MEN’S BRAVERY WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN
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