Joey the Kangaroo: The First Casualty of the 8th Division AIF in Malaya in 1941

When the troops of the 8th Division sailed to Singapore on board troopship  ‘QX‘ ( the former passenger liner ‘Queen Mary‘) they had a special box on board the ship, a box which had first appeared in Bathurst where the troops had been training. It arrived at the station to entrain to Sydney where it was ferried to the troopship. Here it was quickly stored with the medical supplies under the watchful eyes of one of the doctors and one of the 2/19 officers. It was only when the ship was well out to sea that the contents were revealed, Joey the kangaroo, who joined the 8th Division troops on deck during the journey north. He was smuggled off at Singapore by the same method and became quite a feature of the Malayan landscape.

Initially the local children were terrified of this strange creature but, as Joey was tame enough to eat wheat and green grass out of their hands, they were quickly won over. One day some children chased him and Joey fell into a concrete drain and broke a leg. The leg was encased in plaster and initially Joey began to improve but then sadly regressed and he had to be put down. So somewhere in Malaya there was a headstone which read “Joey the Kangaroo AIF 1941“… he was the first AIF casualty of the Malayan campaign.

I remember Capt ‘Roaring’ Reg Newton, NX34734, of the 2/19 Battalion, 22nd Brigade, AIF, telling me this story and it is also recounted by former soldier (NX55915), then journalist, Gilbert Mant in “Soldiering On, the Australian Army at home and overseas” published by the Australian War Memorial in 1942.

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