John McGrory and George Veitch, both formerly of the 2/18th Battalion, interviewed by James Burfitt about events leading up to the invasion of Singapore

Places
Accession Number S00618
Collection type Sound
Object type Oral history
Physical description audio cassette; stereo
Maker McGrory, John Patrick
Veitch, George Lauriston
Burfitt, James
Date made 12 September 1988
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

Interview with John McGory and George Veitch, members of 2/18th Battalion. The battalion was involved in a major action at Jemaluang on the east coast of Malaya before the invasion of Singapore during WW2. John McGory and George Veitch were on Blakang Mati Island (now known as Sentosa Island) in Keppel Harbour.

Upon its arrival in Singapore on 18 February 1941, the 2/18th moved to Port Dickson in Malaya for training. In March it moved to Seremban in central Malaya, in late-August to Jemaluang on the east coast, and in early September to Mersing, also on the east coast. War with Japan was increasingly likely and the battalion set to preparing defensive positions.

The 2/18th stood to arms on 6 December 1941 but it was not until 3 January that it first encountered Japanese forces - two downed airmen captured in a hut outside Mersing. On 17 January the 2/18th received orders to withdraw to Jemaluang. Although never tested, the strong defences had dissuaded the Japanese from conducting a landing around Mersing and using the shortest landward route to advance on Singapore.

The 2/18th's first major action was at Nithsdale Estate in the early hours of 27 January 1942. The battalion sprang an ambush on advancing Japanese involving three of its companies. The Japanese were taken by surprise and had heavy casualties. However as the complex ambush plan had been intended for daylight, command broke down and a premature withdrawal order from brigade headquarters forced the abandonment of D Company behind the bulk of the Japanese force.

2/18th then withdrew to Singapore and was allocated a position in the centre of the 22nd Brigade's sector on the island's east coast. The wide frontage it was required to cover meant dispoersing platoons and sections widely, so that when the Japanese launched their invasion on the night of 8 February, the 2/18th was unable to hold them back despite inflicting heavy casualties. The Japanese infiltrated between the 2/18th's posts resulting in vicious scattered engagements. 2/18th retreated and surrended, on the outskirts of Singapore city, on the night of 15 February 1942.

Members of the 2/18th were initially imprisoned at the Changi prisoner of war camp, later being dispersed to external work parties and, as one soldier noted, "scattered to the seven winds". The largest group of 2/18th prisoners were send to to Blakang Mati, off the southern coast of Singapore and lesser numbers ended up at other camps around Singapore and Malaya, along the Burma-Thailand railway, and in Borneo and Japan. The surviving prisoners were liberated in late-August 1945 and began returning to Australia almost immediately. The 2/18th was formally disbanded later that year.

  • Listen to John McGrory and George Veitch, both formerly of the 2/18th Battalion, interviewed by James Burfitt about events leading up to the invasion of Singapore
  • Listen to Part 2 of John McGrory and George Veitch, both formerly of the 2/18th Battalion, interviewed by James Burfitt about events leading up to the invasion of Singapore