“Those who don’t know history
are destined to repeat it.”
–Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Sharing research is as important as collecting information. As Grant McLachlan traveled the world to research Sparrow, he shared his research with those he met. As many veterans were reluctant to share their experiences with family, Grant helped start families on their journey of discovery.
Since completing Sparrow, many resources have become available online. On this page are some useful resources that help assemble a better picture of the experiences of those who shared similar experiences to Sparrow Force.
A full bibliography of resources can be found in Sparrow.
The Australian War Memorial holds many mementos of Sparrow Force, including Winnie the War Winner. The Museum also holds extensive photo collections and material on Damien Parer, the Oscar-winning documentary producer of Men of Timor.
The Western Australian Museum held the Debt of Honour exhibit at several museums throughout Australia, which celebrates Australia's first commandos and their relationship with East Timor. Included in the exhibit are several excerpts from interviews conducted by Grant McLachlan.
The National Archives of Australia should be the first port of call for any Australian wanting to find out more on Australians captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war. Every identification card of POWs has been digitally scanned. Also, the war crimes trials and military records are held there.
Trove is a searchable online newspaper database offered by the Australian National Library. Here, one will find articles relating to Sparrow Force, including Bill Marien's articles for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Argus, as well as Army News publicity of Sparrow Force's exploits. Click here to view all the articles relating to Sparrow Force.
Firepower is the museum of the Royal Artillery. Located at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich in London, the museum is the home of the regiment and is steeped in tradition. The museum pieces include all the artillery mentioned in Sparrow and the friendly staff have all the knowledge to explain how it works.
The National Archives at Kew, London holds the original index cards of Allied prisoners of war held by the Japanese. The archives also hold the original Liberated Prisoner of War Interrogation Questionnaires that were used in war crimes trials after the war.
The Mitchell Library in Glasgow is essential viewing for those interested in researching their family history. There are photographs of Glasgow's buildings, streets as well as people going about their daily lives.
The Bomb Sight project maps the London WW2 bomb census between 7th October 1940 to 6th June 1941 using an easy to use interactive map.
Tom McKendrick has prepared a website containing useful information about the Clydebank Blitz, including photographs and maps of the industrial suburb before and after the blitz.
The Britain from Above website features images from the Aerofilms collection, a unique aerial photographic archive of 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums between 1919 and 2006.
A useful resource to find details about shipwrecks is Wrecksite, a website that also includes maps that provide the precise GPS co-ordinates of ships sunk during the war, including hellships (ships transporting prisoners of war), troopships, and warships.
The Remembering Scotland at War website provides useful first hand accounts and photographs of events in Scotland during the war, including blitzes and war production.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland (just outside Washington DC, USA) holds many records relating to prisoners of war held in Japan, the camps where they were held, and the Yokohama and Tokyo war crimes trials held after the war. Click here to download a guide to the archives.
The United States' Department of Veterans Affairs has an online gravesite locator database. Here, all servicemen's graves' details are recorded.
Although soldiers were forbidden to keep diaries whilst in active service, many Canadians kept war diaries during their time as a prisoner of war. As donations of war diaries to the national archive are tax-deductible, the Library and Archives Canada holds a large collection of war diaries, including Les Chater's diary used in Sparrow.
Anyone wanting to know about prisoner of war camps in Japan should contact the POW Research Network Japan. This volunteer-run network helps break the translation barrier to connect people with information and people. They also maintain detailed databases.
Roger Mansell and Wes Injerd tirelessly collated a list of all the prisoner of war camps in the Japanese Empire during the Second World War. Gradually, a page for each camp has been populated with liberation lists, photographs, and other useful information.
The Far East Prisoners of War Association (FEPOW) remains the hub for the FEPOW community. Here, you will find accounts and research that helps piece together a picture of the experiences of those held by the Japanese during the war.
Retired Australian Lt. Colonel Peter Winstanley has also travelled extensively around Australia and interviewed many former prisoners of war to the Japanese. On this website are the full length interviews and many useful resources.
The War Crimes Studies Center at UC Berkeley maintain a copy of all the war crimes documents held at NARA. They also provide many online tools to help with research. Click here to view the Pacific War Crimes Trials page.
Virginia Law has set up a website which includes a digital collection of all the legal documents prepared and presented at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial of leading Japanese figures during the Second World War.
Ian Skennerton is the foremost archivist on Sparrow Force. He has collated the rolls and equipment on his website and has DVDs for sale that is a good start for any research project on Sparrow Force.
British Pathé is a searchable online film database. Many of the Second World War newsreels, including Rudolf Hess' flight to Scotland, The Men of Timor, war crimes trials, and the Bofors gun can be found here.
The NHK Japan Archives maintains newsreels for the Nippon News, the propaganda and news bureau for the Japanese Empire. In the Nippon News folder you will find original footage of the paratroopers landing on Timor and the surrender of Sparrow Force.
As part of Grant McLachlan's commitment to share his research, he has built and maintained many Wikipedia pages in the areas of: Sparrow Force, The Sparrows, Mitsushima, Kanose, the SS Tofuku Maru, and a raft of other subjects mentioned in Sparrow.
(These pages may be altered regularly and may contain innaccuracies.)
Grant maintains a Google Map that includes all the locations mentioned in Sparrow. Many other locations, such as the locations of other POW Camps where Sparrow Force were held and the route of the Bataan Death March, are included.
Grant maintains a Youtube channel that includes photo albums of people and locations mentioned in Sparrow as well as newsreels and excerpts from interviews with veterans. A gallery of the clips of photo galleries is below.
The 2/2 Commando Association of Australia (Inc.) - the veterans and their families of 2/2 Independent Company (also known as the 2/2 Commando Squadron) - have a website that provides useful information, including upcoming events, news, and historical resources.
Behind the Fence: Life as a POW in Japan, 1942-1945: The Diaries of Les Chater
by Les Chater
Les was captured by the Japanese in 1942, and remained a prisoner until liberation in 1945. During that time he kept a secret diary, recording life in the camps day by day, listing names of prisoners, illnesses, deaths, their daily diet and treatment at the hands of their captors. This secret record survived, written in three palm-sized diaries in an astonishingly microscopic hand. Mr. Chater's diaries were used as evidence at the Tokyo War Crimes trials.
You Shook My Hand
by William C. Rose
Bill Rose, a sergeant in the Royal Air Force, was taken prisoner in Java in 1942 and transported to the Japanese mainland by ship in a horrific journey lasting 31 days. He worked in 2 camps, Mitsushima, in the central Highlands where he worked on the construction of a dam, and Kanose, where he worked at the carbide furnaces.
Bill kept a unique day to day diary of his experiences. He was mentioned in dispatches and awarded The Oak Leaf for his leadership and encouragement whilst a P.O.W.
by Tony Paley
This was the first biography of the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery written by a relative of a veteran.
Doomed Battalion: Mateship and Leadership in War and Captivity
The Australian 2/40 Battalion 1940-45
by Peter Henning
The story of the men of the 2/40 Battalion – mainly Tasmanians – and its associated army units, sent to garrison an airfield in Dutch Timor immediately after the Japanese entered the Second World War. Assigned a hopeless military task within a misguided strategy, they were captured a week after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. They were then scattered in prison camps across east Asia, including Java, Sumatra, Singapore, Burma, Thailand, Japan and other places. Their experiences are in general a microcosm of those of Australian prisoners of the Japanese between 1942 and 1945.
Timor 1942: Australian Commandoes at War with the Japanese
by Christopher Wray
After Japan entered the war, the 2/2nd had been sent to Timor and following the Japanese occupation of the island in February, had been conducting a guerrilla war using 'hit and run' tactics. The 2/4th continued this guerrilla war and from September carried out many successful ambushes, blew bridges and roads, and manned two observation posts in the mountains outside Dili where they reported the movements of Japanese ships and aircraft. However, during the last few months of 1942, the Japanese had intensified their efforts to end such resistance and they made the situation untenable for the Australians. In mid-December the 2/2nd was evacuated from Timor to Darwin, as was the 2/4th in January 1943.
Samurais and Circumcisions
by Leslie Poidevin
Leslie was a young doctor of Sparrow Force on Timor and Java, both in combat and as a prisoner of war. Contains many enlightening stories and insights into medical procedures and interractions with captors.
by Bernard Callinan
An intriguing account of the 2/2 Independent Company's hit-and-run guerrilla campaign against the Japanese on Timor in 1942, written by it's most respected and decorated commander.
Australia in the War of 1939-1945 - Series One - Army - Volume IV
- The Japanese Thrust
by L. Wigmore
This volume of the army series of the Australian official war history relates mainly to the operations on Malaya in the first ten weeks of the war against Japan.
A comprehensive account is given of the Japanese plan of conquest and its execution, step by step, over the vast area it covered; also of the reactions of the Allied Governments and the endeavours of each of the forces which sought to stem the onslaught.
Double Reds of Timor
by Archie Campbell
A very animated account of the experiences of the commandos of the 2/2 Independent Company, written by a real character and section commander in the unit.
A History of the 2nd Independent Company and
2/2 Commando Squadron
by C.H. Doig
Doig was a bit of a larrikin in the 2/2 Independent Company, yet he rose to train many of those members of Sparrow Force who escaped from the western end of the island to form what would become D Platoon.
Horyo: Memoirs of an American POW
by Richard M. Gordon
Horyo was the first book that I found on Mitsushima POW Camp - where my grandfather was a POW. While the lists of POWs at the back were useful for my research, it is sad that Al Gordon's accounts differed greatly with the other dozen veterans that I interviewed for my book. In many instances, Al 'borrowed' stories that he could not have witnessed as the people he describes were at another POW camp.
It is a shame that Al felt that he needed to distort events as the experiences of those in Hiraoka were certainly worthy of their stories being told accurately.
All the Bull's Men
by Cyril Ayris
The History of No.2 Australian Independent Company (2/2nd Commando Squadron) in World War 2. Contains Nominal Roll and Decorations. B&W photos throughout.
This WW2 history of the No.2 Australian Independent Company (2/2nd Commando Squadron) also includes their service a year later in the jungles of New Guinea and New Britain.
The Men Who Came Out of the Ground: Timor 1942 - Australia's First Commandoes
by Paul Cleary
The heroics of a small team of Australian Special Forces commandos in Timor who tied down a far superior Japanese force for most of the critical year of 1942.
The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931-33
by Hector C. Bywater
This is a gripping account of a war between the US and Japan—a forerunner of actual events. Written 16 years before Pearl Harbor, Bywater, a leading naval authority during the period between the two world wars, prophesied: A Japanese surprise-attack attacks U.S. naval forces in the Pacific while negotiations between the two countries are still in progress. Japanese troops simultaneously invade the Philippines and Guam. Recognizing their limits, the Japanese hold off from any attempt to capture Hawaii. Instead, they retire the main body of their battle fleet and establish a nearly invulnerable web of iron in the Western Pacific!
The Gathering Storm (The Second World War #1)
by Winston S. Churchill
Winston Churchill was not only a statesman and leader of historic proportions, he also possessed substantial literary talents. These two factors combine to make The Gathering Storm a unique work. The first volume of Churchill's memoirs, this selection is broken into two parts. The first, "From War to War," consists of Churchill's critical observations on the settlement of World War I and its place in the causes of the Second World War. The second volume contains letters and memoranda from the British government--of which Churchill was part--as the country plunged unprepared into war. This stands as the best of history: written as it was made, by the man who made it.
Other links that include information covered in Sparrow include: