The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX41885) Private James Joseph O'Hehir, Australian Army Service Corps Section Sparrow Force, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.54
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 23 February 2017
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX41885) Private James Joseph O'Hehir, Australian Army Service Corps Section Sparrow Force, 2nd AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX41885 Private James Joseph O'Hehir, Australian Army Service Corps Section Sparrow Force, 2nd AIF
Drowned 24 June 1944
Photograph: P07483.002

Story delivered 23 February 2017

Today we pay tribute to Private James Joseph O'Hehir.

Popularly known as “Jim”, James O’Hehir was born on 16 March 1910 in Harden, New South Wales, to James and Lillian O’Hehir. His family moved to Goulburn when he was still young, and after he finished school, he began work as a baker. In the years before the outbreak of the Second World War he worked for the bakery in Braidwood.

O’Hehir was well known in Braidwood and Goulburn. A member of the local bicycle club, he was prominent in local cycling circles, both as a track and road rider. In 1932 he married Jessie Connington.

On 5 August 1941 O’Hehir enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force. He joined the Australian Army Service Corps as a baker, and was posted to the 2nd Field Bakery, a unit of the Army Service Corps, as part of the newly established Sparrow Force. O’Hehir was sent to Darwin to join up with his unit and, only a few days after Japan’s entry into the war in December 1941, Sparrow Force embarked for Timor.

The Japanese attack on Timor began with amphibious and parachute landings on 20 February 1942. Three days later the odds against Sparrow Force were mounting: food, water, and ammunition were running out, casualties were mounting, and the large Japanese force was closing in. Following an ultimatum from the Japanese, the decision was made to surrender, and O’Hehir became one of the 22,000 Australians captured by the Japanese during a calamitous six-week period between January and March 1942.

The Sparrow Force prisoners spent the first seven months of their captivity imprisoned in a camp at Usapa Besar in Timor before moving to Java. Arriving first at Surabaya, they were transferred to the “Bicycle Camp” in Batavia.

Back home, Jessie O’Hehir received only a few short lines reporting that her husband was alive and well. A Japanese radio broadcast later stated that he was in a prison camp in Java and was doing well, but with such little information coming from the camps, this was a difficult time for the families of prisoners.

In early 1944 O’Hehir was among a group of Australian, British, American, and Dutch prisoners selected for a work party to be sent to Japan. Departing in May, they travelled through Singapore, Manilla – where they sailed into a typhoon – and Formosa (now Taiwan), before transferring to a larger ship, the Tamahoko Maru.

On the night of 24 June 1944 the Tamahoko Maru was within a few hours of its destination, the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Lights could be seen on the shore, and the sailors aboard the ship were singing to celebrate their safe arrival home. However, American submarine USS Tang was lying in wait for the arrival of the convoy, unaware that it was carrying prisoners of war. It fired off six torpedoes, and within minutes a tanker, a freighter, and two cargo ships, including the Tamahoko Maru, had been hit and were on their way to the bottom.

Of the 772 Australian, British, Dutch, and American prisoners of war on board the Tamahoko Maru, 560 were killed, including 190 Australians. O’Hehir was among them. He was 34 years old.

Following reports of his death the local Braidwood paper wrote that O’Hehir was “a splendid type of young man and a good citizen. His many friends here will deplore his passing”. Today he is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial at the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

His name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed by the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private James Joseph O’Hehir, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX41885) Private James Joseph O'Hehir, Australian Army Service Corps Section Sparrow Force, 2nd AIF, Second World War. (video)