Capt. Ben Richards.(1/2)Yesterday Mr Richards – Tasmania’s last surviving member of the revered 2/2nd Australian Independent Company commando squadron – was buried at Latrobe where he was born in 1920.
“He was small in stature but a warrior in the hills of Timor,” Capt. Ben Richards said at his grandfather’s funeral yesterday.
Capt. Richards – a graduate of Duntroon Military College and a fourth generation military man – has a special connection with his grandfather’s tour of duty in Timor during World War II.
“As a child I never fully understood the great part Rex played in Australia’s history. But then I also served in Timor – albeit 57 years later,” Capt. Richards said.
“I am so proud to have walked the same ground as my grandfather and the squadron which is now recognised as the pioneer of Australia’s special forces.
“He remembered his time in Timor vividly – every hill, every monument every town.”
Mr Richards conducted his daring demolition exercise in the company of Kevin Curran – who went on to play for Hawthorn.
“They set the explosives and were chased off the aerodrome by machine gun fire – which missed them luckily,” his son Warren Richards said yesterday.
“The 2/2nd Australian Independent Company were a very special group of soldiers.”
Mr Richards died on December 20 at the age of 84.
The Latrobe-born man enlisted in Hobart on May 15, 1941 and was discharged four years later.
He was at the cenotaph at Latrobe on Anzac Day this year.
“I’m just having a quiet day,” he said at the time.
“I am starting to get worn out.
“I had a fall the other week and find the concrete very hard these days.”
The 2/2 Australian Independent Company squadron had 300 members when it went to war.
“We lost 40 in Timor and a few in New Guinea. There are only 111 of us left Australia-wide now,” he said on Anzac Day this year.
On February 20, 1942 – three months after the attack on Pearl Harbour – the Japanese occupation of South-East Asia reached its southern limit with the invasion of Timor.
Allied forces landed at Timor five days after the attack on Pearl Harbour as part of a strategy to defend forward airfields.
Troops from the Australian 2/40th Battalion, a squadron of Royal Australian Air Force Hudson bombers, a battery of Australian coast artillery and 1000 Dutch troops were soon surrounded and short of ammunition.
They held out for four days before surrendering.
Those able to avoid the encirclement and not handed to the Japanese by West Timorese, made their way across the island to join the 2/2nd Independent Company.
While Timor’s rugged terrain offered ideal conditions for guerilla warfare, the Timorese people are given credit for the early success of the defence operations.
They provided food and shelter, ponies for carrying heavy equipment, acted as porters and guides and helped set up ambushes – some took up arms and fought alongside the Australians.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.