Gemas - Stories



Introduction Training War Prisoner of War Return to Australia


War | Malaya | Singapore | Service with other Units | Battalion Movements | Order of Battle

Arrived 1030hrs 12/1/1942
Departed 1530hrs 15/1/1942

1) Unselfish courage

NX47685 - WELLS, Robert Frederick, Pte., D Coy, 18 Pl.

"Forever imprinted on my mind is the incredible bravery displayed by Bob Wells when he stormed back to the carnage that was the clearing at Gemas to carry back a mortally wounded platoon mate. There were many feats of unselfish courage on that 15/1/42, but Bob's effort was, to me, just about as high as a man can go." D Company, 18 Platoon - casualties at Gemas

(Source: Jack Carey - Makan No. 215, May/June, 1974)

2) Missing

NX55663 - HYEM, Alfred George, Pte., BHQ, Intell.

"An original member of the Intelligence Section of B.H.Q., Alf was posted missing at Gemas and fears were held for his safety. However, he had managed to join up with an English Unit and he returned to the Battalion at the Causeway. Poor health during P.O.W. days kept him off work parties and he remained at Changi."

(Source: Last Post - Makan No. 215, May/June, 1974)

3) Getting the truck out

NX47566 - PEARCE, Thomas Francis, Pte., HQ, Tpt.
NX27012 - SCHOFIELD, Phillip Alfred, WO2., C Coy, CSM.

"At Gemas 'C' Company had left, in rather a hurry, with the Japs on our heels, and when we got out we found that we had left our truck behind and Phil, as I say, broke the cardinal rule: he volunteered for duty, to get that truck out and he and Tom Pearce, bless his memory, went back to get the truck out from amongst the Japs and they got it out; drove it along the road, but the Japs sent along an anti-tank shell, which killed Tom Pearce instantly; Phil eased him out of the driving position and continued to drive the truck along. Another shell came along. Phil was wearing the issue water bottle and it hit the water bottle. I saw the water bottle afterwards and there was a profound dent in it. No doubt, if it had not been for that water bottle, Phil would not be here today. I sometimes think that that is one of the reasons that Phil has such a profound respect for water as a beverage, never to be taken on its own but always in the company of 'Bond 7'."

(Source: Arch Thorburn - Makan No. 229, Aug/Sept, 1976)

4) Picking up a couple of chaps

NX34082 - SMITH, Derek John, Pte., A Coy, 8 Pl.

"Do you remember at Gemas, stopping in the truck you were driving and picking up a couple of chaps carrying a stretcher case. I was one of them, but I forget, who was on the other end. The driver, Tom Pearce, had stopped a shell and you had to drive."

(Source: Derek Smith letter to Phil Schofield- Makan No. 231, Dec, 1976)

5) Tearing his shirt

NX26230 - FORD, Bruce Victor, A/U/L/Sgt., D Coy, 16 Pl.
NX12519 - MORRISON, Robert Harold Ker, Capt., D Coy, O/C.

The Tamworth Reunion (1981) certainly was a time for reminiscing. In Bruce Ford's case he unburdened himself to Bob Morrison, saying that he had never forgiven Bob for tearing his shirt at Gemas. Bob had seen that Bruce couldn't carry his rifle, woke up to the fact that Bruce was wounded and tore his shirt, so as to fix the wound until Bruce might reach the R.A.P., but Bruce had bought that shirt not so very long before and did not like to see it go west so easily.

(Source: Bob Morrison - Makan No. 261, May/June, 1981)

6) Wounded skipper

NX34711 - MELVILLE, William Sydney (Billy (The Pig)), Lt. Col. - D Company, O/C D Coy. Platoon, WiA Gemas, MiD Rep 10/2/1942

"...with Captain MELVILLE waiting with his Company, behind the start line, whilst the artillerymen did their piece, then the Platoon Commanders' 'Good Luck' calls to their men, as zero hour arrived for the attack on the Japanese position and the enemy's furious response, which brought a severe wound to our skipper, thus ending his involvement in the Malayan Campaign."

(Source: Harry Griffis - Makan No. 264, Jan/March, 1982)

7) We will all go home

NX54837 - BLACKWOOD, Lindsey Burns (Dicey), L/Cpl. - A Company, 8 Platoon
NX54846 - ARNEIL, Stanley Foch (Horse or Stan), Sgt. - A Company, 8 Platoon

"On the morning of 15th January 1942, we were lying on the ground waiting for the Japanese to attack. I do not recall any semblance of fear of the immediate future in any person - that came a few days later, when we realised just what war meant. I was behind a tree, talking to my schoolboy friend, Dicey Blackwood, who was also sheltering behind a rubber tree a few yards away. Dicey and I had grown up together in a small town. He was, like me, six feet six inches in height and of the same build. We were marvelling at the rain of latex, which was dropping from the trees like milk as the Japanese machine gun bullets chattered through the rubber. We were talking of our experience the previous night when we had been blooded by our first encounter with the Japanese. Dicey said, "You know, some day this war will be over and we will all go home! Everything passes" he said "and one day it will even be 1950 instead of 1942!" It was an impossible thought to me that some day we would wake up in the year 1950 - it seemed then to be centuries ahead. Dicey Blackwood turned his face to me, laughing at my obvious consternation at the thought of the long tunnel of time required to reach 1950. He said, "One day!" and at that moment died from a machine gun burst in the head. Dicey Blackwood never saw 1950, nor did over 300 of our friends."

(Source: Stan Arneil - Makan No. 200, March/April, 1972)

8) Patrol along the railway line

NX36285 - GARNER, Donald Francis (Don/Afghan), A/U/WO2 - B Company, Coy. HQ
NX25741 - HANN, Ian Grant (Horny), L/Cpl. - B Company, 11 Platoon
NX37430 - NOBLE, Joseph Andrew (Joe), Pte. - B Company, 12 Platoon

"Hearing a considerable amount of firing in the direction of the main road and the Battalion position, Capt. Duffy halted the party and sent a small patrol along the railway line, more"

(Source: Makan No. 259, Jan/Feb, 1981)

9) They were always happy

NX54837 - BLACKWOOD, Lindsey Burns (Dicey), L/Cpl. - A Company, 8 Platoon
NX47566 - PEARCE, Thomas Francis (Tom), Pte. - HQ Company, Transport Platoon

"They were all good fellows and their little faults sink into nothingness now. When one sits and thinks back to those years, little pictures fall down into one's mind - Dicey Blackwood roaring a battle cry as he used his bayonet in the road above Gemas, the night before the main fight - big, jovial Tommy Pearce, lying on the road behind Gemas, with a bullet in his back. They were always happy and would want us to be too"

(Source: Stan Arneil - Makan No. 12, Nov, 1947)

10) First encounter with Japanese tanks

NX36524 - CHARLESWORTH, Athol McNeil, Pte. - D Company, 16 Platoon
NX36567 - PARFREY, George Edward , Pte. - D Company, 16 Platoon
NX36521 - PERRY, Leslie George (Les), Pte. - D Company, 16 Platoon
NX945 - TAYLOR, Charles Edward (Charlie), Pte. - D Company, 16 Platoon

In this letter to his grandmother, Mrs. Clarke of Narrandera, Pte. Leslie Perry tells her of the A.I.F.'s first encounter with Japanese tanks.

"The happenings that afternoon will stay in our minds for all time. For, instead of running away from bullets, we literally ran into them. Our company commander called us all together, and said, "Well, boys, we are going to attack the Japs. Travel as lightly as possible."

To get to the Japs' position in the trees we had to move over four hundred yards of open ground. And as soon as we left our position in the trees three Jap planes swooped down on us from apparently nowhere and commenced machine-gunning us. At the same time the Japs opened fire from their concealed position with machine guns, rifles, and mortar bombs.

Under this hell of fire we at once dived flat on the ground, as it didn't seem possible for any human being to escape the blazing fury. A barbed wire fence near us was ringing backwards and forwards from the bullets. But our skipper sang out, "On you feet men; we must take their position." I, like all the others, expected a bullet at any period, but I had only one thing in mind - to reach the trees and kill every Jap I saw.

When we did eventually reach the trees we split up in parties, and Athol, George Parfrey, and myself with five or six others rushed through high grass to find several Japs in hiding. Athol turned his Bren machine-gun on them, and, under our supporting fire with rifles, made several get up and run for their lives.

A cobber of ours, Charlie Taylor, from Bourke, looked up in the air in time to shoot a grinning Jap from out of the trees, as he was firing all around us. We then heard the command, "Retreat" yelled out. We could not understand it, as it looked like the Japs being well licked. George Parfrey had his blood properly up, and rushed right forward, and it took a good while to persuade him that everybody was retreating.

We soon found out the answer when we found the other boys. While the boys were attacking on the right flank, huge tanks had rushed out of the trees while we were luckily attacking on the left. Nobody gave a thought that tanks would be used in this country. It was a terrific blow to be stopped by such means, but all the more heartbreaking to us was the fact that throughout the operations we never saw one of our own planes in the air.

On reaching headquarters another painful blow was in store for us. Our trucks had been blown up, and we were forced to walk endless miles through the jungle before taking up another position. Athol and I are now curled up in a trench listening to the bombers flying over. Waves and waves of them flying practically on the tree-tops, and we can't do anything to stop them.

Just got to lie still an pray that the bombs land a good way off. The one that has landed closest to us has been twenty yards away, and even that made the ground around us tremble, but it is all experience, and we can take it. But we hope that Britain and America do not let us take it in vain, but send every spare plane they get their hands on."

(Source: The Australian Women's Weekly [Microform], National Library of Australia, mfm N 15, 1942 reel (April4, 1942))

11) Laden with gear

NX67315 - DUNCOMBE, Raymond Stewart (Ray), Pte. HQ Company, Signals Platoon
NX31528 - JOHNSON, Allan Alfred (Ack Ack), Pte. - HQ Company, Signals Platoon

"We only knew him as "Ack Ack". Ray Duncombe added the information, "at Gemas he got me up behind him on his Motor cycle, when we were coming out, because I was laden with so much gear."

(Source: Ray Duncombe, Makan No. 258, Dec, 1980)

12) Bomb blast

NX67315 - DUNCOMBE, Raymond Stewart (Ray), Pte. HQ Company, Signals Platoon
NX51308 - DUPREZ, Hamilton Adair (Harry or Dadda), WO2 - D Company, CSM
NX32334 - SURTEES, Robert Edward James (Bob), L/Sgt. - C Company, Ord. Room
NX51514 - RUTHERFORD, James Alexander (Jim), Capt. - 2/20 Bn.

"Ray says that he was possibly one of the first to get bomb blast. It made him numb down the right side, but the effects did not come to him until about four hours afterwards, after the Bn. had moved back out of Gemas. At that stage he had begun to shiver and 'Dadda' Duprez told Ray to wrap a blanket around himself, and he was sent back to the A.D.S. Ray was sent to Base, where he, and Bob Surtees tackled the orderly room work, with Jim Rutherford as O.C. Company. When a draft was being formed to go up to the front, Bob & Ray put themselves on it, but all the others were reinforcements."

(Source: Ray Duncombe, Makan No. 263, Oct/Dec, 1981)

13) Saved his life in the Malay jungle

NX70435 - ANDERSON, Roderic Henry (Rod), Maj. - A Company, O/C
NX50687 - HARDMAN, John Kethel (Curly), Pte. - HQ Company, Transport Platoon
NX34711 - MELVILLE, William Sydney (Billy (The Pig)), Lt. Col. - D Company, O/C

"An instructing solicitor in Central Court today identified a defendant as the man, who in 1941 saved his life in the Malay jungle.

Defendant was John Kethel Hardman, 35, salesman, who pleaded guilty to driving in Crown Street, on March 30th under the influence of intoxicating liquor and was fined £5. by Mr. Harris SM.

Giving evidence of Hardman's good character, Roderic Henry Anderson, Company Director, of O'connor Street, Greenwich Point, formerly a Company Commander of the 2/30 Battalion told the Court of Hardman's exploits in a fierce engagement on (?? December 18th, 1941??) was this date meant for 15 Jan when his company was ambushed by Japanese.

During the engagement he decided to salvage some shot-up vehicles and Hardman, his personal driver, was instrumental in saving most of them and then saved some wounded by driving them out under fire, in a sidecar.

"A man, whose life he saved by that action is sitting in court," said Mr. Anderson.

Mr. W.S. Melville (instructing Solicitor for Hardman) rose to his feet and said: "He certainly did".

Mr. Harris said Hardman was only one of a number of persons, of excellent character and with good driving records, who were being charged with the offence. Hardman gave notice of appeal."

(Source: Unknown Newspaper, approx. 1978)

14) Drove trucks out

NX50687 - HARDMAN, John Kethel (Curly), Pte. - HQ Company, Transport Platoon
NX30221 - HOWARD, Cecil Charles (Cec), Pte. - HQ Company, Mortar Platoon
NX47566 - PEARCE, Thomas Francis (Tom ), Pte. - HQ Company, Transport Platoon
NX27012 - SCHOFIELD, Phillip Alfred (Schoey), WO2 - C Company, CSM
NX47542 - SMALL, Mervyn Lindsay (Jimmy), Pte. - C Company, 15 Platoon

Your scribe heard only the other day that it was Cec. HOWARD, who drove the Mortar Truck out from Gemas. Jimmy SMALL drove out one of the C Company Trucks and Phil SCHOFIELD took over from Tom PEARCE, when Tom was killed on another C Company Truck, and "Curly" HARDMAN drove out "Black Jack's" car.

Can anybody remember if other trucks were driven out by anyone other then the usual Transport Platoon Driver, or if someone of the regulars rescued other than their own trucks?

(Source: Alex Dandie, Makan No. 260, Mar/Apr, 1981)

15) Wounded at Gemas

NX31064 - AMBROSE, Richard Robert James (Jimmy or Bluey), Cpl. - B Company, 12 Platoon
NX26332 - SYLVESTER, Walter Hackshall (Tiger), Pte. - B Company, 12 Platoon

"I found it very interesting, especially the mention of Cpl. Ambrose. It was Cpl. Ambrose who carried me back to the Battalion, after I was wounded at Gemas. After reading Johnís Diary, I realised how fortunate I was to have been wounded and able to leave Singapore before the surrender. Many thanks for your, kind efforts, ''Tiger" Sylvester. (Tiger was repatriated from 13 A.G.H. on 10/2/42.)

(Source: Tiger Sylvester - Makan No. 262, July/Sept, 1981)

16) Withdrawal from Gemas

NX70416 - GALLEGHAN (Sir), Frederick Gallagher (Black Jack), Brig. - BHQ. CO. 2/30 Bn.
NX67447 - PURDON, Arthur Henry Maitland, WO1 - BHQ, RSM

NX34999 - RAMSAY, George Ernest (Gentleman George), Lt. Col. - BHQ, CO. 1942
NX12542 - TOMPSON, Richard Clive (Dick), Capt. - HQ Coy. O/C Carrier

On 15 January 1942, that day after the forward Company, took part in the first encounter by the Battalion against the enemy, with the ambush at the bridge over the Sungei Gemencheh, and it became apparent that the Japs were in strength, supported by tanks, which had not been foreseen, so soon after the bridge had been blown, it had been agreed that the Battalion would fall back at dusk, according to original planning, to a position at Gemas Bahru Estate, a Rubber Plantation on the east side of the Gemas River.

To this end Major Ramsay left in order to carry out a preliminary reconnaissance, at approx. 12.20 pm, and, owing to the reduced numbers in the "I" Section, he had none of them with him for his assistance.

His instructions had required him to proceed to the Estate carry out the "recce" of the area, and meet "B.J." at the bridge over the Gemas River after dark.

However, before he had done nothing much more than checking on buildings on the Estate, against 5th columnists, Maj. Ramsay became aware that Battalion vehicles were moving back along the Highway, well ahead of scheduled timing. He found out that the Battalion was pulling back; and that vehicles had been ordered south of Gemas town, but his first contacts could not tell him where the Troops were, nor where they were heading.

He had to find out where they were to rendezvous, and to contact the C.O. so he had Captain Tompson, O.C. Carriers, put spare personnel out of his carrier and drive him back along the road towards the Gemas Battlefield.

He learnt from W.O. Arthur Purdon, that he was with the last of the vehicles; that all troops had withdrawn; that the C.O. was marching with the Troops, so he desisted from going any further. On the return trip to Gemas Bahru Bridge a Despatch Rider from Brigade Headquarters was intercepted; the order, which he carried, was for the withdrawal of the 2/30 Bn to Fort Rose Estate, in rear of Gemas Town, and where the 2/26 Bn was in position.

(Source: Makan No. 256, Oct., 1980)

17) Tearing his shirt

NX12519 - MORRISON, Robert Harold Ker, Capt., D Coy, O/C.

Bob Morrison has commented that after Gemas he didn't have any senior N.C.O.s left; there might have been a L/Cpl or two. It would have been an indication that the Section Leaders really got into their job, urging the men on and showing them an example, and those, who were wounded, must have been picked out by the Jap snipers for that very reason.

(Source: Bob Morrison - Makan No. 261, May/June, 1981)

18) Missing in action

NX56869 - BLANSHARD, Douglas Copeland (Doug), Sgt. - A Company, 8 Platoon
NX47483 - BROWN, Harry Robert, Pte. - A Company, 8 Platoon

Way back in í42 Harry was almost the first casualty of A. Coy. He was cut off from young Blanshardís section when they were ambushed by the Nips on the afternoon of the 14th January, at Gemas. Harry bobbed up the next morning slightly the worse for wear but all in one piece.

(Source: Makan No. 42, 1/5/1950)

I remember so clearly the return of Blanchard's Section across the clearing at Gemas on 14th January. One man was missing and the section was all tingled up with its first action. Harry Brown was missing, believed killed. He turned up the next morning. He was a happy-go-lucky soldier if ever there was one. He was a bush boy, resourceful as any, and happy. He laughed his way through the action and through the later years. Everybody liked Harry. He liked everybody.

(Source: Makan No. 169, March, 1966)

19) Carried to safety

NX2848 - McINTOSH, James Gordon (Jim), Pte. - A Company, 7 Platoon
NX54762 - PHILLIPS, John Emlyn (Taffy), Pte. - A Company, 7 Platoon

Kevin Ward remembers that it was Taffy, who carried Jim McIntosh to safety at Gemas, when Jim was wounded on 15th January, 1942.

(Source: Makan No. 254 May/Jun, 1980 (May/Jul, 1980))


Last updated 12/02/2014