MW 41042511 Lark Force
1941, Friday 25 April;

Mid-afternoon, and together with a light cruiser, the troopship Zealandia, entered Simpson Harbour, the natural deep-water anchorage of a flooded volcano, where the small town of Rabaul lay. A well-liked ship, she carried the nickname ‘Zed’, built in 1910, and just under 7,000 tons, she was a passenger ship, which in pre-war plied the Melbourne – Fremantle route, but just like World War One, she was now being used to transport military personal and equipment.

On board was the Australian 47th Militia Battalion, the ‘Wide Bay Regiment’ from Queensland, sent to provide the main component of ‘Lark Force’, the garrison of Rabaul.
They had only been fully mobilised just over five weeks ago, were about 300 men understrength, and were equipped with WWI accruements, rifles and the Lewis light machine guns. More men would certainly be sent to bring them up to strength, while heavier, crew served weapons were promised, but not until next year.

Together with a coastal battery of 6-inch guns, a detachment of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and supporting units, they were tasked with the defence of the Simpson Harbour anchorage and seaplane base, the two airfields, at Lakunai and Vunakanau, as well as forming "an advanced observation line" to provide early warning of Japanese movements. Occupying defensive positions around Simpson Harbour the Australians were widely dispersed, with companies at Praed Point, Talili Bay, Lakunai airfield, and another inland at Vunakanau airfield, while other elements covered the coastal approaches, near Vulcan crater.

The 47th battalion wasn’t the only Militia unit defending Australia’s perimeter defences, since the middle of 1940 a detachment of Militia had been based at Port Moresby, and last month it had been merged with the newly arrived 49th Militia battalion, again understrength and poorly equipped. Its training had been badly hampered by the need to construct defences, and provide labour gangs for the settlement, and morale was poor, mostly due to boredom.

Zealandia’s escort, the light cruiser, HMAS Adelaide had been built just after the end of World War One, she was very much an obsolete ship, but after about ten years in the reserve, with World War Two looming, she had been given a refit, converted to oil fired boilers, and a slight change in her armoury, to return for trade defence duties and second line roles.
 
Last edited:
Ok some major changes here, firstly the Australian 23 Bde being deployed to Malaya, when historically it wasn't, being held back in Australia. Secondly, as a consequence of my redeploying them to Malaya, I needed another infantry battalion to deploy to Rabaul, replacing the 2/22 (part of 23 Bde). Now, if I've got this right, units of the Australian CMF (Citizen Military Forces) could be deployed to Australian Mandated territories under the Defence act, so like Militia units were sent to Port Moresby, I'm able to send a battalion to Rabaul. Pretty beak prospect for them there!. A bigger problem will be addressing the question of what forces Australia sends to Ambon and Timor, parts of the Dutch East Indies, and not covered under the Australian Defence Act. I'll tackle that problem closer to the time they were sent historically
 
Ok some major changes here, firstly the Australian 23 Bde being deployed to Malaya, when historically it wasn't, being held back in Australia. Secondly, as a consequence of my redeploying them to Malaya, I needed another infantry battalion to deploy to Rabaul, replacing the 2/22 (part of 23 Bde). Now, if I've got this right, units of the Australian CMF (Citizen Military Forces) could be deployed to Australian Mandated territories under the Defence act, so like Militia units were sent to Port Moresby, I'm able to send a battalion to Rabaul. Pretty beak prospect for them there!. A bigger problem will be addressing the question of what forces Australia sends to Ambon and Timor, parts of the Dutch East Indies, and not covered under the Australian Defence Act. I'll tackle that problem closer to the time they were sent historically
Being part of the Netherland East Indies they would have to be units from the 2nd AIF until Jan 1943 when the limits under that act were relaxed to include any location in a triangle bounded by the equator and the 110th and 159th meridians of longitude, for the duration of the war and up to six months of Australia ceasing to be involved in hostilities.
 
Ok some major changes here, firstly the Australian 23 Bde being deployed to Malaya, when historically it wasn't, being held back in Australia. Secondly, as a consequence of my redeploying them to Malaya, I needed another infantry battalion to deploy to Rabaul, replacing the 2/22 (part of 23 Bde). Now, if I've got this right, units of the Australian CMF (Citizen Military Forces) could be deployed to Australian Mandated territories under the Defence act, so like Militia units were sent to Port Moresby, I'm able to send a battalion to Rabaul. Pretty beak prospect for them there!. A bigger problem will be addressing the question of what forces Australia sends to Ambon and Timor, parts of the Dutch East Indies, and not covered under the Australian Defence Act. I'll tackle that problem closer to the time they were sent historically
Is C force still being sent?

Perhaps it could be split up between Ambon and Timor instead of being sent to HK?

Being part of the Netherland East Indies they would have to be units from the 2nd AIF until Jan 1943 when the limits under that act were relaxed to include any location in a triangle bounded by the equator and the 110th and 159th meridians of longitude, for the duration of the war and up to six months of Australia ceasing to be involved in hostilities.
What was the status of Australian commando units?

Where they Militia or 'other'
 

HJ Tulp

Donor
If Australia (or the rest of the Commonwealth) can't provide forces for Ambon and Timor, the whole Allied strategy for deployment of airforces might fall apart before it's properly set up. Which could very well be a big plus for the Allied cause in the DEI if it means less airfields for the Japanese to occupy (or more of them get blown up properly).
 
Is C force still being sent?

Perhaps it could be split up between Ambon and Timor instead of being sent to HK?


What was the status of Australian commando units?

Where they Militia or 'other'
C force wasn't conceived until about September 1941, I believe, and I have some vey clear ideas about Hong Kong. The argument for Hong Kong was made by Maj Gen Grasett, who is currently GOC Hong Kong, who on passing command to Maj Gen Maltby, lobbied for C Force to reinforce the Hong Kong Garrison.

Ambon and Timor will be dealt with later, too, Canadians going there? I have to think about that but doubtful, not sure how that would be argued?

Australian Commandos were part if the AIF, and could be deployed world wide.

If Australia (or the rest of the Commonwealth) can't provide forces for Ambon and Timor, the whole Allied strategy for deployment of airforces might fall apart before it's properly set up. Which could very well be a big plus for the Allied cause in the DEI if it means less airfields for the Japanese to occupy (or more of them get blown up properly).
I believe the airfields were already there, at least as landing grounds. Concrete runways can be blown up, and the airfield put out of action for a considerable time, but grass runways, blown up, just get filled in and packed down, making them operable again. Unless you have rain, a lot, in which case any grass airfield quickly becomes mud. Later, 1942 onwards, the American Marston Map overcame this problem, the earlier British Sommerfeld Tracking not always able to cope with heavy rain.
 
All this talk of the saying 'Gordon Bennett ' reminded me of my time in the British Army of the Rhine'. Once while perusing part one orders I noticed I had been given a particularly shitty duty and exclaimed in a rather loud voice 'f'ing Gordon Bennett '
Sadly being new to the unit I did not know that my staff sergeant's full name was in fact Gordon Bennett and his hearing was quite acute resulting in said shitty duty being award for a considerable length of time 😂
 
The first I heard it was when Ace used it in Dr Who; I did wonder how the Brits turned an Aussie general’s name into an expletive - although I agreed with the sentiment!
 
MWI 41042710 The Battle Of Bugis Street
1941, Sunday 27 April;

“Attention!” 652 pairs of hobnailed boots crashed down, hands down seams, eyes front. The RSM smartly reversed, and in best parade ground fashion, marched over to his commanding officer. He stopped short, stamped feet and gave the salute. “Battalion ready for inspection Sir”. The words echoed across the parade ground. The Lt Col returned the salute, “Very well RSM Munnoch, lead the way, if you please”

Twenty minutes later Lt Col Stewart completed the inspection, having stopped numerous times to exchange a few words with individual soldiers, calling them by Christian or nickname. He looked at his RSM and spoke. “Very good Sargent Major, you may dismiss the men, and can you pop into my office directly.”
“Very good Sir”

Ian Stewart marched back into his office, the voice of his RSM loudly dismissing the men. He walked round his desk, took off his hat and laid his cane down. He sat down and undid the top of his tunic. “Well Angus, that’s the last time I’ll do that, I must admit I had a lump in my throat there for a while”. The other Lt Col, newly promoted, sitting in a corner chair, smiled.

“Permission to enter, Sir” his RSM stood at the doorway.
“Yes Sandy, please do, shut the door and take a seat”
RSM Alexander Richardson Munnoch, took off his hat and sat down, as he ran his fingers through his ginger hair.
“OK Sandy what happened, we’ve had Major General Simmons on the phone this morning complaining about our atrocious behaviour”

“It was the Aussies, Colonel, Tasmanians of the 2/40 battalion, they arrived about a week ago. Apparently, they were given an extra day off by General Bennett, not part of the town leave rota. They’re moving off up country soon, and General Bennett was apparently pleased with their recent parades. It caught us all off guard, the Redcaps didn’t know about it and neither did we. I think it started in the Lion bar, the expected slurs about wearing women’s skirts and such, and a few punches and then it just moved out into the streets from there.”

“How many in the battalion infirmary Sandy”
“42 on sick call with mostly just cuts and bruises, the laddies dinna let the regiment down Colonel, they stood together, nay a one ran”
”Yes, I know Sandy, but there’s going to hell to pay, we have another 7 in the Alexandra with concussions, and what not, one rather bad with 2 broken ribs, another with a broken leg, and Simmons tells me the Australians have 11 in hospital, 3 rather serious I believe, including the 8th Australian divisional heavy weight boxing champion, with a broken hand, four ribs, nose and four teeth missing. He was supposed to be boxing in the inter services tournament later this month.”

“Sorry Colonel, but it had to be done, he’d taken out about half a dozen of our wee chaps, before Bremner, McQueen and Jordon got to him”
Lt Col Stewart gave an involuntary shudder, “Bremner is a complete animal Sandy, he’s going to kill someone one day. Well, I’m going to have to come down hard on the battalion, all leave cancelled for the next 4 weeks, Sandy, secondly there’ll be a full pack 15-mile march tomorrow morning, and all those who called in sick today had better been there, thirdly the damage to the Lion bar will be paid out of the regiment messes. The Australians are moving out earlier than planned, but apparently, we’re the ones blamed. And the press has got hold of it, their calling it the battle of Bugis Street”
“Yes Sir, Colonel, I understand”

“Privately Sandy, I’m proud of them, all of them, so not one individual will be punished, the battalion will take it on the chin together, collectively. The only good thing about all this is technically I’m still the commanding officer, so I’ll take a lot of the rap, leaving Angus here with a clean slate. What happened yesterday, adding to hostility from Simmons in that military exercise back in January, I’m sure the main focus of complaint will be on me. Well, as of tomorrow, I will be a full Colonel, commanding a jungle training camp, up country, outside some little town called Segamat, any following paperwork can be forwarded to me there, I leave later today. I will say Percival said I had to go, said he needed to get me out of Singapore, and he’s been more than decent about it, so I expect I’ll survive this. So now, Sandy, Angus will be taking over command of the battalion as of tomorrow, we both know he’s a safe pair of hands, but remember, he’ll be Lt Col MacDonald from now on”

“I understand Sir, congratulations to you both on your promotions Sir’s, and Colonel Stewart Sir, we’ll all sorely miss you; it won’t be the same without you, but we’ll get by, and I wish you well, Sir, it’s been a great privilege serving with you, you’re the best I’ve ever had the privilege to serve under”. Both Stewart and Macdonald stood up and the RSM shook hands with them, Stewart holding his hand momentarily “thank you Sandy, for those kind words, that will be all, dismissed”
 

Ramontxo

Donor
1660843617434.png
 
The best kind of officer, one who looks after his boys and knows when to look the other way. I'll guarantee there's not a man in that battalion that wouldn't have followed him anywhere he ordered.
 
MWI 41042814 How Stubborn Is A Mule
1941, Monday 28 April;

Havildar Ghulam Kadir looked at the eight men in front of him, his crew for Sub Section B, 7th Independent Battery IA. He gave the order for the gun detail to break down the gun and load onto his mules. His five gunners began breaking the gun down, with both him and his Naik occasionally having to direct the other four, pushing them here, telling them to hold that, press this, as they began dismantling the gun and laying it out. His Lance Naik along with two other Muleteers ran to the mule lines, and began collecting their mules.

Major Scott stood watching, along with his guests, Maj Gen David Murray-Lyon and Lt Col George Leonard Hughes, CO of 22 Mountain Regt IA. With the recent transfer of eight 3.7in howitzers, 170 mules and a large number of Indian transfers from the HKSRA batteries in Hong Kong, two new batteries, 26th and 27th were being formed. The 27th would be joining the regiment, while the 7th which it had replaced, and the newly formed 26th would become independent pack mule batteries. More mules from India and new recruits had been absorbed, and although things were progressing quite well, nevertheless he was slightly nervous in front of his senior officers.

The gun was dismantled now, the component parts laid out, and the muleteers had brought up the mules. Now the skilful part of loading the gun onto the mules began. While one held the mule, another four lifted the gun part and secured it to the mule’s saddle.

Four mules loaded, and it was going well, and then pandemonium broke out. The fifth mule decided it didn’t like the load being put on it, and unexpectedly it began braying, which unsettled the other mules. Now two of the loaded mules became agitated, and their handlers, being inexperience with mules couldn’t calm them, and as one handler tried to pet his mule, it bit him, causing him to let go of his lead.

Meanwhile the sixth mule, when led to the gun parts laid on the floor, managed to kick the gun shield and then tried to back away. And despite its handler being an experienced man, stubbornly refused to step forward towards the gun parts. An inexperienced, but enthusiastic gunner tried to push the mule, and received a hard kick, which put him on the floor.

Havildar Kadir stepped forward and grabbed the reigns of the loose mule, but only after it had bumped packs with its neighbour, causing that mule to pull on its reigns, turn sideways and trip one of the gunners running to the fallen man. Major Scott stepped forward, and in Urdu called to the men, start walking the mules, and with Havildar Kadir’s mule leading, so the other mules began to follow, both packed and unpacked, including the braying one, which now calmed down.

Scott turned back to his guests, “Apologies General, this all went well in practice before you came. We have a lot of inexperience men, and clearly some of our new mules haven’t had their vocal cords cut, I will get the veterinarian officer to attend that first thing. We just need more time to practice”. Hughes looked at Murray-Lyon, a small wry smile, the exercise bearing out his earlier predictions about unit readiness.
 

Driftless

Donor
The poor mules. Also I never knew they did that. Did they ever cut horse vocal chords?
I didn't know about cutting vocal cords, but it makes (cruel) military sense, in that those brays can easily be heard several hundred meters away. They're astonishly loud animals
 
Top