Makan - No. 176
The Old Man had 868 letters of condolence following the passing away of Mrs. Galleghan recently. To answer all of these personally is a stupendous task, and one that perhaps many of us would shirk. However, that is not the Old Man's way, and he has replied to every letter that had a signature. Numbers were without addresses, but he persevered and found them all, until all that was left were a few with no addresses, and signed merely "Tom and Mary", "John and Jane", etc., and, of course, the few whose signatures were undecipherable even to the expert. If any of those mentioned read this Makan, will you please accept this as the Old Man's personal thanks for your sympathy toward him.
Arrangements for the Dinner at Tamworth continue to progress. Jock Logan expects to assemble fifty or more from the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers. Col O'Donnell is a tower of strength, and gives us all a bit of hurry up on his frequent visits to Sydney. Col, incidentally, has now lost the sight of the eye he first injured in Malaya.
It has been troubling him for some time, but does not affect his capacity for work, or should I say, his capacity for getting other people to work.
Wal Eather, our man at Tamworth, has, of all things, developed the mumps, which is quite a setback to our plans, but he assures us he has a very energetic committee hard at work. Alex Tapp, President of Peel Shire, was in Sydney the other day, and in talking to the Old Man, was most enthusiastic. Most of you will remember his brother, Dave Tapp, of the Mortar platoon, who died at Changi in December, 1943. Col O'Donnell, Bob Jack and myself are going to Tamworth in a few weeks' time to get all our supporters together, and ensure that the whole organisation is running on well-oiled wheels. We may, of course, have to talk to Wal through the window of his room; we just can't take the risk of being infected with the dreadful results that we are warned can happen to middle-aged men who get the mumps. Bob Jack has booked a 45 seater bus for the trip in November. The total cost will work out very cheaply, so let me have your Two Dollar deposits. The first 45 get the seats, and as I don't think we can fill two buses, late depositors may be disappointed.
Anzac Day was, as usual, a great reunion. About 110 members of the 2/30 marched. The count was made by Ron Maston and, therefore, would be accurate to a man, because Ron was doing a Q.D.E. on how much profit he would make if he sold an insurance policy to every man present.
With pipe bands fore and aft, this was the best march we have had for years. Very little changing of step, and no hold-ups. The only drawback was the splitting up of each group as they entered Elizabeth Street, half of them into the wilds of Hyde Park, and the other half to the Anzac Memorial. However, the Old Man assures me that this will not happen again. The idea is to put wooden ramps on each side of the steps leading to the Memorial, so that all can complete the march right at the Anzac Memorial, which, of course, is as it should be.
Andy Noble and Bruce Upcroft represented the Battalion at Bathurst this year. The ceremony at the Cairn was as usual very well attended, and like the others who have gone there in previous years, they think we should have a much stronger representation there.
There are a few letters from members coming in, but there has not been much opportunity to mention them in the last couple of Makans. Clyde Blencowe writes from his home, which is at a place immortalised in verse by either C.J. Dennis or 'Banjo' Patterson, as "Tumba-bloody-rumba". He has two sons who attend Chevalier College at Bowral, the eldest of whom is a cadet Under officer. Incidentally, Hylton Collins' son graduated from Duntroon last year. Hylton and his wife are inordinately proud of him, as they have every right to be Ernie Willis of Goonumbla took his wife for a second honeymoon after last harvest. He met Wal Eather at Tamworth, who was handing out cigars on the birth of his ninth grandchild. He also met Ray Michel who took them home for the night. Ray could not have known about the honeymoon part, as he put them in twin beds! At South Grafton he met Jack Collins, and he then says "the next trouble was Darby Young, Benny Pearce, Phil Bailey and Bruce Campbell". That sounds as if they did a very thorough job on him. His poor wife was probably glad to get him safely back to Parkes.
Jack Brooks writes from Fairy Meadow that he cannot walk far nowadays, owing to an injured back, and to make matters worse, he is not allowed to have a grog. That is real trouble, all members will wish him a speedy recovery.
Mrs. Jean Parsons wishes to thank everyone for the help and friendship she has received since Jim's death. Lloyd Stuart's wife says Lloyd is still a keen golfer. His wife bought him a dog a couple of years back to try to cure him of golf, but just as the washing up starts each evening he takes the dog for a walk. A very cunning fellow. I wish I could think up a trick like that. Jack Graham is the latest recruit to membership. Bet and I met him on Lord Howe at Easter. He was there with a team of bowlers from Woolgoolga. That meant that Bob Newman was also there. Boy! What a weekend that was! Bet talked to Jack Graham so hard that I think he promised to join the Association just to keep her quiet. He was wounded at Gemas and evacuated home.
Karl Sinclair has been through a bad time. Two of his nieces who were very near and dear to him, died within ten days of each other. Carl Martin and Jack Graham, whom he had not seen since he helped to carry him out when he was wounded at Gemas, gave him a lot of moral support at that time. Scobie Brown has had a spell in Yaralla, but is out and about again now. Jack Boss visited him, and recruited him into our Association. Mick Fletcher is a patient out there, and is our latest Association member. Kevin Ward was the man responsible in this case. We had a letter from Mick's wife a short time ago, and she listed thirteen complaints for which he is entitled to treatment! If he gets treatment for the lot while he is there, he is going to be a very busy boy. We sure hope he gets them all cured.
Members will have noticed that Judge Adrian Curlewis has received a Knighthood. This, no doubt, is mainly for his work for the Surf Lifesaving movement, of which he has been President for many years. The Old Man assures me that that is but a very small part of his work for various youth movements, to which he devotes a great deal of time. You will probably remember him best as a Captain at Div. H.Q. He was G.S.O.3 Intelligence. When the Old Man took command at Changi he made him his G.S.O.2.
This notice is a little late, but so was the letter to us. There is a scholarship available each year to a child of a member of the A.I.F. who fought in Malaya, and who died then or as a P.O.W., or since, as a result of war injuries or sickness. There is one of Fifty Dollars for N.S.W., and applications should be addressed to the C.E.D. & S.A., Box 3388, G.P.O., Sydney, not later than July 31st.
Incidentally - C.E.D. & S.A. - "Council of Eighth Division and Service Associates".
I have also on hand a very long screed on Stan Arneil's American Journey, but I think I will have to make a special Makan out of it.
The Old Man had a letter some time ago from a W.O.L Balsillie of the R.A.A., asking for information on 8th Division battlefields, as he was going to Malaya, and intended looking during his time off duty for relics. This has been done at his own expense. This is the letter he sent the Old Man.
Dear Brigadier Galleghan,
Thank you for your thoughtfulness in getting Mr. Eaton to reply to my queries regarding your Battalion. I have written to Mr. Eaton informing him of the results of the trip.
Unfortunately, it took longer than I expected to find some evidence of the "Rose Force" ambush at Trong. after a lot of searching and, I must admit I was beginning to feel a bit despondent, I eventually found an incendiary / smoke type grenade, a magazine and a magazine platform from a Thompson sub-machine gun (the 25 strong command platform had 13 Thompson guns), and a wheel wrench from one of the capsized Japanese lorries. They are unfortunately in a very corroded condition and I wouldn't blame the War Memorial if they don't consider them fit for display.
The "Rose Force" party would presumably have been lining the road and most of the relics associated with the ambush would therefore have been along the road too. although the road is still in its original alignment it has over the years been widened and the monsoon drains dug much larger, and from what I can understand, the Japanese cleaned up the area pretty thoroughly. The few local Malays would also have got anything that was left around and I was told that one Malay had found a compass here (I tried to track this down but no luck).
I have enclosed copies of two letters which you may find of interest. One is from the Penghulu (Kampong head man) at Trong who had located for me the Malays who had witnessed the aftermath of the ambush. The other is from a Mr. Khoo Beng Kee who had been employed at the Temerloh Estate and was connected with the ambush. I had written to him at his present estate in Pahang.
The Penghulu also helped me find an old Malay who had given the "Rose Force" members coconuts. According to Major Rose's account in 'Who Dies Fighting' they had given him $10(M) for the coconuts but he would only accept $5. I was pleased to be able to match this as unfortunately he hadn't progressed in the intervening years and is now 84 years of age.
After finding the Trong relics I went down to Malacca and spent a week searching in Johore at the "Fort Rose" Estate, Yong Peng, Ayer Hitam, Namazie Estate and Ayer Bemban as well as quick looks again at Bakri, Parit Sulong, Gemencheh River Bridge and your position of the 15th January 1942-3 miles West of Gemas.
Found nothing at the Fort Rose Estate. Concentrated on the heights area around the estate bungalow. I did intend to go back and search along the railway line area but time was against me. at Yong Peng I found a track link from a bren carrier track and four mortar bombs.
Had a little success at Ayer Hitam too on the hill on the right of the road forward of the Sungei Sembrong. Found some impressions of trenches here (your 'A' Coy area) and found an Australian bayonet, webbing buckles, a few .303 bullets and bully beef tins. The lalang and scrub was very thick and high here. I did not find anything where the Loyals were on the left of the road near the 61 mile peg.
At Namazie Estate (not now called Namazie as post-war it was sold to the Southern Estates of Malaya) I found a number of Japanese spent bullet cases (.26 and their heavier machine-gun calibre) . in what had been some trenches and a larger quantity in a hole about 18 inches under the ground which had probably been collected and buried. I have marked where the spot is on the attached copy of the map which Mr. Eaton sent me. Once again, due to the short time available to me, the 6 feet high Lalang and thick scrub, searching in this area was difficult. The rubber here is the original, it's about 40 years old. I also found some .303 rounds in the area occupied by the 2/26th Bn.
At Ayer Bemban I found a 25 pr cartridge case near the 29 mile peg and a very large spanner in an area near the 32 mile peg where some locals had told me that the Japs staged their tanks so the spanner may very well have been part of their equipment. This could be possible as after the maulings you gave them at the Namazie Estate and the 2/26th at Ayer Bemban then they probably were considering having to use tanks again. Of course this is only conjecture on my part.
At Bakri I found an M36 grenade in the 2/29th Bn. area. Two Australian water bottles, bren magazine and some .303 rounds in the 2/19th Bn. area.
At Gemas another bren tripod in your 'C' Coy area on the right of the road (I had found a bren gun tripod here before too) and a .303 butt plate and some .303 rounds, clips, buckles, etc., in your 'a' Coy. area.
I found nothing more at Parit Sulong and likewise at Gemencheh River Bridge.
Gemencheh River Bridge area has altered a lot since I had been there before. There is another new bridge (would be the third since that blown up) and the new bridge is about 50 yards east of the original. This places the road out of alignment with the original road. The left side of the road along this area up to a depth of about where the quarry was, has now been rough cleared and rubber planted. I feel sure that those involved in this area in 1942 would not recognise it today. There is even a large billboard advertising cigarettes about 800 yards south of the bridge.
Unfortunately, only had two days searching on Singapore. At Hurong ('X' Bn. area where Lt-Col Boyes was killed) found an Australian bayonet, a few .303 bullets and a Japanese .26 calibre bullet.
Had a quick look around all the 2/20th Bn. Coy. areas north of Tengah. Founds lots of Japanese shells and mortar bombs in the mangroves along the shore. I think they were washed up from a sunken Japanese ammunition barge. Also found a few .303 rounds in this area.
Had a very quick look around the Kranji area where the 2/26th Bn. were, but found nothing.
It was unfortunate that I did not have sufficient time to be able to fully search the positions in Johore and Singapore, however, I am quite satisfied with the results as the "Rose Force" ambush was really my prime object and besides relics from there we now have some evidence from all the main battalions of the 8th Division (Malaya).
I have heard from the War Memorial that the "Rose Force" relics arrived there O.K. The other relics in two heavy cases were probably sent by ship. (The RAAF very kindly consigned then, for me.) 'These are now in Canberra too.'
I took a few photographs but mostly colour slides. The attached B & W photo is of the "Rose Force" relics just prior to being crated.
Well Sir, that's about the lot and once again thank you for your assistance.
(Sgd) A. J. BALSILLIE."
"Dear Mr. Balsillie,
I apologise for the delay in replying to your letter of March 30th, 1967. The reason is that I have returned from Kuala Lumpur to the estate yesterday and hence the inevitable delay in replying to your letter.
It is noted that you wish to have information about the Ambush of some Japanese vehicles by Australian soldiers on the 28th December, 1941 on the Trong/Bruas Road.
(a) The correct site of the Ambush is the place indicated by Haji Ibrahim (of Batu 16).
(b) Nobody had any idea of the number of Japanese killed, as no one dared to go near the spot where those Japs were killed and their bodies were being removed away by their own corps. The reason is that those were the days when anybody found near any ambush or its vicinity was likely to be whisked away by the Japs and never returned.
(c) I doubt there are any relics now available from this Ambush, most probably due to the years gone by. No one dared to possess any of such relics for fear of being implicated and tortured by the Japs.
(d) No reprisals were carried out on the local population as those (all Malays) living near the Ambushed spot were a few and had evacuated.
I can recollect that a group of about 23 Australian soldiers (looking haggard and tired) accompanied by the late Mr. W. Harvey (an Assistant Manager attached to Gapis Estate, Kuala Kangsar, Perak) walked into labour lines of Temerloh Estate late in the evening of the 27th December, 1941; where they rested for the night and given food, tin provisions and cigarettes by my late father and self. I had been requested by the late Mr. Harvey to contact his Conductor-in-Charge of Padang Gajah Estate (a Division of Gapis Estate, situated approx. 3 miles from Temerloh Estate) and also find out the movements of the then advancing Japs. The following day the Ambush took place.
A few months after the surrender of the Allied Forces in Singapore, I was betrayed by the Estate Dresser (who is now dead) to the Japs that I was sheltering and helping the Allied Forces and it was a nightmare for my family when I was taken for interrogation by the Japs, however, through the support of friends I escaped from being tortured but given a beating by the Japanese Officer (luckily for me) who happened to be in charge of the Estates Department, Taiping.
I was told by my former boss, the late Mr. Thomas Alexander Crosbie (former Manager of Temerloh Estate, Trong) who was evacuated to Ceylon during the War, that he came across the diary of some Allied soldiers mentioning about their movements and exploits at Temerloh.
It is with regret that I could not give you a souvenir of any of the relics, as you know, for a Chinese to possess one of such things during the Japs Occupation would court trouble and even lose his life.
With kind regards and hope your mission in Malaya is a successful one.
(sgd), KHOO BENG KEE
Sharikat Karmen Plantations Berhad,"
"Dear Mr. Balsillie,
This is to inform you that further informations for your reference in connection with the ambush, you know the old man Din bin Salleh whom we met at Kuala Trong at his house that day, I mean the old man who told you that he had sold coconuts to Australian soldiers during the war December, 1941, also told me he gave coffee & tea to some of them while his son Talaha looking for a boat to send them off for safety or for Singapore.
Haji Ibrahim of Batu 15 and Mohd Nayan who stay next door to me, actually had seen the Japanese lorries damaged and lying on their side of the Batu 16 road near the junction to Temlok Estate after being ambushed by the Australian soldiers in December 1941. The spot indicated by Haji Ibrahim and Mohd Nayan is the exact position of the ambush, as a matter of fact Haji Ibrahim was living in the Kampong where the ambush took place in 1941, he told me he ran to the hill behind his house during the shooting. He removed to his present house (I mean the house where you took a few snaps) only after the war.
I think this is all I can do for you in connection with the Australian soldiers ambush in 1941, similar informations were also told to me by elders and prominent people of this village who are still living, and heard the fight and had been to the spot one or two later & saw few Japanese military lorries removed dead bodies to Taiping, this is all I conclude with Nest regard & happy voyage or fly to you, thanks.
(sgd) Hj Meor Mohd Yusoff
Balai Penghulu, Trong."
We have just had word that Eric Arps' mother has passed away. She was well known to many Bn. mothers and wives for her work with the Bn Auxiliary both during the war and for many years afterwards. The sympathy of us all goes out to Eric in his sad loss.
See you in Tamworth,