Deployment to Singapore and Malaya



Brigade-level exercises were concluded and the Battalion paraded through the town of Bathurst before they received orders for embarkation. On 29th. July 1941, the final movement order was received and the battalion entrained for Melbourne. Although initially it had been intended that the 2/26th, and indeed the entire 8th Division, would be sent to the Middle East to join the 7th and 9th Divisions in the campaign against the Germans and Italians, concerns about Japanese intentions in the Pacific led to the decision to deploy them in Southeast-Asia instead. Embarking upon the Marnix Van St Aldegonde (H.M.T. EE), a Dutch ship of approximately 20,000 tons displacement (seized by the British War Ministry after Holland fell to Germany), the majority of the 2/30th, along with most of the 27th Brigade, sailed to Singapore in Convoy US11B, which departed Sydney on 29/7/1941, and arrived in Singapore on 15/8/1941. Convoy US11B was made up of the ships Sibajak, Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, Katoomba, Sydney and Canberra.



Camp Wavell

Sailing via Fremantle, they arrived in Singapore on 15th. August 1941. Upon landing they moved to Camp Wavell at Changi where they settled in to serve as a garrison force. The site of Camp Wavell would later become the world's largest aerodrome, built with PoW slave labour.


L to R: Maj. Stringer, 2 I/C 2/26th. Bn., Lt. Col. Boyes, OC 2/26th. Bn., (KIA) and Capt. Sabin, Adjuctant (in Bob's words "and a proper bastard")
Camp Wavell - Sunday morning:
L. Full "dhobey" lines.
R. "Paddy" Walsh saying mass.
L. Swim Parade.
R. The Gallopers - Bob's the tall one - see the 2/26th. patch on the side of their slouches.
"The Three Lieutenants" - L. to R. - Bob Kelsey, No. 7 Plt., Graham Burke, No. 9 Plt. and Claude Griffin, No. 8 Plt. ( Bob's Platoon Sergeant promoted to Lieutenant)

At the start of October, as the possibility of war with Japan grew, the battalion deployed over the Strait of Johore onto Malaya, to build up defences, carry out jungle training, and undertake patrols onto the peninsula to check the accuracy of maps and locate tracks. It was split between the area around Kota Tingii, on the south-eastern tip of the Malayan peninsula, and Jasin in the west-coast sultanate of Malacca.

Bob..."We had trained for war in Russia not Malaya"...Play


Bob described Jasin as the best and most comfortable camp they had been in and leave was in Malacca, an old and interesting spice port dating back to the 1500's. That's Bob sitting on the bow of a prau.

"Boom Town"

Sedili is an eastern coastal region in the state of Johor where "Boom Town" was reference to a camp at Bukit Tiga, on the banks of the Sungai Sedili Besar (river). Part of the 2/26th. was sent there to maintain a boom defence across the river. It was hard work but there was no parade ground so no parades - and for the water lovers from Queensland it was the "Rivera of Malaya".
The men arrived at a small village called Mawai, on the Sungai Sedili Besar where they embarked in barges to be towed downstream to the camp at Buki Tigi. The tow was escorted by a British gunboat called the HMS Sylvia. Maintenance of the boom was ongoing as the logs became water logged over time and sank - they then had to be removed from the boom and replaced. Small motorised malay boats called "Tongkangs" were used to haul new logs in the river.
There were crocodiles present so swimming was not allowed although the men worked in the water most days, they had to bath on a raft using kerosene tins of water from the river.


HMS Sylvia and barges at Mawai. The tow downstream to "Boom Town".
No.1 Tongkang towing logs for the boom. Up to their waists in stinking mud positioning a log.
Bob (now 2 I/C "A" Company) with the mail from home.....The bathing raft at sunset - because of the crocodiles.....CQMS and Storeman.
"A" Company's borrowed 100ft. long gunboat - "Fan Ling" passes through the boom. Later sunk by Jap bombers during an air raid.

"We heard the Jap bombers passing overhead and decided we were at war"...Play