Their fate was a jungle grave
It’s hard to imagine the contrast between the flat, open plains around Ivanhoe, NSW, and the tropical rainforests and jungles of Burma and Malaya. Few people experience both environments yet for three of the men named on the Ivanhoe War Memorial, that experience was a tragic reality.
Gunner William John Williamson and Gunner Roy McNamara, of the 2/15th Field Regiment of the 2nd AIF, and Private Eric William Lambert, of 3 Reserve Motor Transport Company, were among the Australian troops who faced the Imperial Japanese in Malaya and Singapore. One was killed in action two became POWs after the fall of Singapore in February 1942.
Roy McNamara was born at Hay, NSW. A popular and highly respected citizen in Ivanhoe, Roy enlisted from there in late May 1941. He was allocated to the 2/15th Field Regiment which, in late July, left Sydney for Malaya. The vessel arrived in Singapore on 15 August.
On 5 December, the regiment took up position near Kluang in Malaya. In early January, the regiment moved north and from mid-January, was in almost constant action, providing artillery support for the infantry withdrawal along the Malayan Peninsula. On 23 January, during one of the hectic actions, Gunner McNamara was posted missing and was later presumed dead. Three days later, Gunner Williamson joined the regiment.
William Williamson was born in White Cliffs, NSW. He was working on his parents’ ‘Abbotsford Station’ at Ivanhoe when the war began. Almost 21 years old, he enlisted and after training, was allocated to the 2/15th Field Regiment, at that time, part of the British forces in Malaya.
Williamson embarked for Singapore in early January 1942 and arrived in time to join his unit as they prepared to withdraw across the causeway into Singapore. Despite stoic resistance, the Allied troops in Singapore were overwhelmed and the island was surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15 February 1942. Williamson and more than 15,000 other Australians became prisoners-of-war.
Private Eric William Lambert’s role was quite different. Aged 35 years, he enlisted in January 1941. The 2/3 Reserve Motor Transport Company was raised to help fill the shortfall of transport available to British forces in Singapore. The company arrived there in late April 1941 but due to the lack of competent transport units, the unit found itself based in Johore State, Malaya, and later moved further north and deployed in support an Indian Division.
After the Japanese landings, the unit continued in the fighting withdrawal until mid-January. Then, after ferrying withdrawing units into Singapore the company was also withdrawn. Before Singapore fell, the unit was sent to Java but when the Dutch resistance there collapsed, the Australian forces surrendered.
Gunner Williamson and Private Lambert were among the POWs sent to the Burma end of the Thai-Burma railway, two of the 479 Australian soldiers who died on that section of the railway. Both are buried in Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, Burma.
Gunner McNamara has no known grave and is commemorated on the memorial at Kranji in Singapore.