy left for new camp site at 2015 hrs.
Jun 20 Training, defence of airdrome from paratroop drop
Jun 21 HQ & 1st Reinforcements, Katherine to Noonamah (28 miles south of Darwin)
Jun 22 Noonamah, N.T. HQ established. Others followed
Jun 23 New camp construction commenced at Noonamah, the 28 mile
Jun 24 Camp construction continued
Jun 25 Camp construction continued
Jun 26 Camp construction continued
Jun 27 Recce of Batchelor aerodrome. Camp construction continued
Jun 28 Camp construction continued
Jun 29 Camp construction continued
Jun 30 Camp construction continued
Jul 01 Camp construction, Noonamah, Darwin defence alert exercise
Jul 02 Camp construction continued to 8th August
Jul 12 HQ Coy. MG Carrier & mortar practice in attack
Jul 14 HQ Coy. firing range, carrier & mortar practice
Jul 15 B Coy, company in attack exercise on live firing range
Jul 16 A Coy, company in attack exercise on live firing range
Jul 18 Recce of Btn. alert, Darwin attack position
Jul 19 Recce of Btn. alert, Darwin attack position
Jul 21 Rehearsal for review by Governor General, Lord Gowrie at Winnellie
Jul 22 Rehearsal for review by Governor General, Lord Gowrie at Winnellie
Jul 23 Preparation for march through Darwin on 24 July
Jul 24 March through Darwin, salute taken by G.G. & C.in.Chief, Lord Gowrie
Jul 28 D Coy. firing range practice, Coy. attack exercise
Aug 01 Btn. in defence & attack exercise. Exercises repelling Japanese landings
Aug 04 Alert position in defence of Darwin issued
Aug 05 Darwin defence instructions issued.
August Mostly training. Riots in Darwin, leave in town was banned
Sep Mostly training
Oct Mostly training
Oct 06-12 Further recce of Timor carried out by Youl and company commanders of 2/40th with Maj. Wilson (2/1 Heavy Batt.), Capt. Hamilton (2/1 Fortress Sig.),
Capt. Ransom (2/1 Fortress Eng.), Capt. Read (Service Corps). Sparrow Force was to defend airfields and delay Japanese advance.
Lt.-Col. Veale was given command over whole Sparrow Force.
Nov 07 Lt.-Col. Youl replaced by Lt.-Col. Leggatt after Youl complained of deployment
Nov 19 Tactical Exercise no.10, 2/11th Field Coy. involved too
Dec 07 Flight of Hudson bombers from No.2 Squadron flew to Ambon
Dec 08 Logged on record as end of service in Darwin theatre.
Dec 10 For 2 days, crowded ships at wharf while being loaded by wharfies (go slow!)
wed 2/2 Ind. Co. arrived at wharf, direct from train to Darwin, onto ‘Zealandia’
Embarked Darwin on Zealandia and Westralia (B Coy. with 2nd Ind. Coy, other units)
Unionists sabotaged & pilfered stores by rough handling; radio equipment and vital store unserviceable, contributing to some of the failures in Timor.
Westralia faster, Zealandia speed 8 knots, shuddered at full speed 12 knots.
Dec 12 Arrived at Koepang, Jap submarine nearby was bombed but likely escaped
fri Only one coral stone jetty at Usapa Besar. Unloading stores continued to Dec 14
Troops disembarked by 1.30pm. Tom Uren cut foot wading ashore. Main party to Penfui airfield, 3k inland from Usapa Besar, 13k by road from
Koepang. Fixed defence troops sent to Klapalima, 5km east of Koepang, gun positions.
Dec 14 Unloading of ships completed at mid-day. 2nd Ind. Coy. to protect airfield at Atambua in Portuguese East Timor.
Dec 15 Units started digging in at locations, around Koepang, Usapa Besar, Penfui. C Coy. of 2/40th entrenched at Penfui with 2/11 Fd. Coy. Coral stone tarmac.
Dec 16 At 8am, 115 men of 2nd Ind. Coy. went by Surabaya to Dili with 260 Netherlands East Indies troops, escorted by Hudson bombers.
The remainder of 2nd Ind. Coy. follow on Canopus after it returned from Dili.
late Dec Men of 2/11 Field Coy. started digging deep latrines as dysentery & diarrhoea became rife due to unsanitary conditions. Dutch did not prepare as promised.
2/40th A & B Coy. to beach defence between Koepang & Usapa-Besar.
2/40th C Coy. at Penfui airfield; 2/40th D Coy. (Capt. Trevena) as mobile reserve. Dutch forces to defend Koepang to Tenau
Dec 26 Work resumed in beach defences (A & B Coy.)
Dec 27 2/11th started mining Penfui airfield for demolition
Dec 28 Defensive positions being improved, intelligence summary presented
Dec 29 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Dec 30 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Dec 31 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Jan 01 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Jan 02 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Jan 03 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Jan 04 Heavy rain, roads boggy
Jan 05 Dysentery rampant with the wet weather and poor sanitation. There were 5 medical officers with Sparrow Force, 1 of whom was with 2nd Ind. Coy.
Also Dutch doctor, Henri Hekking, resident in Koepang.
Jan 06 Malaria too, with the wet season and mosquitoes
Jan 07 Cuts & scratches turned into tropical ulcers as clothing was inadequate. D Coy mobile reserve moved to Babao.
Jan 08 Continued movement of stores to base
Jan 09 LAD moved out to Babao. Heavy rain continued
Jan 10 Weather fine & warm, construction continuing
Jan 11 R.C. church parade
Jan 12 Weather fine and hot
Jan 13 Penfui inspection, work still insufficient (demolitions & defences)
Jan 14 Intruders in ammo dump, sentries fired on them
Jan 15 US squadron incl. USS Marblehead & USS Boise arrived, 6-in. Mk XI guns proofed
Jan 16 US ships left
Jan 19 Koolama arrived Koepang w/ 218 reinforcements & leave returnees, also to 2/2nd
Jan 20 Lockheed Hudson stalled on take-off and crashed at Penfui.
Jan 22 Bantam & Swan from Ambon arrive at Koepang with more military equipment
Jan 23 Some US aircraft arrived Penfui en route to Java. 55 2/2nd reinforcements to Dili
Jan 24 Mail & parcels coming in by plane
Jan 25 About.18 US Kittyhawks landed at Penfui en route to Java, Jap recce planes seen
Jan 26 7 Jap Zeros attacked Penfui airfield, damaged 2 planes
Jan 27 Jap aircraft attacks every few days
Jan 30 42 Jap air attacked Penfui & Mina River dispersal fields, destroying Hudson at each field, shot down Qantas flying boat over the sea & unarmed Dutch seaplane
Jan 31 Japanese attacked Ambon
Feb 01 Jap aircraft strafing, bombing & recce almost daily
Feb 02 In attacks, one member of 2/11 working on hangar had ‘Australia’ badge shot off
Feb 04 Jap aircraft attacked shipping in Keopang Bay, Kittyhawks staged through Penfui
Feb 08 Jap aircraft attacked 3 cargo ships & 3 Dutch seaplanes off Roti Island
Feb 09 9 Kittyhawks & 3 Dauntless dive-bombers left Darwin for Penfui, shot up by small arms fire all along the beach. One Dauntless damaged, all Kittyhawks lost.
Feb 10 Most of Kittyhawk pilots rescued from crashed aircraft by Dutch, but one died. Jap parachute seen near Tjamplong, communications later cut by this Jap
Feb 12 Veale & Cape arrived, left for Tjamplong; US Lt.Col Phillips, 148th Artillery Regt. too?
Feb 13 Jap parachute seen near Tjamplong, communications later intercepted by a Japanese.
Feb 14 Hudson took off from Penfui, hit by lightning & crashed at Liliba
Feb 15 Reinforcements for Timor left Darwin, attacked, returned as they had no air cover. Japs started dropping propaganda leaflets on the Timorese. Singapore fell.
Feb 16 British 79th Light A-A arrived from Java on Bang Hong Leone, unloaded at Tenau. Jap bombers flew over Koepang en route to Darwin to bomb reinforcing convoy
Feb 18 6 RAAF Hudsons sent to evacuate US personnel & most RAAF men, left on 19th at2 am.
Feb 19 After midnight. Japanese invade Dutch Timor. Also bombed Darwin with 188 planes. 13 Jap ships sighted from Semau Island just before dusk, headed south-west.
Feb 20 2am, 5,000 Japs landed at Paha River on south coast. Koepang & Penfui attacked, Jap paratroops landed 5 miles NE of Babau, cutting road to Tjamplong.
fri Jap marines to Usau to link up with paratroops. Penfui airfield ordered destroyed. Jap bombers attacked guns at Klapalima in 2 raids, guns destroyed by gunners on their
retreat eastwards to Penfui. CO Maj. Wilson killed. Planes all day. c.500 Jap naval paratroops landed as Penfui field, fuel & ammo dump was destroyed by sappers of 2/11th.
Feb 21 Dutch forces decamped, did not want to fight the Japs who refused a truce talk. Rearguard action east towards Babau, 2/11th blew bridge over Manikin River.
sat C Coy advanced to Obelo & Babau. British A-A crews shot down 12+ Jap aircraft. Another 300+ paras landed 8km west of Babau, cutting road to HQ Champlong,
one or two transports with paratroops shot down by British Bofors. Babao was retaken. More planes shot down too. Japanese forces from the coast catch up behind column.
Feb 22 Attack on Usau under heavy fire, attempts all days failed to dislodge Jap paras & marines. 2/11 Field Engineers cleared road block, 2/1st fought alongside 2/40th infantry.
sun After dusk, the ridge was taken and the villages followed. Mortars killed most of the enemy behind the ridge, over 800 Japs. A few survivors ran away, most out of ammunition.
Feb 23 After night at Irekum, Leggatt moved east towards Champlong HQ. Column of Jap tanks & artillery at rear of column with white flag! Japs surrender? No, 'you put down!'
mon Told there were 20,000+ Japanese, armour, total air control. More forces coming up from Koepang. Force nearly out of ammunition, no water, food, no sleep for 3 days,
wounded at the rear, unsure whether Champlong HQ was in enemy hands. Officers went back to men to ask surrender? Some said ‘No’ and took to the hills.
A sub-section of 2/11 Fd. Coy. at Champlong continued to destroy bridges, preventing the Japaness from occupying all of Dutch Timor for about 6 weeks.
Force surrendered at 8.30am. Japanese were disarming the Force when they were bombed twice by their own planes, causing many more casualties, nearly all Japanese.
Feb 24 906 of Sparrow force & 184 British p-o-w’s at Airkom. 84 kia vs. 800+ Japanese paratroops & marines. Capt. Gillies (doctor, 2/11 heavy battery) wrote Usapa Besar as on Tuesday
Feb 25 Marched back to Usapa Besar as p-o-w's.
Feb 26 Behind their own barbed wire defences, as p-o-w's at Usapa Besar, 6 miles east of Koepang on coast.
Mar 6 3am, Penfui bombed by allies. Most Hudson and allied attacks at night, the Japanese did not fly at night.
Mar-Sep Interned at Usapa Besar p-o-w camp, constructed by 2/1st Fortress Engineers and 2/11 Fd. Coy. Engineers. Men did work in Kupang, at the wharf, driving trucks, growing vegetables.
late Sep Final draft of p-o-w’s left Usapa Besar for Java on Dainichi Maru (27 or 28th Sept.)
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