Charlie McLachlan
Charlie McLachlan

Photo taken at Mitsushima POW Camp in Japan shortly after coming out of a coma, June 1943.

The Changi List
The Changi List

This list compiled at Changi decided which POWs were sent to build the Burma 'Death' Railway or to work in Japan, much like a slave market. Charlie's name is marked by the red asterisk.

Hawke's Bay Today
Hawke's Bay Today

Charlie's former newspaper, the Hawke's Bay Today (formerly the Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune), ran an editorial to celebrate Charlie's life.

Charlie McLachlan
Charlie McLachlan

Photo taken at Mitsushima POW Camp in Japan shortly after coming out of a coma, June 1943.

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Sparrow is a seldom-heard but uplifting story of the Sparrows

– the Battle of Britain gunners who defended Timor as part of Sparrow Force.

It is the story of Charlie McLachlan’s war: a triumph of stubborn Scottish defiance and laconic Aussie genius over the relentless violence of man and nature.

 

From the Rudolph Hess crash-landing to the atom bomb, from history’s last bayonet charge to the war’s greatest aerial bombardment, Charlie McLachlan survives and bears witness to some of the landmark days of World War II.

 

At one time or other in his four-year ordeal he is fired upon by the armies, navies and/or air forces of Germany, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Great Britain and the United States of America – pretty much everyone but the Russians.

 

He defies or evades the ravages of tropical ulcers, tropical heat, alpine cold, gangrene, cholera, malaria, beriberi, dysentery, mosquitoes, crocodiles, snakes, sharks, scorpions, sadistic Sikhs, Japanese hellships, falling coconuts, flying shrapnel, beatings, beheadings, bullets, bombs, bayonets, torpedoes, a crushed leg, a fractured skull, malnutrition and premature cremation.

 

He’s presumed dead by the British Army, left for dead by Japanese guards, and declared dead by a Dutch-Javanese doctor.

 

Yet through it all Charlie soldiers on.

 

Half a world away, his wife Mary, fashioned from the same mental granite, stoically awaits his return. Not even an official telegram confirming the near-certainty of Charlie’s death, or later rumours of his torture, can shake her iron faith.

Click on this image to view gallery.

Sparrow Force – the force that defended Timor in 1942 – was one of Australia’s most successful military units. At the lowest point in the Second World War these soldiers - equipped with First World War weapons and cut off from Australia - waged a commando campaign that held off Japan’s most successful and elite special force. Low in medicine and ammunition, they built an improvised radio that regained contact with their homeland. It was the first good news of the war for the Allies.

 

Sparrow Force was unique. They were the first force to defeat Japan in battle, and they were the last to be captured. Those who escaped to pursue a guerrilla campaign spent more time in combat against the Japanese than any other Allied unit. They were set up to fail; instead they endured, defied, and succeeded.

 

Newsreels were made, victories were recorded, medals were awarded, and Australia’s morale was elevated. As Winston Churchill famously said,

 

“They alone did not surrender.”

 

Signaller Keith Richards, Corporal John Donovan and Sergeant Jack Sargeant (left to right), from the Australian 2/2nd Independent Company, using a radio on a mountain top in Japanese-occupied Timor, about November 1942.​

Winnie The War Winner
Winnie The War Winner

This is the radio that Sparrow Force built to regain contact with Australia on 19 April1942 after 60 days of being isolated.

The "Singapore Tiger"
The "Singapore Tiger"

Glasgow Herald, Saturday, 2 January, 1942.

Signaller Keith Richards, Corporal John Donovan and Sergeant Jack Sargeant (left to right), from the Australian 2/2nd Independent Company, using a radio on a mountain top in Japanese-occupied Timor, about November 1942.​

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Click on this image to view gallery.

Charlie's service and pay book and a replica of the telegram that Mary received informing her of Charlie's disappearance.