I wish to welcome you to the 2/18th (AIF) Infantry Battalion Association 2022 Newsletter.
Since the last newsletter we have gone through more COVID-19, which has had an effect on the Association, just as has affected all our lives. Hopefully with the easing of the pandemic we will be able to meet again soon.
In the last year the Association has relaunched our website and Facebook page. We can’t thank Jamie and Lachlan Simond enough for their incredible work they did to produce such fantastic information on the Facebook page. We will miss them as they spend time in Washington DC, representing Australia. Diane Humphries has produced a very impressive website and we can only offer our sincere thanks for all her hard work and those who helped her. I recommend you view the Facebook page 2/18th Battalion AIF Association or the website 218battalion.org.au
In December 2021 we had an enjoyable lunch with a small group of members at Roseville RSL to celebrate Christmas. We look forward to the Christmas lunch again on Monday, 5 December 2022. We hope more people are able to attend.
On 15 February 2022 the NSW RSL hosted a service at the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney, to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore and we had a good roll up of members and enjoyed a nice lunch after the service.
The Association had some issues with the running of the service and what appeared to be the complete ignoring of the families of the men of the 8th Division. Robyn Simond, on behalf of the Association, wrote an excellent email to the RSL about our complaints and received a reply that did not really answer the issues raised.
On ANZAC Day the Association’s Banner marched down Elizabeth Street with some proud family members behind. See attached report written by Liz Richard. But I wish to especially mention our committee member, Col Wright, who marched all the way when he was clearly unwell. It certainly shows his pride in the men of the Battalion.
We had an intimate ANZAC Day lunch which included some new people, two of whom who had come from Queensland, one flying down and back on the day, which was really special.
Hopefully 2023 ANZAC Day we will be able to welcome more to our Iunch, it is always a lovely way to catch up.
In May we went to Brisbane (NRL Magic Round) and Liz caught up with both the ladies who attended the ANZAC Day lunch as well as Olwyn Jones for a lovely lunch.
The Association Committee is in the process of digitising the battalion’s archives which are lovingly looked after by our Secretary Joan Okey. We have also updated our mail and email lists so that we are better able to communicate with our members and friends.
The digitising of our archives is a very slow process as you could imagine when we are dealing with some items that are between 75 and 80 years old. Diane Humphries, Joan Okey, Liz Richard and myself will continue this important task.
We have had positive feedback regarding our new Facebook page and website and this is very encouraging as communication is important for organisations.
We are very interested in involving more of the younger generations in the association, so if you have a younger family member who would like to be involved or any ideas how get them involved, please contact us.
On a personal note, sadly we lost our beloved Heather Blyth in February. Heather was such a supporter of Merv and the Association and she is missed greatly.
Dates to remember
- Monday, 5 December 2022 at Roseville RSL 12:00 noon.
- Tuesday 25 April 2023, either to march or attend the ANZAC Day lunch — check Facebook page and emails closer to the date.
I hope you are all well.
President 2/18 th (AIF) Infantry Battalion Association
Two of Merv Blyth’s daughters, Alison Job and Liz Richard, at the service at St Johns Church of England.
From our Treasurer Diane Humphries
Has anyone else visited the “Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial” in beautiful Ballarat?
It is certainly worth seeing if you are in that part of the world. It is built within the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and was opened in 2004 by Sir Peter Cosgrove when he was Chief of the Australian Defence Force.
The memorial is very long and very striking as it contains 35,000 Australian names. Of course it was moving to see the names of our beloved past Presidents and Committee members such as Merv Blyth, Doug Okey, John McGrory, Paul Gemmell, Stan O’Grady and Nemo Dorph as well as my father’s name (R G Humphries).
Below is the inscription on the memorial:
“More than 35,000 Australian men and women were held captive as prisoners by the enemy during the Boer War, World War 1, World War 2 and the Korean War. This memorial honours them.
The journey along this memorial begins on a long pathway designed to create a strong visual perspective that emphasises the great distance Australians travelled to war.
The paving stones forming the pathway are shaped like railway sleepers in recognition of the iconic place of railway journeys in the history of Australian prisoners of war.
A roll of names of all the known Australian prisoners of war is etched into a black granite wall running parallel to the pathway. The roll gives no rank, number or enlistment detail, in recognition that sacrifice, suffering and deprivation acknowledge no person’s status. These men and women are equals.”
Anzac Day March 2022
There was a bit of drizzle around on the morning of ANZAC Day 2022, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. By the time we reached the meeting point in the city the drizzle had stopped.
Murray Slip and Matthew Angus helped Evan get the banner together and they proudly carried it throughout the march. It was great to see Matthew’s young son so excited to see his dad carrying the banner.
The stirring sound of the pipes and drums of Scotch College, who were practising nearby, got us into the mood for the march. The boom of the jet fighter overhead, the new F35A Lightning, gave us all a fright before we set off on our way.
The sun shone as we marched along Elizabeth Street, but it was a bit disappointing that we had no band near us to march along with the beat. Despite this we all marched with pride remembering our relatives who fought for the 2/18 th Battalion AIF.
Marching along with our group was Anne Housego, Jenine Dunn, Col Wright, Julie Whitehouse, David Blyth, Alison Job and myself. Another man joined us as his father didn’t have any group to march with. Jan Murphy joined in towards the end of the march, representing her grandfather. A large crowd lined the street under the magnificent plane trees and we lowered the banner as we went past the War Memorial in Hyde Park.
A special mention should be made to Col Wright, who was determined to march all the way despite the use of crutches. The walk back to the York Club added to his difficulty.
It was lovely to see so many people marching with the battalion this year, seeing as we weren’t represented last year. Some of the group joined us for the luncheon afterwards which was great. We would encourage family members to consider marching with us next year as it is a special day for all of us in the 2/18th family.
By Liz Richard (daughter of Merv Blyth).
Anzac Day luncheon 2022
Left to right: Ann Housego; Jenine Shepherd; William Richard; Fiona Draper; Col Wright; Liz Richard; Michael
Shanahan; Christine Shanahan; Evan Richard; Alison Job; Duncan McGregor; Rob Jenkins; David Blyth; Robyn Simond; Diane Humphries.
The Mersing Cross is a sacred war relic of the 2/18th Battalion of the 8th Division of the Second AIF. The Cross commemorates a battle at Mersing in Malaya.
The Malayan campaign commenced in the early hours of 8 December 1941, when 5,300 troops of the 56th Infantry Regiment of Japan’s 25th Army stormed ashore at Kota Baru. Quickly reinforced, many of the invaders were seasoned veterans of four years continuous fighting in China. Despite savage defence, that inflicted high number of casualties, the Japanese army surged south towards its goal, Singapore, which surrendered on 15 February 1942.
The Allied soldiers were then to face unspeakable inhumanity and deprivation as prisoners of war.
One of the most successful battles in Malaya was fought on the nights of 26/27 January 1942, at the Nithsdale Estate, Jemaluang, near Mersing. Supported by two batteries of 2/18 th Battalion Field Regiment, the 2/18 th Battalion engaged a more numerous Japanese force. So severe was the casualty rate, nearly 1,000, inflicted on the Japanese, they were forced to withdraw to Mersing to regroup, there advance being delayed by three days. The intensity of the action also saw the 2/18th Battalion’s loss of 98 officers and men.
Shortly after the Fall of Singapore, a de-mining party, under Japanese guard, returned to the battle area. The party was allowed to erect a cross, made of local timber, at the site. The letters were carved with knives and glass and packed with bitumen from the roadway. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Mersing Cross was recovered and brought to Australia. It was dedicated in St. John’s Gordon on ANZAC Sunday, 28 April 1946, and placed in the chapel.
The Mersing De-Mining Party
The men were selected to defuse the area they had prepared for a Japanese landing six months previously. Twenty of the battalion travelled north to perform the task, along with groups from the 2/20th Battalion and the 2/10th Engineers. Lieutenant Charles Wagner was the senior 2/18th officer. On arrival the men were placed under the supervision of the Imperial Guards. Discipline was relaxed.
Understandably, the guards left the men alone while de-mining the area, which allowed the Australians to work slowly. This did not eliminate accidents, however, and three men were killed and nine injured when mines were accidentally detonated.
The Mersing party was also notable for several unsuccessful escape attempts. Charles Wagner, the Battalion Intelligence Officer, launched the first attempt.
Anzac Day Dawn Service – Singapore
This year marked a very special ANZAC Day for members of the Blyth family. Accompanied by my wife Marian and members of our extended family — son, Sam Blyth and his wife Kimberlee, their children (Merv’s great- grandchildren) William and Penelope Blyth, and Kimberlee’s mother, Caroline Johnston (who was also on a family pilgrimage), we travelled to Singapore to attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Service held at the Kranji War Memorial.
This year held particular significance, not only marking the 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942, but 15 February also being Sam’s 40th birthday.
The Dawn Service commenced under balmy and clear skies (quite a contrast to the Dawn chill of ANZAC Day in Australia) – with a large contingent of service personnel, expats, families and officials representing the various Embassies in Singapore. It was an emotional service, with the laying of wreaths by all the Commissioners and an address by the New Zealand High Commissioner – Her Excellency Ms Jo Tyndall who shared her own family story of the loss of her great uncle as a POW.
The Australian International School Choir performed both the New Zealand and Australian National Anthems and a haunting rendition of “In Flanders Fields”. The NZ Embassy was responsible for co-ordinating this year’s service (it alternates each year with Australia) with the High Commissioner herself presenting us with a jar of ANZAC biscuits baked specially in the Embassy kitchen. The usual offerings of Bundy rum and cups of tea were missing this year due to COVID restrictions.
The Kranji Memorial is of particular significance to family and friends of 2/18th Battalion POWs who were interned in Changi prison camp. Many of the headstones throughout the manicured lawns and gardens are a solemn reminder of 2/18th infantrymen who did not return. I proudly wore my father’s medal at the service to honour him and his brother Arthur, who was also a member of the battalion.
We also took the opportunity to visit the Changi Chapel and Museum in its new location on Upper Changi Rd North, Singapore. The new Museum, managed by the National Museum of Singapore, comprehensively tells the story of POWs and civilians interned in Changi. It features artefacts, stories, personal objects and videos all presented in a modern interpretative facility. It even features a large digital screen where you can search the details of former prisoners. It is a remarkable legacy to the internees of Changi. A comprehensive publication named “Changi Chapel and Museum – Remembering the Internees and Legacies of Changi” is now available for purchase at the Chapel.
I can thoroughly recommend attending both the Dawn Service and the Museum and Chapel. It was an unforgettable experience.
Kind regards to all,
Bill Blyth — son of Mervyn Blah 2/18th Battalion
Bill Blyth, proudly wearing his father, Merv Blyth’s medals at the service at Kranji.
80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore
The 80th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore was well attended by members of our association: Evan and Liz Richard, Diane Humphries, Robyn Simond and Michael Shanahan. Apologies came from Joan Okey and Col Wright who were both hoping to attend.
This year the service was organised by the NSW RSL and included an address by Major General Pearse, reciting of the Ode, music by the Army band, the Last Post and the singing of “The Captive’s Hymn” by the Sydney Women’s Vocal Orchestra.
Diane organised a beautiful wreath in battalion colours but we were all very disappointed when we were told that members of the public were to lay their wreaths at the end of the service, after the governor’s representative had left as well as the catafalque party. Diane and Robyn laid the wreath at the foot of the cenotaph along with other battalions who were represented. To say this was not a fitting way to mark the significance of the occasion was an understatement. Robyn has sent an email to the RSL on behalf of the association expressing our disappointment.
Four daughters of 2/18th Battalion members met up in Brisbane in May this year. After heavy rain the sun shone on a very warm afternoon as we spent a lovely time catching up at a café alongside the swollen Brisbane River.
Liz Richard (daughter of Mervyn Blyth), Olwyn Jones (daughter of Walter “White Wally” Partridge, Anne Housego (daughter of John Clarence Shepherd) and Fiona Draper (daughter of Claude Draper) got together after three of us met on ANZAC Day at the Battalion Association luncheon in Sydney.
We got to know each other better and learnt a bit more about our fathers’ time during the war whilst sharing stories. Olwyn told us about the Fall of Singapore Commemorative service held in Brisbane each year and recommended you attend if you are visiting at the time. This service is one of the biggest in Australia. She also said that the POW
Memorial in Ballarat is hoping to open a museum and they might be interested in some of our archive records.
Pictured: Fiona Draper, Liz Richard, Anne Housego, Olwyn Jones.
A little piggy story
On 29 May 1943, Lt Harry Blackford of 2/20th Battalion, along with a party of 16 men arrived on the island of Blakang Mati, which was located immediately to the south of Singapore. This working party had been established earlier and the 2/20th men were required to replace those who had returned to Changi owing to illness.
The working parties were accommodated in two brick buildings about 100 yards apart on either side of a sealed road running east/west on the northern side of the island. In one building there were 250 Australians from the 2/18th Battalion as well as other units and there were 250 Malay Volunteer Force prisoners in the other. Most of the Malay Volunteer prisoners were British civilians who were working in Malaya pre-war and came from all levels of the business community, they were older than the average Australian being 60 or older in some cases.
They gave the Australians a very warm welcome and many life-long friendships were formed out of this association. The British men of the Malay Volunteer Force were commanded by Major W Smith and the Australians were under the command of Major Doug Okey, 2/18th Battalion.
Each day the working party was split into smaller groups and sent to different locations. In the early days most of the work was on the Singapore wharves unloading cargo from ships, petrol seemed to be the main cargo at first, however, later aerial bombs of various sizes were unloaded. The initial confrontation which ensued after the men were requested to handle the bombs was predictable, they refused to handle the bombs and the Japs retaliated with an orgy of bashings and ill-treatment of the prisoners. Major Okey was visiting Changi frequently and after discussion with HQ the men were instructed to comply with the request. On numerous occasions working parties were out for a number of days and nights and on returning to barracks, were only given time to shower and clean
up before going out again for several days.
At first the food was quite good, several times a full carcass of sheep and plenty of vegetables were issued to each barrack kitchen, which was good by POW standards. However, as time went by, rations were reduced drastically until it became barely adequate for the men involved in the hard work and sickness increased due to the lack of food.
One morning the Japs called for a party of 200 men, their pig had escaped and was now raiding the vegetable gardens at night, and the men were ordered to catch it. All that day the 200 men chased the pig through a small section of the jungle, returning to the barracks at night, tired and sore and the pig still free. The next day the Japs told them to pick 20 of their own men, and if the pig was caught, it was theirs. The pig dashed through the jungle at an incredible speed and they doubted if they could catch it, but the pig darted out on the road, saw one of the men, turned and tried to get to the safety of the jungle. Quick as a flash, the man grabbed the pig by the hind leg and threw it onto its back. This all happened within five minutes and in half an hour the pig was in the pot — squeal and all.
One pig for 500 men does not seem much but that stew was talked about for ages. The next morning the Japs requested the party of 200 men who first chased the pig to fall out, then a Jap, in halting English, informed them that they could not understand how 200 men could not catch a pig in one day, while 20 men could catch it in five minutes. He said they had not tried and he instructed 20 Jap guards to deliver a hefty punch to each of the 200 men. The men considered the whole deal worthwhile!
An excerpt from the chapter on Blakang Mati Island in the book “Singapore and Beyond”, history of the 2/20th Battalion AIF by Don Wall.
- The battle raged unceasing
With bursting bomb and shell.
Both dead and wounded lay about
Amid this earthly hell.
- When through the smoke of battle
We saw it standing by
The “Red Cross” plain, for all to see
We heaved a heartfelt sigh.
- The wounded were soon loaded
We wished the best of luck
Blest the driver and his men
For their courage and their pluck.
- Back to the 9 th Field Ambulance
Where willing hands stood by
To mend our wounded, soothe their nerves
And see they did not die.
- Day and night these gallant men
Worked on for hours and hours.
And when a shell burst nearby, they said
“Don’t panic boys, it’s ours”
- Tho words of praise are nigh enough
To give these boys a name.
But through it all, “the 2/9”
Stood by and played the game
Written by Private Andrew Brand (Blakang Matt)
2/18th Battalion AIF
and dedicated to the 2/9 Field Ambulance in appreciation of their
services on “Active Service” in the Malayan Campaign 1941-1942
The POW Lament
Oh we live upon rice, thaws been got at by
mice, And weevils and grubs by the score,
And we get for our pay, only 10 cents a
day, They say we’re not worth any
We work out huge sums with flaming oil drums,
We use them like Chinese use beads,
We roll ‘em and whack ‘em, we kick ‘em and stack
‘em, It’s all done at maximum speed.
We work on bomb crates at non-union
rates, At the wharf or down at the
And its speedo they yell, as we’re sweating
like hell, as we strain, and we push and shove.
Oh the days we have spent mixing flaming
cement, For mending bomb holes in the
Or cracking up stones till we ache in our
bones, And crawl into bye-bye dead
Many hours we beguile, cutting grass on the
isle, With a tool that you swing round your
And the grass just for spite, grows a foot
overnight, We’d be far better off were we
If we get a day’s spell, we must still work like
hell, Washing clothes, killing bugs by the
Or pushing a timber (two-wheeled vehicle) we’ve loaded with
timber, And being sent back for some more.
And we really can’t think when we had our last
drink, Or tasted a nicely cooked roast,
Or swallowed our fill of a decent mixed
grill, Or spread butter thick on our
And fair dinkum we find that we can’t call to
mind, The last time that we went to a hop,
And got really tight going home of a
night, And got pinched by a
Every son of a bitch has broke out with an
itch, Of rice sores or tinea or worse,
And you can’t slap a bloke or the back for a joke,
Without hearing a scream or a curse.
But despite the tough spin, and the mess that we’re
in, We can still thumb our noses at fate,
For in our durance vile (very long prison sentence), there’s still one thing
worthwhile, That’s the grin on the dial of your mate
Written on Blakang Mali by Egill McAuley 1942 (some words changed to be suitable for publication).
Special thanks for generous donations from:
Sally Harris -Leys
18″ Bn Memorial Club
If anyone would like to make a bequest to the Battalion, we have been instructed that the wording required is:
“I give $xx to the 2/18th Battalion AIF Association (ABN 95 051 742 187) of PO Box 7811, Baulkham Hills NSW 2153 in the state of NSW.
A reminder hat our Christmas Lunch will be held at the Roseville Memorial Club on Monday, 5 December 2022, from 12 noon.
Each individual pays for their own lunch at the club.
Also, our Anzac Day lunch (including AGM) will be held at the Bowlers Club, 99 on York, on Tuesday, 25 April 2023, 11am to 3pm (lunch will be served at approximately 1pm).
This will be a two-course sit-down meal costing $55 (includes main and dessert, plus continuous tea and coffee).
Payment for this luncheon must be made two weeks prior.
If you intend attending either or both of these functions, please notify the Secretary two weeks before the date for catering purposes.
Looking forward to seeing you at these special occasions.
Treasurer’s Annual Report 2/18th Battalion (A.I.F) Association for 25 April 2022
Opening Balance 1/04/2021
St George & Bendigo
Donations – $425.00
Books – $294.87
Interest – $1.11
Newsletter – $805.74
New website – $460.00
Bank Fees – $91.40
Wreaths – $80.00
Badges – $448.35
ANZAC Day – $123.00
Closing Bendigo balance 31/3/2022: $5,147.58
Treasurer: Diane Humphries JP
Pictured main: Members of the 2/18th (AIF) Infantry Battalion wave as they are ferried to their assigned ship, which is waiting to take them to Malaya.