Mr W Dunne
3** W******** ****
Reference your letter (M.952.B) dated 30-07-46 re ‘600 Party’ which left Singapore 19-10-42 and of which I was a member.
We embarked at Singapore on the 18-10-42 and sailed the following day. Arrived at Rabaul, New Britain on 05-11-42. During the voyage one man B.M.S Lambourne, 7 Coast Regt died. Disembarked 06-11-42 and on the following day reached Kokopo where we encamped. On 16-11-42 517 officers and men embarked for unknown destination leaving 82 men behind of whom I was one.
Sometime in Feb. 1943 the Japanese soldiers (a L/Bdr and known to me as ‘Blackshirt’) in charge of the party that had left us came to our camp at Kokopo and told us they had just returned to Rabaul from Bourgainville, Solomon Islands and that we are going to re-join them. Three days later another Japanese guard known to us as No. 3 Captain came nd told us the same story. A few days later we loaded onto lorries the kits belonging to the men who had left us and our guards told us they were being taken to them (the kits I mean) at Rabaul. The lorries returned to Kokopo the same day. On March 2nd, 1943 I along with two other men (now dead) went down to Rabaul by lorry with two Japanese guards to load stores and saw a large company of British soldiers (at least they were white) encamped near Rabaul Harbour.
We naturally at the time took it for granted that they were our chaps and I still think they were.
On the morning of March 5th, 1943 we were ordered by our Japanese guards to pack our kits and strike camp as we were leaving Kokopo to re-join our main party at Rabaul. At 5pm that evening we were hurriedly told to put up our tents again as new orders had just arrived concerning us. An hour later the five Japanese guards that had been left behind with us when the main party left in Nov. 42 told us they were leaving Rabaul by ship that night with our main party. They said we were being left behind because of our state of health.
When asked by your department in January if I could give any information I was not asked for absolute factual information but in order to try to help to find these missing men pieced together the circumstantial evidence of them being at Rabaul up to 5/6th March 1943. Personally I feel very certain that they did leave Rabaul in or about that date for the last time.