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2/21st Infantry Battalion

East Melbourne 30 July 1915

Rhoda Simmons, his mother. His father was John Thomas Simmons

10 June 1940 at Caulfield

Mt Eccles South

Farm labourer

7 April 1944, aged 28 on Ambon Indonesia

He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery Ambon Indonesia

His name is on the memorials at Leongatha and Mt Eccles. He is also on the Roll of Honour in Malvern.

He lived with his family in Mt Eccles South

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 colours were black over red, in a diamond shape.

The battalion undertook rudimentary training at Trawool until 23 September, then moved on foot to Bonegilla. The march was 235 kilometres long and they arrived in Bonegilla on 4 October. At Bonegilla, the battalion participated in more complex training. The Australian government decided to deploy this battalion and two others to the islands to Australia's immediate north, Ambon, Timor and New Britain, if war broke out with the Japanese. As part of this plan, the 2/21st was earmarked to reinforce Dutch troops on the island of Ambon if the Japanese attacked. Therefore the 2/21st Battalion were moved to Darwin as the chance of war with Japan grew.

The battalion began arriving in Darwin on 9 April 1941. Following the Japanese attack on Malaya on 8 December the battalion moved north 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 groups 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 was considered too small to defend Ambon. After much fighting the force eventually surrendered and the troops became prisoners of war. John would have suffered from malnutrition, disease and brutal treatment before he died on 7 April 1944.


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