– Sgt. Sol Henderson

2/40 Inf. Bn,

Sparrow Force

“And the colonel told us, if you want to survive this

you'll have to shoot twenty Japs, each one of you.”​

Rudolf Hess in Glasgow

British Paramount News

Part 2 - Everywhere

6 December 1941 – 16 February 1942

 

On the night of 6 December 1941 Charlie is secretly assembled on to a train and sent to Gourock where the largest convoy of the war consisting of RAF and Royal Artillery units is ready to be deployed to North Africa. As Charlie settles in with his new battery in a newly formed regiment their plans are changed daily as they follow Japan’s advance through South East Asia. After being diverted to Singapore and then Batavia, Wavell decides to send the battle hardened battery to the last airfield before Australia on the island of Timor.  

 

Part 4 – We Alone

23 February – 23 September 1942

 

The men of Sparrow Force still have a lot of fight left in them. While the Dutch Timor branch of Sparrow Force sabotage the Japanese war effort and attempt to escape to Australia the Portuguese branch continue an effective commando campaign. After the commandoes build a radio and re-establish communication with Australia Leggatt tries to make contact with the commandoes. The men of Sparrow Force have to contend with disease, the Japanese and hostile natives.

The 3rd Yokosuka Special Landing Force at Baboe in West Timor on 20 February 1941. Veterans of Hong Kong and Ambon, they were Japan’s elite forces. They were decimated by a Sparrow Force full battalion bayonet charge on Usua Ridge who used mostly World War I weapons.

The hellship (unmarked POW transport ship) SS Tofuku Maru. It was later sunk by an American submarine.

Part 1 – O.H.M.S.

3 September 1939 - 6 December 1941

 

As Mary, Charlie and their newly born son adapt to wartime conditions in Strathclyde they have to deal with blackout, rationing, bombing raids and battles at work with government censors. After an unexpected encounter with Rudolf Hess they aren’t prepared for Charlie’s conscription. During Charlie’s training he discovers how poorly prepared the country and its people are for war and realises that the only way to survive the war is to be well prepared for everything thrown at him. To survive he needs a team of gunners around him who are also up to the task.

The attack on Darwin on 19 February 1942 by the First and Second Carrier Divisions – including carriers Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū and Hiryū – which were also involved in the attacks on Pearl Harbor (9 December 1941) and Midway (4–7 June 1942). Darwin was attacked as two battalions of reinforcements – infantry and artillery – left for Timor but turned back.

Part 3 - Where Right and Glory Lead

16 – 23 February 1942 

 

The battery has very little time to get acquainted with the Australians of Sparrow Force before the Japanese attack them as they unload their ship. They are soon told that Singapore has fallen, the reinforcements from Australia have been attacked and sent back to Darwin and their force of 1500 have to defend themselves against 30,000 Japanese troops who are off the coast. Over the next four days the men of Sparrow Force inflict maximum casualties on the Japanese in closely fought battles. After two conclusive battlefield victories Sparrow Force Commander Lieutenant Colonel Leggatt decides he can not ask any more of his men and gives the order to surrender.

A sniper from Sparrow Force's 2/2 Independent Company carrying out an ambush on a Japanese convoy during late 1942.

Part 5 - Hell

23 September – 28 November 1942

 

The captured members of Sparrow Force depart Timor on a freighter where they are attacked by Allied submarines and aircraft. On Java the Australians are separated from the British and sent throughout the Japanese Empire to be used as conscripted labour. The battery is split up and Charlie’s group joins a group of RAF who he is destined to spend the rest of the war with. The group travel to Singapore where they are marched the length of the island to Changi. After being separated from Marshall and Watson they board a filthy ship, the Tofuku Maru, where they start a challenging 31 day journey to Japan. By the time they arrive in Japan 26 have died from disease and many others are seriously ill. They now have to face the harshest winter on record.

 

Part 6 - State of Mind

28 November 1942 – 16 April 1943   

 

Charlie’s group arrive at Mitsushima where they join 89 Americans from the Philippines whose health is just as reduced. The British and American officers attempt to communicate with a camp commander, who is more concerned about his reputation than the prisoners under his command, through an interpreter ashamed of his inability to translate the officers’ requests. By the time the camp commander becomes concerned it is too late for over forty prisoners (including Mackie and Mitchell) while the rest are divided and disruptive. The guards try many approaches to discipline the men but ignorance and intolerance on both sides only makes conditions worse. 

Memorial service at Mitsushima POW Camp commemorating the POWs who died within the first year at the camp. 

Part 8 - Heat

16 April – 12 August 1944

 

Charlie is on a list of 100 men chosen to move to a new camp where they are overwhelmed by improved conditions. The men soon realize their fortune as 100 more prisoners of war arrive from working on the Siam-Burma Railway. The men are cautiously optimistic as they realise that the Allies are advancing through Europe but the real battle is to come. They are acutely aware that they will become a bombing target or be executed by the Japanese if the Allies invade. To maintain morale they organize concerts which covertly assists in building a radio. 

American reconnaisance photograph of Kanose shortly before it was bombed in 1945.

Part 10 – Brave and Faithful

5 September 1945 – 9 December 1945

 

After the war officially ends Azuma presents the liberated POWs to the Allied powers in Yokohama. The men come to terms with the scale of the war as they fly over devastated cities including Hiroshima and Nagasaki before witnessing the final acts on the battlefields of Okinawa. The men still face danger as a typhoon brings down 30 of the aircraft transporting liberated POWs flying to Manila. In Manila the surviving men of Sparrow Force gather to come to terms with what they have experienced and consider how they will try to return to normal life. On the return trip home Charlie realizes the world is a different place and Britain is not that much better off than when he left. To Charlie it is still home and he realizes how fortunate he is.

The entrance to Mitsushima POW Camp in Hiraoka, Japan during a visit by Colonel Suzuki, the commanding officer of Tokyo POW camps.

Part 7 - Breaking Point

16 April 1943 – 16 April 1944

 

The officers begin to achieve improved conditions for the prisoners but struggle to rein in trouble makers who threaten the conditions of the others. After the troublesome interpreter is replaced and a couple of the ineffective American officers leave, the remaining officers reach an agreement with the camp commander to hand over trouble makers in exchange for improved conditions for the men. Meanwhile Charlie faces the greatest battle as beriberi, a broken leg and invasive gangrene threatens his life. The men’s spirits fade after a Red Cross visit fails to achieve any improvements but the men sense the turn of the war as Emperor Hirohito’s brother visits in an attempt to recruit the Eurasian RAF POWs to the Japanese war effort. 

Kanose POW Camp at the Showa Denko carbide plant under 4 metres of snow, 1944.

Part 9 - Reasons to be Alive

12 August 1944 – 5 September 1945

 

While the horyo (POWs) continue their sabotage campaign, Camp Commander Azuma is aware that Japan is losing the war. Azuma seeks the co-operation of the officers Hewitt, Chater and Morris to ensure their mutual survival. After Foster and two others burn to death in a factory accident Azuma does everything he can to ensure that as many men survive while ensuring the respect of the locals whose conditions are considerably worse than the camp’s. The camp is bombed by the Enola Gay and soon after the war comes to an end. Azuma struggles to come to terms with the loss but brings soldiers into the camp to protect the POWs from the threat of retribution from the locals. The men realize they need to contain their joy as Japan lies in ruins. 

Base X port base in Manila Bay in September 1945. The docks are lined with passenger ships returning liberated POWs to their homelands.