2/20 Bn AIF in Singapore and Malaya in July 1941

The 2/20 Battalion in July 1941

War Diary Sheet 46, 1 July to 7 July 1941, Port Dickson

1 July: 4 O/rs sent to detention at Port Swettenham. Slight difficulty experienced the last few days regarding the bread ration which was found to be faulty, but was overcome.

2 July: Brigade parade held today on Malay Regt Padang, Port Dickson to celebrate the 1st anniversary of 22 Aust Inf Bde. This parade was very smart and undoubtedly did quite a lot to lift the troops out of themselves. The Unit spent the remainder of the day picknicking as Coys on the beaches.

3 July: Almost half the lost money of Unit discovered by Pte Gardiner in a disused Malay kitchen in E Coy Barracks. Further thorough search did not reveal any more.

4 July: Pt Gould rejoined Unit from AWL since 16 Jun 41

5 July: Bn muster to check all duties and personnel. Pte Gould, after admission to hospital under close arrest, escaped and is again absent.

6 July: Civil police notified on Pte Gould’s absence. (He must have been found as the DVA Nominal Roll has him being discharged from the Army on 12 December 1941)

NX31973 Pte RJ Auld lost an arm in an accident whilst in leave truck returning to camp. A truck returning from Malacca with Hospital Concert Party personnel was involved in a slight accident with a truck of A/Tank Bty.

In fact Adjutant Lowe made a mistake here, the man with the lost arm was not  Robert James Auld… he was not repatriated to Australia and subsequently became a POW with ‘E’ Force and died in Borneo on 5 June 1945. The 2/20 soldier who did lose his arm was Neville William Mansfield NX32782 who transferred to the 10th Army General Hospital and disembarked on hospital ship ‘Wanganella’ on 2 October 1941 and was repatriated to Australia. Bill Gaden wrote to his mother on 19 September to ask that, if she could, she made contact with Mansfield who was “a really decent lad” and “should be home soon”. Neville joined the NSW Department of Agriculture and spent many years working with Bill Gaden’s son Bob… but not once did he mention to Bob that he had been in “D” Company of the 2/20 with Bill Gaden. And we still treasure the beautifully hand-embroidered tablecloth given to us as a wedding present by Neville and his talented wife Mavis. Neville died in 1996 and Mavis in 2003.

Lest we forget


Bill Gaden wrote to tell his mother of the leave he took… this was the only extended leave he had whilst over in Singapore and Malaya and he finally was able to relax. It was here he struck up a friendship with nurse Elaine Balfour Ogilvy, one of the nurses destined to die at Radji Beach on Banka Island.

I am actually on my holiday with Archie and here is all that we have done up to date. Monday afternoon:- Left camp and caught the train to Kuala Lumpur. At KL we spent the night in the most expensive pub and had a hell of a good time. I drank a  little too much for the first time out here but it did not matter because Archie was just as bad as I. We did nothing bad, only celebrated the fact that we were “off the chair.”

Tuesday morning: – We hired a car and “syce” at Kuala Lumpur and at 12 o’clock set sail for Fraser’s Hill and lunch. Fraser’s Hill is a cracker spot; cool clear. It is one of the few decent holiday places around. It is not a town, only twenty or so houses, a golf course, tennis courts and perfect views. We booked for the night at “The Admiralty”, a boarding house. Tuesday night was extra good. Several girls, nurses, were on the last night of their leave and we were given a ‘welcome’ party. Everybody happy

Wednesday:- We departed for Ipoh at 12.30pm and arrived at Mrs. Ayrton’s place at 5.30pm

Mrs. Ayrton is a great scout and her husband is Scotch [very dour] and is great fun. They killed the fatted calf for us and turned it on properly. Both Arch and myself admit that we have never been entertained so naturally and so well. You would like both of them very much. Ipoh is a decent town and we saw all of it. Mrs. Ayrton came in our car and explained everything. She even took us into a Chinese temple.

Thursday:- departed Ipoh with a feeling of regret at 2pm and arrived back at Fraser’s Hill at 7pm. On our previous visit we found Fraser’s Hill a grand place and because boarding house accommodation was not available we took a house. Our return to Fraser’s Hill and our bungalow was an epic. A decent lady Estate Agent had hired Chinese boys and cooks for us and all was excellently prepared for our arrival. Some of the locals knew of our return and arranged for whacko party in ‘Aus House’ that night. The party was a howling success. We are considered the best hosts in Malaya. All we did was:-

[a] Provided a few cheap whiskies all round

[b] Made everybody take off their shoes

[c] Played murders with the lights out.

Our party was a wild riot and our guests walked home arm in arm just before the dawn.

Friday: – Golf, tennis and more golf. At night we had a few visitors but we were all tired and our guests left us fairly early. The golf course is short, pretty and I am playing not badly. I have not lost a ball and I have won $2. We are living like fighting cocks in our own bungalow. Chinese boys waiting on us hand and foot.

Today is Saturday. I played golf and now it is 2.30pm and I am going to have an hours rest before going round again. We have some super girls at Fraser’s Hill. They are Australian nurses and really great sports. They play excellent tennis and golf so we hit things pretty well.

Tonight we are all going to a ‘whacko’ party at the local club. Today we had a meeting with the nurses and because they are returning tomorrow we have all decided to make tonight a really bumper show.

On Monday when we were coming up we struck John Barton going down. He had been here a couple of weeks and was returning because he was broke. I loaned him $10 and will get it when I arrive back at camp.

Our leave has been extended a little and we shall occupy our bungalow until Monday.

This is really a heavenly place, 4000 feet up on the very top of a mountain. The air is cool clear and crisp. We really sleep with blankets.

Saturday night was grand. The local club provided us with a small happy dance. We were a merry party and arrived home about 3am feeling pretty tired.

Sunday: In the morning I played golf with one of the nurses. We had a grand game. Sister Ogilvy from S.A. was my partner. She plays a pretty good stick. I could not go wrong today and the local caddy master cum pro was astounded when one of my iron shots went 309 yards; dead straight. This fellow has been taking an interest in my golf and now ‘I don’t slice’. He tells me that my handicap would be 12. My old ‘hit hard and hope’ style has disappeared and this morning I made the green three times with my first shot.

Sunday afternoon very quiet. The nurses departed at 4.30pm. Both Archie and I slept until one of our boys called us for dinner at 8.30pm. Tonight we are spending at the house by ourselves. Tomorrow we return to camp.

Our holiday has been a great success. I am feeling just as well now as when I left Australia

War Diary of the 2/20 Battalion A.I.F. PORT DICKSON 9 Jul ‘41

Yesterday the Unit did a Route March of 14½ miles. A number of blistered feet and a few chafings. Recently recovered skin trouble personnel took part and were not affected.

Today: – Coys. again on night movements. Patrols against defensive positions. The men finding night work in rubber and light jungle not too difficult.


War Diary 1941 2/20 Bn.

Port Dickson, War Diary Sheet 47, 8 July to 28 July 1941.

8 July: Unit did a route march of 14½ miles. A number of blistered feet and a few chafings. Recently recovered skin trouble personnel took part and were not affected.

9 July: Coys tonight on night movements. Patrols against defensive positions. The men finding night work in rubber and light jungle not too difficult.

14 July: “A” Coy left camp on a five day trek. Only contact with camp during this period to be M/C D.H. and ration and water trucks. Coy bivouacked in rubber. Skeleton enemy also bivouacked facing them.

17 July: “A Coy” has now completed 4 days of bivouack and has already safely negotiated several wet nights.

18 July: Treking Coy now returned. Their 5 days exercise most successful. Movement and control as well as bivouacking in rubber, jungle and open country was experienced as well as considerable night work. Very many lessons brought out. Stamina of troops very good.

21 July: “B” Coy on 5 day trek from today. Remainder of Unit as per syllabus.

28 July: “C” Coy now on five days trek. This work proving of great value.

Routine Orders 18 July 1941

Transfers: NX50610 Sjt Caldow WG  Bn HQ reverted to Cpl at own request. He then transferred to 8 Div Pro Coy on the same day. (He survived the war and was listed as Sergeant in DVA Nominal Rolls but I can’t spot him in Don Wall’s lists so I don’t know which POW group he was with.)

NX54998 Pte Ryan JBH, ‘A’ trans to AACC and attached to 2/20 Bn as Shoemaker. (He died in the fighting for Singapore on 10 February 1942.)

Cricket 20 July: Players selected to play against Rintoul’s XI were WO Webster, Sjt Salter, Cpls McCoy, Spurway, L/Cpl Drinkman, Ptes Steel, Basten, Dean, Norden, McGuire, Scollen, Harrison, Cook and Longbottom.

Lest we forget. Posted 18 July 2013


Routine Orders 24 July 1941

Comforts: The following are acknowledged from the Australian Comforts Fund: Cigarettes 2676 packets, Chewing gum 1681, matches 1506 packets, Razor blades 892 packets, toothpaste 892 tubes, tobacco 446 1oz packets, cigarette papers 223 packets, Cake 445 lbs.

Negri Sembilan Dance Hall is out of bounds to all Troops Monday to Friday from 2300 hours, Saturday from 2345hrs and Sunday from 2200hrs.

Camp picture show: Films will be shown tonight and following nights in the usual manner

Notices… The times for High tides were listed for August 1 to August 12.

NX57609 L/Cpl Morris WW,  ‘C’ Coy reverted to Pte at own request.

NX51553 Pte Reid WJ ‘C’ Coy punished for disorderly conduct (fined £1) and AWL 8 days 13¼hrs (Forfeit 9 days pay, fined £4 and 18 days detention.)  Posted 23 July 2013


Routine Orders 25 July 1941

Court of Inquiry: A court to inquire into the loss of rifle No 130548 will be assembled at a time and place to be notified by the President Major RH Cohen, Members, Capt EW Gaden and Lieut JV Mudie.

Correspondence: Attention to all ranks is drawn to the fact that under AMR&O 507 no soldier must write to any person outside his Unit, or to any other Unit regarding any matter affecting his rank, position or transfer. All correspondence to another Unit must be forwarded through his Coy to Bn HQ for transmission.

Personnel travelling in trucks: Personnel riding in trucks must sit back to back along the centre of the truck and under no circumstances will any part of the body project over the side of the truck.

Community Singing Salvation Army Hut 1930 hours Sunday 27 July 1941.

NX27019 L/pl Bourke JE HQ Coy, reverted to Pte at own request.


The War Diary and Routine Orders are available for the Australian War Memorial and all of Bill Gaden’s  letters are in my book “Pounding Along to Singapore”.

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