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2/21st Battalion
Tom's Family
Parents: Janet (Jessie) & John Hutchins
David (Jigger)
Bill (Midnight) VX41300
   Leslie VX131646
 Joseph VX146479

8 July 1943: Wau-Mubo Area. This Transport Unit carries stores to men at forward areas over some of the roughest country in New Guinea. Pictured are: VX9552 Sergeant David (Jigger) Hutchins, 2/6th Battalion, of Rainbow, Vic, and VX4520 Corporal Keith John Corrin, 2/6th Battalion, of Tyabb, Vic, light up before starting out on the track.


 3 November 1942: Northern Territory. Corporal R.F . Wilshire of headquarter company, 2/8th Australian Infantry Battalion pointing out to a class receiving instruction on the Boyes anti tank rifle, the vulnerable places on a Bren gun carrier. Corporal R.F Wilshire (1): Private C Boyes (2): Private W. Scott (3): VX7200 Private P.J Matthews (4): VX7047 Private N.R Harris (5): VX9208 Private R.J Dean (6): VX13706 Private G.E Hutchins (7): VX14478 Sergent J.E Ferguson (8): VX3479 Corporal G.W. Hall (9).

A Letter from Tom's brother David.                                                  

June 11th '41
Dear mum,
I wrote a letter earlier in the Day, so as to get it posted and away with the mail, just to let you know that I am still safe and sound. I have also sent a cable. Well I expect you will want to know what has happened in the last 3 months. We were sent to Greece, but for reasons witch I am not familiar with we had to evacuate, and our mob or most of them were on the ___ when she was bombed and sunk, put on destroyers and landed on the Island of Crete, which the Huns invaded shortly after, about 10 days fighting and messing about and getting out of thight corners. We were told - Every man for himself in getting off the Island. So off I set to the beach at Sparkia with the Hun in hot pursuit and eventually got to the beach in the early hours of June 1st where there was an invasion barge on the beach. 139 of us, a mixture of tommies, kiwis and aussies, rolled on barrel of crude oil, and set off for the shores of Egypt about 250 miles away. Joe Wishart was on the beach too, but he said he would not take the chance of being bombed during the trip, so he will be a prisoner of war. To the best of my knowledge we have all been reported missing but I know Joe is a prisoner of war, as the Island had capitulated, before we left. So off we set on our somewhat adventerous  journey at 9:15 in the morning of June 1st, and landed on another Island about 20 miles from Crete, where we hid our barge in a cave at 12:30, found a well and took as much water in our water bottles and tins and casks. Then we made the somewhat startling discovery that our engines burned petrol and not crude oil, of which we had 280 gallons of, and the only petrol we had was in the tanks, and as it took us about 6 gallons to go 20 miles our chances were rather slim.A Hun plane flew over the Island several times but he never saw us, much to our relief. At dusk we left the Island for Egypt, broke our steering about 4am, repaired it and ran out of juice at 10 o'clock the next day June 2nd and drifted about the ocean about 100 miles from Egypt. Our water and tucker was very tight, so we only had 1/3 pint per man per day and one army biscuit. So there we were drifting around the Meditteranean Sea with very little to eat and drink, no idea how far we were from land, and enemy bombers flying about only a few miles from us. At least we rigged up a sale and made fair speed, about 1 mile an hour in a south easterly direction. At 6:15pm on the day of June 8th we sighted land and landed at a place called Bug Bug in Egypt, 15 miles in front of the German lines, at 2:30am on June 9th in a pretty weak condition and very thirsty, but we landed not far from a well, which 2 Maoris found and filled ourselves with water. A tommy regiment had seen us out at sea the night we landed but could do nothing to help us, but they sent out a patrol to pick us up in the morning, so our luck held good. The tommies us up, fed us like fighting cocks gave us tea, cigs, and fruit and has us sent back to the rail head the same day. I cant speak too highly for those tommies as they done everything possible for us, and every man of them worked like a nigger to make us comfortable. To cut a long story short, we landed back in one of our own staging camps where we received every attention possible, given a bottle of beer and more cigs than we could smoke and I also met the Dunns and Ted Helyar and we had a real re-union last night. Jackie, Mickie, Charlie Dunn and Ted Helyar are all in the one mob and have only been here for a month and gave me a right royal time last month. The ones that escaped in the barge are to be given a few days rest and go on 12 days leave so I hear, but I don't know if that is right or not. A few days leave would not go amiss as we have had none to speak of since December. At present we are rosting and feeding up waiting to go further back and go on leave and the Dunns are only a few yards from where I am know, so you see I am as contented as can be. Well I think I have told you all for the time. 

I am your loving son Jigger.
Private D.Hutchins VX9552 H.Q. Coy 2/6 Btn Middle East Zone

PrivateVX50460 - (Cousin) Thomas Hutchins, 2/21st btn - C Company. Served on Ambon Island. He enlisted on the 5th of March 1941. Tom was one of 6 brothers who served during the Second World War. Four of Tom's brothers served overseas and one in Australia. All survived the war.  Thomas who was a cousin to the Hutchins brothers, and was in the same prison camp as David and Fred (Tan Tui), was one of the last men to die on the Island.  He died 20 days after the Japanese surrended.  Tom was the son of John and Janet  Hutchins, of Rainbow in Victoria.  Tom is buried on Ambon Island.

War Cemetery

Service Records


31 January - 3 February 1942

The island of Ambon was a strategically important target for the Japanese because of its two airfields. The island was defended by Gull force (2/21st Battalion) and by several hundred Australian gunners and a force of 2,600 Dutch Indonesian troops.

The commander of the 23rd Brigade, Brigadier E. F. Lind, had known since may of his probable task to command a Battalion Group known as "Gull Force" to Ambon and another Battalion Group, "Sparrow Force" to Timor. During the following months he was to press Army Headquarters in Melbourne for permission to make a liaison visit to the Dutch headquarters on Java. Permission was constantly refused so that neither Lind nor his commanders knew what to expect.

Lind's orders to move his Battalions came on 7 December 1941, just hours before the first bombs were to fall at Pearl Harbour.

He had to send 1,100 men in all to Ambon: the 2/21st Battalion, an anti-tank troop, a section of engineers, a detachment of signallers and medical and service personnel.

The Battalion CO, Lieutenant Colonel L. N. Roach, had no idea what he was expected to accomplish and had received no clear orders.

Gull Force's commander had appealed throughout December 1941 for additional reinforcements and equipment, mainly artillery, anti-tank guns, mortars and automatic weapons. He sent constant warnings to Army Headquarters in Melbourne that his force was inadequate to defend vital points on the island. On January 10 1942 Lind signalled Army Headquarters that an attack was expected soon. 

Then three days later, he sent another signal suggesting that if his force was attacked it could not hold out for more than 24 hours. Roach recommended that , to avoid purposeless waste of life, he evacuate his force immediately. Army Headquarters was quick to react and Roach was told that such messages were to "cease at once". The next day however, Roach was sacked as CO.On 28 January 1941 the remaining Hudson Bombers were withdrawn to avoid their destruction in the mounting enemy raids. Along with them went all RAAF personnel. Except for eleven men whose boat was intercepted by the Japanese, all the RAAF personnel made it back to Darwin. The new Commanding Officer, Lt-Col Scott, was disturbed to find that no plans had been made to store supplies in the hills in order that if the island fell to the Japanese a guerrilla war could be waged.

The Japanese invasion of Ambon commenced on 30 January 1942 and within a day the Dutch native troops began surrendering. On 3 February Lt-Col Scott surrendered the main body of his Battalion. Fifteen Australians had been killed.

Across the bay from where Scott was, several companies of the 2/21st put up a furious defence of the beach and airfield at Laha. Overwhelmed on 2 February the 309 Australian officers and men were butchered by the Japanese in a series of mass executions as 'reprisals' for the sinking of an enemy vessel by a Dutch mine.

Of the original 1100 men of Gull Force, only 363 were to survive the battles and the years of captivity at the hands of the Japanese.


(AWM 027748)


(AWM 015225)

Link > Gull Force Association