Invasion of Malaya
The 'maimed and bloodstained' group: Parit Sulong
[Oil on hardboard 64.5 x 81.5 cm AWM 24477]
The first large massacre of Australian troops by Japanese forces occurred at Parit Sulong on the west coast of Malaya on 22 January 1942. Wounded survivors from the battle of Muar who could not travel on foot were left at Parit Sulong when the remnants of the greatly outnumbered force of Australians and Indians escaped from the Japanese who surrounded them. Lieutenant Ben Hackney (2/29th Battalion) was one of very few survivors of 'the maimed and bloodstained' group left behind at Parit Sulong, and the only one to survive subsequent years of captivity.
Ben Hackney wrote that the wounded men, some of whom had been carried in the road convoy for up to four days during the battle, lay helplessly either in trucks or on the ground exposed to the action with
not even anything to drink ... lots of fellows mad or near mad from pain.
As the Japanese came closer, the Australians' fire decreased.
It was not very long before we knew why - it became known to most that orders had been given for all men for themselves, and to get out as best they could. An odd burst from a machine gun and some rifle fire kept going out from our troops, but as time went on there were less and less of our men about. In small parties and sometimes singly, we could see our fellows going up the northern back of the river east of the bridge.
[Ben Hackney, 'Dark Evening', a typescript account of the massacre at Parit Sulong, AWM MSS0758]
The 'maimed and bloodstained' group - as Ben Hackney described them - consisted of 110 Australian and 40 Indian troops who were left behind to be captured by the Japanese Imperial Guards Division. According to Hackney, the Japanese delighted in kicking and hitting the prisoners with rifle butts. They forced them into an overcrowded shed and denied them food, water and medical attention. At sunset, those able to walk were roped or wired together and were led away. Hackney, who was seriously wounded, and a few others were left for dead. The Japanese collected petrol from the Allied vehicles which had been left stranded, shot their prisoners, threw petrol upon them and ignited it. Ben Hackney, very badly wounded, was one of just two men to escape. The Japanese captured him a few weeks later and he became a prisoner of war.
[Source: Ben Hackney, 'Dark Evening', AWM MSS0758]