AAMC colour patch

Camp at Usapa Besar

With native children

Sparrow Force Christmas card

This unit would likely have worn the Australian Army Medical Corps colour patch, they are not listed nor their patch illustrated on the Christmas Card from Sparrow Force that was sent to Lt.-Col. Gallaghan whilst in captivity at Changi. Nominal rolls list them as 'Special Dental Unit' rather than AAMC.

Dental care was an important part of army life, like medical. It was an great public relations exercise as well, so in 'spare time', members of the Dental Unit would visit villages and see native patients as well. They were well accepted by locals, and because some of the dental team became familiar with villagers, they were used  as lookouts for the arrival of the Japanese in mid-February.   

The men of 22nd Dental Unit worked with the 2/40th and ancillary Sparrow Force units in Darwin prior to their departure for Dutch West Timor on 10th December on the HMAS Westralia. Initially on Timor, they were based at Penfui. After the hospital was established at Champlong, that became their new headquarters.   


22nd Dental Unit:
     Officer in command - Captain John S.S. Winter
     2-i.c. S/Sgt. Walter C. Snelling
              Cpl. Archibald McRury
              Other dental technicians, pte. Milne & Powell
     Number of men on strength: 1 officer and 4 other ranks

After the Japanese landing on 20th February, it is interesting to note that Captain Winter was listed as being taken prisoner at Koepang on the 22nd February, before the remainder of his unit. Others of the 22nd Dental Unit became prisoners of war at Champlong on 23rd Feb. after the Japanese captured the hospital, except for Cpl. Rury who went east to the 2nd Ind. Coy. Like the 2/12th Field Ambulance members, others of the 22nd Special Dental Unit chose to stay with Sparrow Force in captivity rather than go east in search of the 2nd Independent Company. Their duty was to Sparrow Force members on West Timor.


Men of the 2/12th Field Ambulance and 22nd Dental Unit continued their care for servicemen after they were interned. There are even instances of treatment of their captors, although they were denied many of the tools and medicines required. Equipment and medication left at the Champlong hospital was sorely needed at Usapa Besar, their new prison camp, however this was generally denied by the Japanese.

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Ian D. Skennerton

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