23rd Brigade colour patch

Signals sleeve badge

Signaller with Aldis lamp

Signalling with heliograph

The 2/40th Infantry Battalion was the main component of Sparrow Force and had its own Signals unit, HQ No.1 platoon. The 2/1st Heavy Guns had the 2/1st Fortress Signals unit at Klapalima. However each of these signals groups were responsible primarily to their parent formations, so the 8th Division's 23rd Brigade had a separate signals unit deployed with Sparrow Force, nominated as 23rd Brigade Signals. These likely wore 23rd Brigade colour patches as Sparrow Force, like Lark Force and Gull Force, were part of the 23rd Brigade.

8th Division signallers were ensconced with other signallers at critical posts, such as on Semau Island where three signallers were sent in February to observe and report back on the likely Japanese invasion fleet. Two of these signallers were from No.1 platoon 2/40th and the third was from 23rd Brigade Signals.


The signallers embarked for Dutch West Timor on the HMAS Westralia and arrived at Usapa Besar near Koepang two days later, on 12th December 1941. Radio equipment was damaged during loading in Darwin and unloading at Usapa Besar although the primary equipment in general use by signallers was the heliograph by day and Aldis lamp by night.   


Embarkation lists for Darwin on 10th December 1941 record 6 signallers of the 23rd Brigade. Another signaller was added to these men because nominal rolls in February 1942 list a total of 7 personnel in 23rd Brigade Signals.
          L/Cpl. Donald W. Noble
          L/Cpl. Byron Pattison
          Sig. Eric J. Liversidge
          Sig. William Larkins
          Sig. Leo C. Newman
          Sig. Norman E. Segal
          Sig. Robert H. Coller

Pattison was listed as 'missing Semau Island 20.2.42, presumed dead' along with 2/40th signallers Privates James Bock and Joseph Grant. War graves records indicate that rather than being 'turned in' by natives on the island, they died there months later from illness. They were not taken as prisoners of war.


Of the remaining 23rd Brigade signallers, two were at Champlong when Leggatt surrendered his force at Airkom, Signallers Eric Liversidge and William Larkins. These men went on to join up with the 2nd Independent Company (commando) on East Timor while the others present at Airkom went into captivity.

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