'Badly need boots, quinine, money and Tommy-gun ammunition'

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.

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.


Last updated: 1 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), 'Badly need boots, quinine, money and Tommy-gun ammunition', DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 24 October 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/japanese-advance-december-1941-march-1942/fall-timor/badly-need-boots-quinine-money-and-tommy-gun
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