2/20 Bn AIF in Singapore and Changi, May-June 1942
War Diary for 2/20 Bn AIF, May 1942
Pages for the dates 1 to 14 May 1942 appear to be missing from the War Diary 2/20 Bn AIF – a query about this was sent to the Australian War Memorial, custodian of the War Diary, and they advised the pages are actually missing from the War Diary itself.
May 15 1942 Remaining personnel of the unit were this day engaged in clearing and cleaning floor area vacated by ‘A’ Force. (Close to 70 men from 2/20 went with ‘A’ Force.) Under Bde direction 2/19 and 2/20 Bns combined for the purpose of cooking arrangements.
May 16 Of the remaining personnel only 12 are classified as ‘Fit’. These included the RSM, ORSjt., RAP staff and batmen. 2/20 Bn ceased furnishing guard for lower main gate. This duty now to be furnished by 27 Aust Inf Bde and 2/20 Bn of 22 Aust Inf Bde on alternate days. Strength 1 Officer, 1 Sjt, 6 Ptes. Guard now to be located at NAAFI gate.
May 17 All personnel fit and unfit engaged in barracks area administration, hygiene, etc
May 18 All personnel as above, engaged during working hours in maintenance duties.
May 19 Party of 1 Officer (Lieut G Blackford) and 14 ORs left this unit to join working party at PULAU BUKUM. The destination of this party was later changed to BLAKAN MATI.
May 20 All cooking gear withdrawn from this unit and returned to 2/18 Bn Q store. 2/20 Bn this day vacated No 9 building and moved into building occupied by 2/18 Bn (No 11). Bde Gp, 2/18, 2/19 and 2/20 Bn details now all located in the one building.
May 21 All personnel employed cleaning up ground floor of building vacated by this unit in readiness for occupation by details of Ordnance Depot personnel.
May 22 Personnel still engaged as for 21 May and performing barrack maintenance duties. Instructions issued HQ AIF in regard to disposal of Kit Bags and personal effects of Missing, deceased and personnel sailed with “A” Force. Personal effects may be sent to 2nd Ech. Kit bags of SINGAPORE working parties, less surplus contents to be returned to Ordnance and arrangements will be made to have these transported to SINGAPORE for distribution.
May 23 Unit garden party now operating under Lieut Simpson. All personnel of unit reclassified by RMO.
May 24 Essential maintenance duties carried out. Church parade (OPD = Other Protestant Denominations) now held in 2/19 Bn building. Daily return of ‘Fit’ personnel now required by 22 Aust Inf Bde Offrs. Refresher course held at 8 Aust Div terminated this day. Lieuts Thoms and Phillips returning to unit.
May 25 Lieut F Lusk rejoined unit from AGH and resumed duties as Adjt.
May 26 Lecture to Offrs delivered by CRE Malayan Comd. Personnel of the unit engaged daily in barrack maintenance duties, salt water parties etc.
May 27 Daily fatigues and maintenance duties carried out as above.
May 28 Lecture to Offrs by Maj P Hear, HQ, AIF – Subject- ‘Courts Martial’. Steel helmets withdrawn and to be returned to Ordnance Depot. Return required of personnel desirous of continuing Educational classes, sufficient numbers being so desirous, efforts will be made for the continuance of these classes daily from 1630 to 1730 hrs so as not to interfere with barrack and area duties.
May 29 Lecture by Maj P Head to Offrs, second lecture on the subject of ‘Courts Martial’. Lecture to tps of 22 Aust Inf Bde on the island of SINGAPORE.
May 30 27 Aust Inf Bde took over guard at NAAFI gate. No guard will now be furnished by any unit of 22 Aust Inf Bde.
May 31 Church Pde (OPD) now held in 27 Bde Mess Room. During the past week personnel engaged daily on maintenance duties and essential fatigues. Lecture of Offrs in No 5 Building
1 June 1942 Lecture by Brig HB Tayler to all ranks – Subject – ‘Operations of 22 Aust Inf Bde in Malaya’ (mainland).
2 June Fatigue and maintenance duties being carried out daily by all personnel – including volunteers from unfit personnel.
3 June Lecture by Maj Gunther RAE to Offrs of 22 Aust Inf Bde Gp. Brig HB Tayler will, with effect from this date, administer comd of 22 Aust Inf Bde. and will comd an area to be known as Area ‘M’.
4 June Under Bde instructions and under unit arrangements, talks to tps are now held each alternate day and of 1 hr duration. The subjects include matters of general interest eg Banking, Wool & Sheep, telephone services etc. Former employees of the Repatriation Dept have also promised to assist in talks on Land Settlement, Pension Rights, the rehabilitation of the soldier in civil life etc.
5 June The Japanese authorities have now intimated that a sum of money will now be allotted to POW in Changi area as working pay.
6 June Certain articles may now be purchased through HQ AIF for cash. These articles consist of tinned fruit, sardines, toffee, sugar, salt, sauce etc. Limited quantities as yet only available. Proposed to make area purchases for the benefit of tps using proportion of Japanese allocation of Working pay. Meantime tps may make purchases for cash.
7 June All personnel are daily performing necessary maintenance duties and fatigue in and around barrack area.
8 June A second Offrs refresher course assembled this day at HQ AIF. Lieuts Ryan and Simpson attended from this unit. Sjt H Hewitt, Unit Sjt Clerk from 2nd Ech rejoined unit for duty. All personnel reclassified by RMO.
9 June 3 ORs proceeded to join working party at Great World Camp.
And there, on 3 June 1942, the 2/20 Bn AIF War Diary appears to end. By then there were few men left in Changi. Many POWs initially worked in Singapore and lived at the Great World and the men subsequently became scattered throughout south east Asia in working parties such as at Blakan Mati, Borneo, the mines in Japan, the railway in both Burma and Thailand.
Tales of their lives as POWs are many and varied but brutal treatment, hard physical labour and starvation were the inter-twining threads which wove their stories together.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
LEST WE FORGET.