The "Rabaul 600"
view by L/cpl Frank Docketty 2048251 5th Searchlight - Royal Artillary 316 Battery
Singapore February 1942
Amid the hell of battle of a beaten army on the Ayam-Teloh Road, we received news that soon we would be told to cease firing. We were trench mortared out of our machine gun post, and the corporal's orders were "Every man for himself, report back to HQ!".
The others that were with me 'deserted' back to Singapore where thousands of others had headed, fighting and scheming how to get on one of those ships which were headed out of this hell. Cowards! you may say, no, demorolised men without a General. British, Australians, New Zealanders alike. I didn't have sense enough to follow but headed blindly into the jungle, hastened by a cowardly fear of which I am ashamed. I was clawing at the dense foliage immune to any sense of feeling, terror striken. Have you been in such a position? this you hold to your heart as a secret. At last, I came to a clearing of uniformly placed rubber trees and went dashing across without thought. I was running across the flank of the Japs, all I knew at the time was the dreaded cracking of rifles and the harsh talk of enemy machine guns. It is sickening, terrifying, to hear and see a tree directly in front, split open by bullets. At last after running this gauntlet without being hit found myself at platoon H.Q. The Japs had no time to pay any attention to me, they were in pitched battle with tanks. There was a heavy duel of artillary in progress, and although the Japs had range on us, the British guns were short and their shells were falling amongst my new position, what a hell it was!
An officer asked me, "What's wrong Docketty ?" I told him and realised then that I was wet through from sweat, mud and blood. He put me with 3 others who were suffering from shell-shock and after a while was given a bren gun by the Major and pushed into a slit trench. By this time, I was in shirt sleeves and fired at anything. Spent cartridges piled up against my arm, but I couldn't feel a thing. One tank was out of action, the others had turned tail and moved away, which resulted in subdued action from the enemy (and us). It was only now that I realised my arm was badly burnt by the cartridges.
February 15th 1942 (Enter my tormentors!)
I was washing at the side of the road with two Sherwood Foresters when along came a patrol of Japs, they stopped by us and proceeded to take anything of value that we had. I did not like this, but my companion said that a wrist-watch is no good to a dead man ! and they went on their way.
The "600" march to the docks
The journey (where to ?)
The arrival at Rabual
Journey to "The Square" at Vunapope
"The Green" at Takubar
"The Valley" at Tobera
"Watom Island" off Talili Bay
"The Large Tunnel"
"Split up again! - on my own"
"The others during this time"
"The end of the war ?"
After yet another day of toil, working for the eternal 'master', Tokolup (a native) came to me and said in his way that the war was over and that soon I would be free. This was amazing to me, in fact I didn't believe him, this island native had heard such important information before the Japanese around me ! He had listened to the drums and that is what they had said. He also asked me to stay with them, but, I really wanted to just get out ! Who knows what may have happened.
After about three days or so, the Japanese Sergeant-Major sent for me and told me "On the 18th August 1945 the war was now over" He then gave me a cigarette, some bananas and a pair of boots. I hadn't worn boots for so long, I felt all awkward in them. He was obviously embarassed at the situation and appeared to not be able to do enough for me. I was worried for my safety from other Jap soldiers and witnessed one in particular commit "Hari Kari". He found a shady spot and laid a white cloth on the ground. On it, he laid several items of personal value including his sword, then, he knelt at the edge of the cloth and said a 'prayer' then he drew a knife from its scabbard which he then plunged deep into his stomach area. Then, with a forceful 'North, South, East, West' action, he passed out and fell onto the cloth with the knife still in place. A few comrades then came and took a corner of the cloth each and carried him away. Such is Bushido!
After a few days, I was taken across the island back to my comrades, well, those that remained, they all laughed at me because I had long hair and a long beard, and I greeted them with not "Hello mates" but "Ohaiyo gusaya masu" they laughed like hell at me ! For a while, I'd say a Japanese word instead of the English. By this time, they had all been able to shave and cut each others hair to the scalp. I however, still had hair passed my shoulders and a beard on my chest. (what a sight !). My 'friends' then sat me down and shaved my beard off, and cut my hair in the 'bob' style for my embarassment (and a laugh at my expense) and left me like that !
The Japanese then approached us and said that we had to say that we had been well treated. One of our group Dai Jones said that he'd be buggered if he would ! We all felt like telling him to shut up as if we weren't careful they might bump us all off !
We were put into a boat, we had to carry poor Blackie Baker as his leg was too bad for him to walk. The journey back to Talili Bay was uneventful and we arrived at a place on the Western side of Talili Bay.
"Enter the Australians!"
...and again !