Battalion 2/21 Infantry Battalion
Place of Birth Leongatha 4 September 1917
Next of Kin Hill Wightman, his father. His mother was Ada Isabel Wightman of Leongatha.
Date and place of enlistment
5 July 1940 at Caulfield
Location on enlistment Leongatha
Occupation Butcher and farmer
Date and place of death
6 August 1945 aged 27 on the island of Ambon in Indonesia
Location of grave or memorial
He is buried in the Ambon War Cemetery Indonesia and has his name on Memorials in Leongatha and at Leongatha Secondary College (formerly Leongatha High).
Relationship to Woorayl Shire
He lived with his family on their farm on the Coast Rd (Strzelecki Highway) near Koorooman East.
The 2/21st Battalion was formed on 11 July 1940 at Trawool in central Victoria as part of the 2nd AIF. Mitchell was in this battalion from the start. The majority of the battalion’s initial intake of volunteers were Victorians. The battalion undertook basic training at Trawool then moved on foot to Bonegilla, a march of 235 kilometres completed in eleven days. At Bonegilla, the battalion participated in more complex training. The Australian government decided to keep the 23rd Brigade in Australia and send to the islands north of Australia (Ambon, Timor and New Britain) if war broke out with the Japanese. Within this plan, the 2/21st was set to reinforce Dutch troops on Ambon if the Japanese decided to attack. Therefore the 2/21st Battalion were moved to Darwin as the likelihood of war with Japan grew.
The battalion began arriving in Darwin on 9 April 1941 and spent the next nine months training and on garrison duty. Following the Japanese attack on Malaya on 8 December the battalion prepared to move, arriving on Ambon on 17 December as part of Gull Force. Gull Force consisted of the 2/21st Battalion supported by anti-tank artillery, engineers and other supporting troops with a combined strength of 1,100 men. The Netherlands East Indies forces on Ambon numbered 2,600 men consisting of both Dutch and Indonesian troops. The small Australian and Dutch force totaling just 3,700 men was considered too small to defend Ambon. After much fighting the force eventually surrendered and the troops became prisoners of war. Mitchell suffered much as a POW and died of illness just before the war ended.