Blackburn, Arthur Seaforth, VC, CMG, CBE (Brigadier, b.1892 - d.1960)

Unit 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion
Accession Number PR00014
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 2 items
Object type Diary, Typescript
Maker Blackburn, Arthur Seaforth
Date made 1941-1944
Access Open
Related File This file can be copied or viewed via the Memorial’s Reading Room. AWM371 91/0612
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying permitted subject to physical condition

This collection is comprised of the diary and letters written by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Blackburn, VC during his command of the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. The letters cover the period of the battalion's embarkation from Sydney in April 1941 and journey to the Middle East, where Blackburn accepted the surrender of Damascus from the Vichy French. Throughout the Syrian campaign, Blackburn wrote eloquent and descriptive letters home to his children describing his impressions of the culture, terrain, sights and customs he encountered in Ceylon, Syria and Lebanon. The letters also contain an account of the operations in Syria from Blackburn's perspective, which he compiled throughout the campaign to send to his family once the censor ban had lifted.

After leaving the Middle East in February 1942, Blackburn's battalion was diverted to Java to bolster the Dutch forces and meet the Japanese threat. As Brigadier in command of 'Black Force', Blackburn surrendered his forces to the Japanese and became a Prisoner of War in Java for the remainder of the war. His diary describes the surrender and his subsequent internment in numerous POW camps in Java. Entries cover the period from April 1942 to November 1944, and describe the treatment of the prisoners by the Japanese and conditions encountered in the camps. Topics include beatings by the guards, mail being withheld, the organisation of the prisoners, disease and illness, forced signing of oaths of allegiance, shortages of food and medicine, work parties, air raids, and the low morale of the internees.

A typed transcript of the diary, including a preface and epilogue, was completed in 1991 by his daughter, Rosemary Wighton.