Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Series One: Army

Volume 4

The Japanese Thrust

by Lionel Wigmore

Australian War Memorial



The writers of these volumes have been given full access to official documents, but they and the general editor are alone responsible for the statements and opinions which the volumes contain.

Table of Contents


List of Events from 1931 to 20 May 1942

Part I: The Road to War

Chapter 1: The Japanese Dilemma

Chapter 2: Australia’s Problem

Chapter 3: Plans and Preparations

Chapter 4: To Malaya

Chapter 5: The Malayan Scene

Chapter 6: Awaiting the First Blow

Part II: South-East Asia Conquered

Chapter 7: Widespread Onslaught

Chapter 8: Invasion of Malaya

Chapter 9: Crumbling Resistance

Chapter 10: Mounting Disasters

Chapter 11: Australians Into Battle: The Ambush at Gemas

Chapter 12: The Battle of Muar

Chapter 13: To Singapore Island

Chapter 14: Naked Island

Chapter 15: Defence of Western Area

Chapter 16: Struggle for Singapore

Chapter 17: Cease Fire

Chapter 18: Rabaul and the Forward Observation Line

Chapter 19: The Loss of Ambon

Chapter 20: The Destination of I Australian Corps

Chapter 21: Resistance in Timor

Chapter 22: The End in Java

Part III: Prisoners of the Japanese

Chapter 23: Changi, Bicycle Camp, and Other Main Centres

Chapter 24: The Burma–Thailand Railway

Chapter 25: Camps in Borneo, Japan and Elsewhere


Appendix 1: Australians in Mission 204

Appendix 2: “ABDACOM” Directive to Supreme Commander, Dated 3rd January 1942

Appendix 3: General Bennett’s escape

Appendix 4: Ordeal on New Britain

Appendix 5: Future Employment of AIF: General Sturdee’s paper of 15th February 1942

Appendix 6: Central Army Records Office and the Prisoners of the Japanese

Appendix 7: Books by Australian Prisoners of the Japanese

Appendix 8: Abbreviations



The Singapore waterfront – The Queen Mary in the Singapore graving dock – Lieut-General C. G. N. Miles and Brigadiers C. A. Callaghan and H. B. Taylor – Lieut-Colonel D. S. Maxwell and Major R. F. Oakes – The arrival of the 22nd Brigade at Singapore – Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham and General Sir Archibald Wavell – Lieut-General A. E. Percival and Major-General H. Gordon Bennett – Australians on a route march in Malaya – A cricket match between 27th Brigade teams – Australian troops moving through jungle – Mail delivery in Malaya – The camouflaged headquarters of the 8th Division in a rubber estate – A naval craft negotiating a river boom – Manhandling an anti-tank gun during training – A forward Australian patrol – Rice distribution in Malaya – Indian sappers preparing a bridge for demolition – Gemencheh bridge – The tank trap in the 2/30th Battalian area forward of Gemas – Laying an Australian 25-pounder field gun – Stretcher bearers attending a wounded Australian – The Muar ferry crossing – A 2-pounder of the 2/4th Anti-Tank Regiment in action near Bakri – Knocked-out Japanese tanks near Bakri – The crew of an anti-tank gun – The Parit Sulong bridge – The but at Parit Sulong into which the Japanese forced wounded prisoners – Lieut-Colonel C. G. W. Anderson – The Simpang Rengam crossroads – The mouth of the Sungei Mersing – The Mersing bridge – Demolitions in Malaya – ARP workers in Singapore – The Causeway, linking Johore Bahru and Singapore Island – The bombing of Singapore Island – Mandai road – Choa Chu Kang road – Air raid casualties in Singapore – Smoke from the naval base overshadows Singapore – Simpson Harbour, New Britain – Mount Nona, Ambon Island – Laha airfield, Ambon Island – Plains in the Usau district, Dutch Timor – Usau ridge – Lieut-General V. A. H. Sturdee and Major-General H. ter Poorten – Men of the 2/2nd Independent Company in Timor – Checking positions on a map in the Tjampea area, Java – HMT Orcades at Batavia – The Changi area – The move to Selarang Barracks Square – Rice distribution, Changi – A 50-metre hut, Changi – News reception at Changi – Forms of rail and river transport – The Burma–Thailand railway and the main road – Australian officers’ mess, Alepauk – The audience at a camp theatre on the Burma–Thailand railway – Mess parade at a camp on the Burma–Thailand railway – Pile-driving on the Burma–Thailand railway – Railway “workers” – A bridge, south of Thanbyuzayat, after attacks by RAF Liberators – A better type of jungle camp – Cholera hospital, Hintok – A Japanese questionnaire circulated to prisoners of war in Korea – The camp hospital at Bakli Bay, Hainan Island – Leaflet dropped over Changi, 28th August 1945 – The entrance to Changi Gaol – Released prisoners of war embark on a hospital ship – Survivors from Ambon on board a corvette


The Far Eastern theatre – Area of deliberations Singapore conference, October 1940 – Malaya – Location of forces, Malaya, 8th December 1941 – The Japanese objectives – Japan’s opening moves in Malaya – The withdrawal across the Perak – The attack on Hong Kong – Japanese landings in the Philippines – Western Johore, 25th January 1942 – The Japanese conquest of Malaya – Dispositions Singapore Island, 7th February 1942 – Western front, Singapore Island, 7 p.m. 10th February – The Japanese advance through the Indies and to Rabaul

Sketch Maps

The Philippines in danger zone – AIF locations, Malaya, December 1941 – Kota Bharu, 8th December – The fall of Jitra – The invasion of Borneo – The Japanese advance to Slim River – Kuantan – The ABDA and Anzac Areas – Perak to Johore – The Westforce front, 14th January 1942 – The 2/30th Battalion dispositions, Gemas, 14th January – Bakri, 8 a.m. 19th January – The withdrawal from Bakri – Mersing-Endau area – Ayer Hitam, 24th–25th January – Nithsdale Estate, 26th–27th January – Namazie Estate, 7 a.m. 28th January – Ayer Bemban, 29th January – Dispositions, 22nd Brigade, 10 p.m. 8th February – Bulim line, 9th February – Causeway sector, 8 p.m. 9th February – “X” Battalion and Merrett Force – South-western front, Singapore Island, early morning 12th February – Dispositions round Singapore, daybreak 14th February – Central Sumatra – Bataan Peninsula – Rabaul – Dispositions, Rabaul, 2 a.m. 23rd January – New Ireland – The invasion of Ambon – Escape routes from Ambon – North-eastern Indian Ocean – South-east Sumatra – Burma – Timor – Dutch Timor – Portuguese Timor – The invasion of Java – West Java – Burma–Thailand – “A” Force camps, Burma–Thailand railway – “D”, “F” and “H” Force camps, Thailand – North Borneo – Japan, Korea and Manchuria – Formosa – Mission 204, China – Gazelle Peninsula – New Britain and south-east New Guinea