The first force to defeat the Japanese in combat,
the last full battalion bayonet charge,
Sparrow Force can claim to have spent longer in contact with the enemy than any other Allied unit.
In fact, when MacArthur became Supreme Commander in April 1942, Sparrow Force was his only force still fighting the Japanese anywhere.
Sparrow Force was a detachment based on the 2/40th Australian Infantry Battalion and other British and Australian 8th Division units during World War II. The force was formed to defend the island of Timor from invasion by the Empire of Japan. It formed the main part of the Allied units in the Battle of Timor (1942–43).
The majority of the personnel in Sparrow Force were from the 2/40th Infantry Battalion, which had been formed in Tasmania and was part of the 23rd Australian Infantry Brigade. The force was initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Leggatt, although later command was taken over by Brigadier William Veale before being passed on to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Spence. A commando unit—the 2/2nd Independent Company (recruited mostly in Western Australia)—was also part of Sparrow Force. With the other forces from the 23rd Brigade, it shared contingents from 18 Anti-Tank Battery, the 2/12th Field Ambulance unit, 23rd Brigade Signals unit and the 2/11th Field Company.
Sparrow Force was reinforced on 16 February 1942 with 186 British anti-aircraft gunners, from A & C Troop of the 79th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery of the Royal Artillery, mostly veterans of the Battle of Britain. Further reinforcements, an Australian infantry battalion and an American artillery regiment, were attacked en route to Timor and returned to Darwin. The 2/40th and most Sparrow Force units were based at Penfui Airfield, outside the capital of Netherlands Timor, Kupang. The 2/2nd Independent Company was based across the border, at Dili in Portuguese Timor.
The rest of the Australian 8th Division were in Singapore, Malaya, Ambon (Gull Force), and Rabaul (Lark Force). The only force still fighting the Japanese after February 1942 was Sparrow Force, which fought until December before being reinforced and then replaced.
To find out more about Sparrow Force, please view the gallery below or click on read more below.
Unit patches of Sparrow Force.
Unit photos of Sparrow Force. Click on image to see the full size image.