Kupang - Australian War Memorial
Kupang 22nd February, 2009
LEST WE FORGET...
In December 1941, 1300 men and supplies who made up Sparrow Force arrived in Kupang, Timor Island from Darwin Australia. Their role was to assist the Netherlands East Indies Army to repel the pending invasion of Timor by the Japanese Imperial Army.
On the 19th of February 1942 the Japanese Air Force commenced bombing Kupang and Penfui – Bandara Eltari airfield. On the 20th of February fighting commenced in earnest in isolated areas ranging from Kupang, Oesapa Besar and around Penfui.
The first wave of Japanese invaders included 1000 Paratroopers supported by Fighter aircraft and Bombers. The Paratroopers landed at Babao and fierce fighting took place in isolated sections when they met with resistance from the Australians.
On the Afternoon of the 20th “A” Company left Penfui to meet the Japanese at Babao to retake the Town. Spasmodic fighting continued thru the night and there was fighting and skirmishes all the way through to Oesau.
On the 21st of February the Australians continued to move through Japanese lines until they met the main Japanese Paratroop contingent who had dug in with heavily fortified positions being armed with machine guns, mortars, other associated small arms and fighter aircraft.
By the morning of February 22nd the Australians had suffered many wounded and killed and were running out of supplies and men in attempting to take Oesau Ridge, the Australian Commanding Officer for this section Colonel Leggett then decided that the best way to move forward was to order a bayonet charge of the Japanese positions.
This was due to commence at 5pm. If the charge was successful then the Australians would be able to proceed to Champlong to retake the Town which they believed was in Japanese hands. Once at Champlong they could also re-provision and take on reinforcements if they were there.
The Australians completed the task to retake Oesau Ridge and defeated the Japanese. Along the way the Timorese suffered from many people dead and injured as well. The Timorese provided great assistance to the Australians and had many heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice to try to repel the Japanese.
On the morning of February 23rd the Australians were assessing their numbers of wounded, able men and supplies when a troop of Japanese tanks carrying a white flag came up behind the Australian supply trucks holding many wounded, the Japanese Commanding Officer had an ultimatum for the Australians to surrender within one hour or they would be bombed out of existence by the superior numbers of the enemy.
Seeing no other alternative the men of the 2/40th Battalion AIF “Sparrow Force” surrendered at 9am and became prisoners of war of the Japanese Imperial Army. They suffered terribly from that day on until the end of the War on the 15th of August 1945. By then they were spread throughout Asia including Japan itself.
The men and survivors of the 2/40th Battalion AIF "Sparrow Force” wish to express their profound gratitude and appreciation to the People of Timor and give thanks to the People to Timor for their undying assistance and friendship.