14 February 2013

Flashback


"FORGOTTEN MEN" OF 8th DIVISION

By Gilbert Mant, Former Soldier of the 8th Division.

On the afternoon of February 14, 1941, the Queen Mary began her stately passage down Sydney Harbour towards the Heads. Her decks and rigging were crammed with troops. There were thousands of them from nearly every State in the Commonwealth. They were the cream of the 8th Division.

It was a brave farewell with flags flying and bands playing. Now the Queen Mary was swaying as she met the ocean swell. The cheering had died down. The men of the 8th Division, even then unaware of their destination, stood at the rails gazing back. For all they knew, it might be their last glimpse of Australia, and they wanted to photograph it on their minds.

That was how the 8th Division sailed away more than three years ago. A brave farewell, with flags flying and bands playing for a brave company of Australians. Only a handful of those men have made that passage back through Sydney Heads; for the rest, their journey ended on February 16, 1942, when Singapore formally surrendered to the Japanese.

The 8th Division were fated to spend nearly a year of frustration in Malaya before they went into action. When the novelty of new scenes and new faces had worn off, they found the East neither mysterious nor glamorous.

It was in this savagely unhappy mood that the 8th Division--23,258 men--found themselves in December, 1941, when the Japanese struck at the northern tip of Malaya...seldom have troops welcomed hostilities as passionately as these men did.

- The Mercury, Hobart, Tasmania, February 14, 1944

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