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Reports on events 20-21 February


by lt. McKenzie

notes: Gerard van Haren

Charles Francis Gerald MCKENZIE (source: 2/2 Commando Association of Australia)

At 2200 hrs. on night 20-21 Feb[1], Pte Hasson on sentry duty at the aerodrome and reported hearing movements at sea. The trump of heavy engines winches and small craft was plainly audible.

Cpl. Delbridge and two men were sent out to investigate and brought back report that two ship were close in to shore and were apparently landing troops in small motor launches. The talking of landing party proved it to be a foreign force.

Doto [2] was informed immediately and action stations were manned by No 2 [3] Section with R.A.E.[4] attached.

At about 2359 hrs. Dutch artillery[5] opened up with two shells across the bay. The enemy replied immediately with light naval guns and heavy machine gun fire across the bay towards Dili.

The naval vessel which was closest in then retired West to about the mouth of the Comoro River and there proceeded to land further troops using motor launches and searchlights

At 0020 hrs. Cpl. Curran and four men went on patrol west of the drome down through the thick bush for half a mile and back to drome along the road. This patrol reported no enemy movement close to drome but movement west along the shore to a presumed concentration at the mouth of the Comoro.

At 0040 hrs. I was ordered to cover the road west from Dili with Bren fire. Cpl. Delbridge, Pte Ryan  (No 1 Gunner) and Pte Smith F.C. (No 2 Gunner) were immediately sent out to do this job. Pte Doyle (runner) went out with the party to bring back a report on the area and gun position. At 01:10 hrs. my bren opened fire along the road and was immediately replied to with grenades and heavy H.E. (Moral  effect) bombs.

Quietness reigned for about half an hour and then much movement was evident out around gun position. At 0140 hrs. [6] crawled back to H.Q. suffering from shock and reported that both Pte Ryan (leg) and Smith P.C. (shoulder) had been wounded and that the Bren had been captured. Pte Doyle (runner) who had been hiding/listening arrived back almost with Cpl. Delbridge and collaborated this report. From then on until 03:40 hrs. much movement and talking almost all around us signified that we were outnumbered. A large number of Japanese had been engaged on the South West corner of the drome, presumably burying their dead and questioning Pte Ryan (in perfect English).

As communication with the Dutch[7] had been out off for some time I appreciated the position and decided to no longer act according to previous or earlier orders. My decision after appreciation was to close my own troops closer in to the Hangar buildings so we could develop a sort of a village fight, prepare to destroy all gear and blow the drome before evacuating (my plan of evacuation was also altered in as much as my route would be through the town instead of practically straight south into the hills. Pte Doyle was at this juncture dispatched to town to contact Capt. Callinan[8]and make know my decision.

Setting up petrol to burn the gear was in progress when a small Jap patrol of about a dozen appeared at a little bridge over drain west of the hangar interrupted our work but it was soon wiped out by Ptes Poynton and Thomas (T.S.M.Gs) Hudson (rifle) and Cpl. Curran (grenades). Pressure from enemy prevented me from any further action regarding the destruction of gear. (It was plainly visible by this time that we were being surrounded and I thought that a fire would betray our line of retreat. I sent orders to prepare for a dawn attack. Ptes Poynton and Thomas (T.S.M.Gs) Hudson and Hasson (rifles and grenades) were to cover our retreat momentarily. All was quiet for a while and then a single shot rang out from one center of the drome. (One of the R.A.E. had shot a Jap or a fifths columnist who was obviously trying to destroy the connections to the charge, laid on drome).

Cpl. Curran was given command of blowing the drome and the evacuation of all men excepting the four men mentioned and myself. They were to retire to the South East corner of the drome (after blowing it) and cover us as we came out.

It was now just on dawn and another Jap thrust succeeded in getting about four men across the small bridge. Cpl. Curran was cut off over the drain just then and used his bayonet to effect (five Japs) presumably one officer to get back. He had also noticed a small party of Japs who had crawled over the drain and into a small room near drain. These he grenaded in passing. Two of the party of four had now forced Pte Hasson out of position and pursued him back into me where I was able to use the rifle (Pte Doyles) instead of my pistol.

Meanwhile the remaining three who were with Pte Poynton were now attacking fiercely and were causing much havoc amongst streams of Japs who were trying to force their way across the little bridge.
I had just got close enough to Poynton to tell him to come when the drome went up and Signaler Gannon was found wounded. Poynton and Thomas continued to fight until Hudson had removed Poyntons water bottle and given it to Gannon. Our party of four was now ready to leave (myself leading) when a light automatic opened up on us. Having no cover I momentarily decided to surround him and use a grenade but just then got nicked by a bullet of his second burst, so quickly replied with three lucky shots from the hip. Our line of was now clear except for mortar fire, presumably Dutch[9], which made us keep our heads down as it seemed to be directed on no set target. During our race across the drome we were engaged from all around with machinegun fire (a type, from noise etc., which suggested a heavier gun than had been hither to encountered).

During the exit[10] I made it my business to quickly inspect the craters and found the one I saw closely to be 12-15 ft deep and 15-20 ft wide. Continuing now on my own towards town I encountered another machine gun over the big drain, but it was Dutch[11] and they recognized me after a burst or two. I waited at the Dutch artillery camp[12] and gathered a party of twelve, and proceeded into town with Pte Hooper, leaving the remainder of my section (eleven) at the road gun emplacement[13] closest to town.

As I could not find Capt. Callinan and the town around Dutch H.Q. was being shelled, I decided to send Hooper back for my party and retire into the hills via Lahane up to Lolora and then along the range back by our original route to Railaco, Signaler Hancock  was discovered at H.Q. frantically trying to get a message away but without success. I ordered him to try until 0820 hrs. and then come with me. Meanwhile my men resting and I hall checked up on the gear to find it was no use our staying in the hills to try and harass the enemy,

At 0830 hrs. my party plus Sig. Hancock and three Dutch troops[14] left for the hills via rout previously mentioned. Doctor Bloomsmar[15] – Tay [15a] and a party in a car followed by a truck, overtook us above Lahane en route to Aileu and after conferring with them decided to join their party to as far as Lolora. I noticed one Jap (in shorts, alone) rush on to the road and act as though to open fire on us. My rifle jammed at this stage, which probably  was a good thing, because I feel sure that the Jap was tired and had mucked up a perfectly good ambush. My inability to fire, and so not bring fire back, enabled me to select a spot where I could direct the stopping of the truck and positioning of troops by visual signals. My scheme here was a success apart from my being cut off from my men. Eight Japs now appeared over the edge of the hill (two with L.M.Gs[16] and six with rifles which looked like small bore automatics).

Pte Poynton and Growns had selected good positions and Growns was quick to bring down one Jap. Poynton went determinedly into action now and quickly silenced the nearest gun, which had not yet gone into action. I then noticed one of the Dutch troops clambering up to Poynton. Poynton took something from him and rushed forward to another tree. He then threw a grenade which missed its mark. Tried another which failed, but the third blew up the gun and four men. I thought we had the initiative as on arrival a native told me there were fourteen Japs and waved my troops to attack up the hill but changed my mind when heavy machine gun fire plus mortars and grenades commenced to sweep the valley. As this continued for some time my position was precarious until I discovered Bloomsmar in hiding and together we jumped on the cliff forcing a landslide down to safety. Bloomsmar and I laid in hiding for some time and were later joined by some of my men:  L/Cpl Brown, Ptes Bowers, Criddle, Hasson and Hooper who had decided to come back for me. I decided to lay up there as long as we were safe until dark. The valley below us as machine gunned and bombed on quite a few occasions during the day. At about 1550 hrs. a Chinese came crawling up to our hideout and brought a volume of fire with him. A Jap appear just above my rifle muzzle with grenades but he clung to the one he had ready, when he was shot.

Dr Bloomsma and Pte Hooper had decided to evacuate before this down the creek. Now that our hiding place was known I decided to move further down, which we did and here we slept till 2100 hrs.
Moving at night towards Railaco, with native guides, and hiding up the next day, we observed several small Jap parties going up and back. We moved off again at dusk and heard voices just below us. On investigation we found them to be Ptes Gowns and Hooper with two Dutch[17] troops. Arriving at a native hut we decided to investigate it and get a meal. Here we discovered one native Dutch soldier who signified his intention of living there until he obtained native clothes. As we had not encountered any more Japs I decided to travel all ady [day] over the Comoro to “C” Platoon. Natives informed us at that Australians had moved to Railaco so we changed our course, headed down onto the road, up to Railaco and on to “A” Platoon.

Details of officers and 0/Rs taking part in the aerodrome action:

VX50081 Capt. B. J. Callinan[18}; WX5369 Lieut C. F. McKenzie; WXI3535 Pte J. Hasson;

WX10538 Cpl. A. Delbridge; VX47342 Cpl. S. Curran K1/2; WX13624 Ptes. M.P. Ryan;

WX12840 F.C. Smith; WX 13042 C.E. Doyle; WX1255 J.W. Poynton; WX 12679 H.E. Thomas;

WXI3305 W.0. Hudson; WX10548 Sig. H.I. Gannon; WX11349 W.S. PTe Hooper, N1/2;

WX 203 Sig. P. Hancock; WX13530 Pte F.W. Crowns: WX 13194 L/Cpl H.J. Brown;

WX13636 Pte A.C. Bowers; WX12841, Pte C.R. Criddle;

Sappers: TX 4709 L/Cpl R.C. Richards and SX12657 R. Mck.Williamson

Aanvulling: Inmiddels tot Kapitein bevorderde  C.F. McKenzie is voor zijn hierboven beschreven acties op het vliegveld op 27 juli 1944 gedecoreerd met het Bronzen Kruis. De uitreiking werd verricht door Kolonel N.L.W. van Straten, Doto genoemd in dit Report.


[1] 19-20 February

[2] Lt Col van Straten

[3] 2/2 Independent Company

[4] Sappers demolition team Royal Australian Engineers

[5] 4 75 mm cannons and 30 men (Luitenant Th. De Winter) near the Lighthouse

[6] Cpl. Delbridge

[7] HQ.Telephone

[8] From Australia in the War of 1939-1945. Series 1 – Army, Volume V – South-West Pacific Area – First Year: Kokoda to Wau Appendix 2 – Timor

Then commenced a dangerous journey. Doyle mounted an old Dutch push bicycle, called farewell to his friends, then crouching low over the handle-bars, pushed off for the strip entrance, where the Japanese troops were preparing to attack, speeding along as fast as his legs would take him.

[9] The KNIL-mortar section was located in Dilly, but couldn’t be used.

[10] The Dutch fought until 11:00 hrs at the airfield and then withdraw into the hills hinterland.

[11] At 3:15 hrs 2 Dutch sections machine guns (3 Vickers M23) and the 2 sections light machine guns (Madsen M15) where send to the airfield. Just in time for the major Japanese attack on the airfield.

[12] Near the lighthouse

[13] Dutch

[14] Names?

[15] Officier van Gezondheid (army doctor) Bloemsma

[15a] Officier van Gezondheid (army doctor) The Bing Tjauw

[16] Light machine gun

[17] Names?\

[18] Dutch HQ

Dagboeken troepen onder Bronnen

Auteur; Gerard van Haren Onder de pagina Bronnen/Dagboeken zijn inmiddels 4 dagboeken van de deelnemende eenheden over de Slag om Timor en […]

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