Wounded troops fought their way to safety through the jungle
Name: Pat Reynolds
Unit: 2/19th Battalion AIF
Lt Pat Reynolds was a Platoon Commander with the 2/19th Battalion AIF, fighting in Malaya in 1942.
The troops had been specially trained for fighting in rubber, jungle and swamp country, developing skills in silent and quick movement through this difficult terrain.
Pat Reynolds was severely wounded in the fighting but managed to retreat with a large group of wounded men, all the time fighting off Japanese attacks, until two days later they reached Yong Peng where they were transported by ambulance to Singapore.
After five operations and two blood transfusions at 10 Australian General Hospital, and despite almost constant shelling and bombing by the Japanese, he was carried onto the Woo Sooi, a small hospital ship which sailed for Batavia. As they left Pat Reynolds recalls seeing No 17 wharf in flames. At Batavia they were transferred to the Kara Para and headed for Colombo. On the way they heard the news that Singapore had fallen.
After nine weeks of "excellent treatment" they sailed for Sydney arriving on Friday 15 May 1942.
Pat Reynolds proved to have a great memory for details as the following extract from his experiences in Malaya, written on his return to Australia, shows.
Tuesday 20th Jan 1942
Early in the morning, about a company of men from the 29th Bn joined the 19th. The CO decided to move back towards Parit Sulong, so accordingly made his preparations.
The wounded were placed in trucks and the Bn. moved off at about 0800 hrs. C Coy made a clean break after some hard fighting earlier in the morning. We had not gone more than a mile when the Bn. struck its first road block of felled rubber trees and a damaged carrier. After an hour's fighting, the Bn. progressed. We passed B echelon seeing most of our trucks riddled with bullets. On the southern area of B eschalot, were the bodies of many Japs who had run into the fire of our Vickers gunners, two nights previously.
At the second road block which consisted of disabled trucks, the Japs attacked us but not determinedly from the rear, mainly using their artillery and mortars from this sector. At this stage, I was able together about forty men from the wounded, drivers and artillerymen and form four sections, each with Bren, and we kept guard on the left centre flank. Luckily we were at no period determinedly attacked, but these men, although mostly wounded, drove off any Jap sections with fire.
The main attack at each block was usually very fierce. Each time, the Japs had to be killed in their holes before the block could be negotiated. There were usually four Jap machine guns close to the blocks with others out in the rubber on each side.
As each block was overcome, the convoy would move on, usually under fire from two Jap artillery pieces.
Just as the convoy was moving off, at one stage about a Pl of Indians panicked from the right rear flank and jumped into trucks. The Japs opened up with their artillery many Indians being killed in the few trucks that were hit. As the Indians cleared out, Lt Col Anderson called all AIF to the right of the road. This we did, and the Japs were driven off and then we returned to our previous positions.
The Jap' planes bombed us occasionally, but their artillery was the most dangerous of their auxiliary arms. Lt. Col. Anderson was a magnificent example of a cool resourceful commander, and whenever he was in the vicinity of a Platoon, the men invariably responded. He showed uncanny ability to know where the Jap shells were going to land, and although he was many times under fire from Jap infantry he indicated the correct way to take cover from shells. Then he was up and busy before the noise had died down of any shell that burst near him.
At about half past five in the evening the Bn. commenced to fight the toughest block of the day, consisting of many felled rubber trees. The Japs had two M.Gs hidden in or near an Attap hut, together with a couple more on the other side of the road and their riflemen. The fighting was very tough and at the last the CO ordered a 25 pounder up to within 60 yards of the block. It eventually blasted a path through and forward Coys knocked out the Jap M.Gs and drove off their riflemen.
During the day at one of the blocks, the Colonel had gone forward with a few men from A Coy and had knocked out a particularly stubborn Jap machine gun post. As the Jap post was knocked out by the explosion of grenades, the Jap put his head up from the butt of a tree a few yards from the CO who immediately shot the Jap. He then turned to his bodyguard and exclaimed "Mine! Donley", This incident was relayed to those of us in the rear on the flanks within a few minutes. (Pte Donley carried a Tommy Gun.)
Having overcome the last of six road blocks, the Bn continued on until about 02.30 hrs. When the head of the Btn was about 2 miles from Parit Sulong, the CO ordered all to get what rest they could.
Two days later they reached comparative safety at Yong Peng and were transported by ambulance to Singapore for treatment.
The material for this article was supplied by Roy Reynolds of New South Wales