2/10th Field Regiment

Queensland’s 2/10th Field Regiment was formed in July 1940 at Red Bank Camp, Brisbane, as one of the 8th Division’s three artillery regiments. The division’s other two regiments were the 2/14th and 2/15th Field Regiments. Most of the 2/14th’s gunners had served in the militia, while a number of officers had served with the 6th Division and had completed an intensive training course at the School of Artillery, Holsworthy. Men from across Queensland joined the regiment, including a group of lifesavers from Tugun. Initially, two batteries were formed, the 19th and 20th Batteries, and in January 1941 a third battery, initially known as “X” Battery, was formed. This name continued until December, when it became the 60th Battery.

From October to December the regiment conducted field manoeuvres and trained with 18-pounder guns from the First World War. A high point of their training was a nine day field manoeuvre through the Brisbane Valley, with live shooting, firing from Caloundra range. The 2/10th was given leave in January 1941 and on 1 February began moving from Redbank Camp to the South Brisbane railway station to travel by train to Sydney. They arrived at Circular Quay the next day where they boarded Queen Mary, which had been converted from a passenger ship to a troopship.

The Queen Mary was apart of a convoy taking troops of the 8th Division to Malaya and Singapore. The convoy reached Malaya two-and-a-half weeks later, with the Queen Mary disembarking the 2/10th at Malacca, in Johore, on 19 February. The regiment took up residence in the Malacca High School and the school at Tranquerah; for the next two months batteries were rotated between both locations. While in Malacca the regiment was attached to the 8th Division’s 22nd Brigade. The regiment trained and carried out manoeuvres at Mersing, where the regiment was located when Japan entered the Second World War, beginning with the invasion of Malaya.

On 9 January 1942, while still at Mersing, the regiment was re-equipped with 25-pounders, replacing the old 18-pounders. Four days later, the regiment’s position was bombed and strafed for the first time by Japanese aircraft. Japanese troops were able to quickly advance through Malaya and by January they had entered Johore. The regiment first went into action on 21 January, when it was called upon to bring down artillery fire on Japanese troops along the Mersing-Endau Road, north of Lalang Hill. The Japanese force had cut off a platoon from the 2/20th Battalion but the regiment’s fire allowed the platoon to escape.

The 2/10th was in action from then on, firing on targets in the Mayang Estate and Lalang Hill. During the night of 26-27 January the regiment provided artillery support for the 22nd Brigade’s successful ambush in the Nithsdale Estate. After the Nithsdale battle the brigade withdrew to Singapore Island, which took several days, one gun at a time, due to the enemy air activity. The last of the regiment’s troops, the 20th Battery, crossed the causeway to Singapore just after 9 pm on 30 January. The causeway was demolished the next morning.

For the coming battle, the 2/10th was located in the north-west of the island. Although the British Commonwealth troops had more guns than the Japanese, the Japanese were able to concentrate their artillery together for the attack, while the British artillery had to be distributed across the island. The 22nd Brigade, supported by the 2/10th, defended the island’s north-west coast in the Western Area, while the 27th Brigade and the 2/10th covered the causeway sector in the Northern Area.

The 60th Battery took up position south of the Mandai Road, with the regiment’s headquarters further south. The 19th Battery travelled along the Mandai Road to the south-west corner of the island and the 20th Battery took up position along the Mandai Road, south of the 2/26th and 2/30th Battalions, and with the 2/29th Battalion on their left. On 2 February a new sub-unit was formed, called “G Troop”, with the regiment’s surplus 4.5 inch howitzers and two 18-pounders. The troop dug in north of the Mandai Road in support of the 2/30th.

Between 2 and 8 February, the 22nd Brigade’s area was subjected to an intense artillery barrage by the Japanese. The 20th and 60th Batteries returned fire, engaging targets in Johore Bahru, but the effectiveness of this was limited, as the artillery was ordered to fire no more than 12 rounds per 25-pounder gun per day. This restriction was only lifted after the Japanese invaded the island.

The main Japanese assault on Singapore began at 11 pm on 8 February. Crossing the Johore Strait in barges, by midday the next day the Japanese had broken through the 22nd Brigade. There had been continual heavy fighting and although it had been shelled and bombarded with air attack, the 20th and 60th Batteries fired up to 800 shells and sunk 30 sampans carrying Japanese troops. With the Japanese advancing, on 10 February both batteries were withdrawn to Singapore Harbour. By now, G Troop had run out of ammunition for its howitzer and was also withdrawn.

By 12 February Commonwealth troops had withdrawn to the city, around which they formed a defensive perimeter. Troops were withdrawn from Changi and the eastern beaches. What was left of the 8th Division was concentrated around Tanglin Barracks. The 2/10th remained in action, firing 2,100 rounds on Bukit Timah village. The next day the regiment moved to the Tanglin golf course, where it came under enemy artillery fire and air strikes. The regiment ceased firing at 10.30 pm on 14 February and the next day the garrison surrendered. For the next three-and-a-half years the men had to endure the brutality of being a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

Initially imprisoned in the sprawling Changi prisoner of war camp, it was not long before members of the 2/10th were allocated to external work parties. The first parties were dispatched around Singapore and southern Malaya, but later 2/10th members found themselves bound for the camps along the Thailand-Burma Railway and to Borneo. Other prisoners were sent to Japan and Sumatra. Of the 834 officers and men of the regiment who became prisoners, 270 died. The surviving prisoners were liberated in late August 1945 and began returning to Australia almost immediately.

Glossary

Battle Honours

  • nil

Casualties

  • 286 died
  • 16 wounded

For more information please see the Roll of Honour and Second World War Nominal Roll (external website) databases.

Commanding Officers

Decorations

  • 1 OBE
  • 2 DSO
  • 1 MM
  • 12 MID

For more information please see Honours and Awards database

Collection Items

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References

  • AWM52/4/2/10: 2/10 Field Regiment war diary
  • Goodwin, Robert; 2/10 Field Regiment Association, Mates and memories : recollections of the 2/10th Field Regiment R.A.A., (Rochedale, Qld.: Boolarong Press with 2/10th Field Regiment Association, 1995)