Sunday Tasmanian - - Letters -

PETER Henning’s “Shadow hangs over our bat­tal­ion”, ex­pos­ing the sham­bles sur­round­ing World War I mil­i­tary awards, was cap­ti­vat­ing read­ing, and I to­tally agree with him (Talk­ing Point, Mer­cury, Septem­ber 9).

His work on Doomed Bat­tal­ion: The Aus­tralian 2/40 Bat­tal­ion 1940-45 has to be com­mended as well.

But there is another story about the 2/40th that doesn’t get the recog­ni­tion it de­serves, and that’s the 79 men who weren’t cap­tured, in­clud­ing my dad Syd “Swampy” Marsh TX4611.

These men made their way up to Por­tuguese Ti­mor, with the Ja­panese hot on their tail. Once across the bor­der, they joined with the 2/2 com­mando squadron from Western Aus­tralia, which was fight­ing a guer­rilla cam­paign against the Ja­panese.

Most of the men of the 2/40th were or­di­nary sol­diers, and dis­tin­guished them­selves along­side hard­ened com­man­dos for the next eight months.

When the Ja­panese fi­nally over­ran Ti­mor in De­cem­ber 1942, these men were evac­u­ated, leav­ing be­hind their Ti­morese helpers, know­ing they would be killed by the Ja­panese.

Back in Aus­tralia re­cu­per­at­ing, and with more train­ing, they joined the 2/12th Bat­tal­ion, so be­came a se­lect group of men who fought in two dif­fer­ent bat­tal­ions.

They were sent to New Guinea in Jan­uary/Fe­bru­ary 1944 and fought ma­jor bat­tles on the Fin­is­terre Ranges and Prothero (in­clud­ing the fa­mous bat­tles on Shaggy Ridge). This is where my fa­ther’s brother Gor­don was killed in ac­tion just 400m away.

When the Ja­panese were de­feated in New Guinea, this band of broth­ers were sent to Bor­neo, where they took part in the beach land­ing at Ba­lik­pa­pan.

When the war ended they made their way back to Aus­tralia with lit­tle fan­fare.

Though the ex­ploits of these brave men have been men­tioned in var­i­ous books, in my mind they are the for­got­ten he­roes of the 2/40th Bat­tal­ion, and maybe one day, the whole story will be told. Vic­tor Marsh Bel­lerive

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