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'badly need boots'
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Fall of Timor
'badly need boots, quinine, money and Tommy-gun ammunition'
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'Winnie the War Winner' in the Australian War
Memorial, Canberra, was named after the
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
[RELAWM 28066]

By April 1942 the men in the 2/2nd Independent Company had been fighting their guerrilla campaign against the Japanese in Timor for four months. Most of the remainder of Sparrow Force had surrendered to the Japanese on 23 February and the 'guerrillas' had fought on with no supplies and no contact with Australia since then. Most were suffering from malaria and dysentery, some were wounded and they had little food, medicine and clothing.

Since March, Captain George Parker, 8th Division Signals, together with men in his section, Lieutenant John Henry (Jack) Sargeant and Lance-Corporal John Donovan had been experimenting with damaged wireless equipment in an attempt to contact Australia. Together with signallers Max (Joe) Loveless and Keith Richards who were members of the original commando force, the men scrounged and salvaged pieces of damaged radio equipment to build a transmitter. At one stage they even made a generator to recharge two small batteries they had carefully preserved. Using a tomahawk, a screwdriver and a pair of pliers they built their first set. It didn't work. Their next one did.

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Three of the men who helped to construct 'Winnie'. L-R: Signaller Keith Richards, Corporal John Donovan and
Lieutenant Jack Sargeant.
[AWM 013764]

On 18 April 1942, after months of silence, they transmitted a signal to Darwin. The men didn't realise their signal had been picked up until the next day when it was acknowledged just as their batteries failed.   On the night of 20 April they got through to Darwin again. The listeners in the Darwin radio room were suspicious and demanded proof of the men's identity. There had been no communication from Sparrow Force since their surrender in February and the duty officer didn't believe the message could be genuine. To confirm that it was, he asked for the name of the wife of Sparrow Force's signals officer, Lieutenant George Parker. The reply was 'Joan'. Next he requested the name of Lieutenant 'Jack' Sargeant's wife. 'Kathleen' was the reply. Having established their bona fides, the guerrillas transmitted again:

Force intact. Still fighting. Badly need boots, quinine, money and Tommy-gun ammunition.

RAAF Hudson bombers dropped the items by parachute within 48 hours and at the end of May 1942 RAN ships began a regular run from Darwin to Timor with supplies for the men. The RAN lost the destroyer HMAS Voyager and corvette HMAS Armidale during these supply runs.

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945