Sparrow: A Chronicle of Defiance: The story of The Sparrows –Battle of Britain gunners who defended Timor as part of Sparrow Force during World War II.
Sparrow is a seldom-heard but uplifting story of the Sparrows – the Battle of Britain gunners who defended Timor as part of Sparrow Force.
It is the story of Charlie McLachlan’s war: a triumph of stubborn Scottish defiance and laconic Aussie genius over the relentless violence of man and nature.
From the Rudolph Hess crash-landing to the atom bomb, from history’s last bayonet charge to the war’s greatest aerial bombardment, Charlie McLachlan survives and bears witness to some of the landmark days of World War II.
At one time or other in his four-year ordeal he is fired upon by the armies, navies and/or air forces of Germany, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the United States of America – pretty much everyone but the Russians.
He defies or evades the ravages of tropical ulcers, tropical heat, alpine cold, gangrene, cholera, malaria, beriberi, dysentery, mosquitoes, crocodiles, snakes, sharks, scorpions, sadistic Sikhs, Japanese hellships, falling coconuts, flying shrapnel, beatings, beheadings, bullets, bombs, bayonets, torpedoes, a crushed leg, a fractured skull, malnutrition and premature cremation.
He’s presumed dead by the British Army, left for dead by Japanese guards, and declared dead by a Dutch-Javanese doctor.
Yet through it all Charlie soldiers on.
Half a world away, his wife Mary, fashioned from the same mental granite, stoically awaits his return. Not even an official telegram confirming the near-certainty of Charlie’s death, or later rumours of his torture, can shake her iron faith.
Sparrow Force – the force that defended Timor in 1942 – was one of Australia’s most successful military units. At the lowest point in the Second World War these soldiers - equipped with First World War weapons and cut off from Australia - waged a commando campaign that held off Japan’s most successful and elite special force. Low in medicine and ammunition, they built an improvised radio that regained contact with their homeland. It was the first good news of the war for the Allies.
Sparrow Force was unique. They were the first force to defeat Japan in battle, and they were the last to be captured. Those who escaped to pursue a guerrilla campaign spent more time in combat against the Japanese than any other Allied unit. They were set up to fail; instead they endured, defied, and succeeded.
Newsreels were made, victories were recorded, medals were awarded, and Australia’s morale was elevated. As Winston Churchill famously said, “They alone did not surrender.”
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"An utterly gripping and amazing true story!"
I have read many books on early World War II in the Southwest Pacific Region. This book by far puts them all together and gives a unique perspective from that of the common soldier. It provides you an almost an hour by hour, day by day narrative all the way to the end of the war of the experiences of Sparrow Force members, and also many other Allied Japanese PWs who were in the same PW Camp.The books is based on thousands of hours of first person interviews with Timor veterans and former PWs, personal diaries of many who fought on Timor, and of course, many official government documents as well.
This book is an enjoyably long and fascinating read. The author draws you into it slowly at first leading you to believe that the entire book will be about his grandfather, Charlie. But, then you soon realize that Charlie is but one cog in the entire complex affair that surrounded Sparrow Force. It is much more, the majority of the exploits of Sparrow Force are covered in some detail in Dutch and Portuguese Timor. I have been an amatuer historian on this period of WWII for many years and never realized how successful Sparrow Force on Timor was until I read this book. The almost complete annihilation of the Japanese Paratroopers at Babao reminded me of what happened to the German Paratroopers in Crete during 1941. The remarkable effectiveness of the Royal Artillery's Light Anti-Aircraft Battery on Timor, when compared to others in the larger region at the time was just remarkable. The author provides a lot of helpful background info that allows you to put everything that happened in Timor and elsewhere into context and perspective.
I was particularly intrigued about the author's narrative on the experiences of Allied PWs as they were liberated, then processed to be sent home. There are not many books I have read about this, sometimes harrowing, phase that go into so much detail.
In reading this book I found it was helpful to gain an understanding about the Dutch - Indonesian (particularly Javanese) interrelationships which was pretty negative and will give you a clear picture on why the Dutch military in Dutch Timor were so hamstrung and almost useless compared to the remarkable achievements of Sparrow Force. Of course, when you read other books about the experiences of Allied PWs of the Japanese, you also realize how fortunate some of the men in Sparrow Force were. Given that Sparrow Force, like Gull Force and Lark Force, was never intended to be reinforced, resupplied, or have proper air support, they were in essence pre-ordained forlorn hopes; it makes the achievements of Sparrow Force all that more amazing.
In addition to this book, the author has a wonderful website, www.sparrowbook.com, that provides additional maps in Google Earth and YouTube videos of the interviews he did with the participants. There are detailed maps in the book along with photos too. As you get deeper into the book you will find yourself drawn to the Sparrow Book website with much interest.
- by Emeritus Professor Richard Harding, University of Western Australia.
This is a really comprehensive account of the doings and fate of Sparrow Force. It is very through, and is in effect a source book for anyone else writing in this area. It lists all the personnel involved, there are photos of many of them, the numerous interviewees are listed, and the bibliography is thorough.
The interest for 2nd/2nd people is the way the author draws together the stories of two forces that intersected – The Sparrows and the 2/2 Independent Company. Necessarily The Sparrows’ story predominates. This is because it is concerned with the fate of captured Sparrow Force members, of whom Charlie was one. None of the 2/2 was captured and spent time in the Japanese POW camps that Sparrow Force members endured.
The story is anchored well by the references to Mary “back home”. That gives it strength and coherence. Another strength is that the story does not finish with VJ Day. The war crimes trials are integral to the completion of the Sparrow Force story.
Change of Guard
The Enemy Within
Where Right and Glory Lead
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
How brave were we?
Conflicted 191 Chapter 20 Independent Company
Sparrow Force Awards 23 February 17 December 1942
The Devil You Do
The Devil You Dont
Safety in Numbers
Belly of the Beast
State of Mind
Ashes to Ashes
The Other Foot
Reasons to be Alive
Sons of Bitches
Brave and Faithful
Brave New World
Courage Under Fire
Australias first commandoes
The Rules of War
The Bomb save lives?
List of Mitsushima prisoners who laid war crimes complaints
Table of Sparrow Force casualty numbers
Sparrow Force Roll of Honour
Sparrow Force Rolls
21 Fortress Company
212 Field Ambulance A Company RAMC
18 AntiTank Battery B Company RAA
Platoon D from West Timor 22 Independent Company
Mitsushima Kanose Prisoners
Usapa Besar POW Camp
Tokyo Detachment 2 Mitsushima POW Camp Guards
Kanose POW Camp