79th L.A.A. (British)

Royal Artillery

HQ staff, 79th LAA

A Troop, 79th LAA

C Troop, 79th LAA

40mm Bofors A-A gun

This British unit comprised of three troops when it arrived in Java after being diverted from the Middle East. They were originally going to defend Singapore but were again diverted to Java as Singapore was already under attack. B Troop was sent to defend the airfield of Malang while A and C Troops boarded the Ban Hong Leong on 9th February, their destination Dutch West Timor. They arrived at Tenau on February 16th, just four days before the Japanese invasion.


It was not possible to unload the 40mm Bofors guns, tractors and ancillary equipment at Kupang because of the shallow harbour so they were diverted to Tenau, a few miles south-west. As they unloaded, they were attacked by Japanese aircraft however the bombs fell wide of their mark. Each troop consisted of 4 guns with towing tractors, they also had 15 cwt trucks, water trucks and motor cycles.

The command structure of the 79th LAA Battery on Dutch West Timor was:
     Headquarters - Major Jack P.H. Dempsey, commanding officer
          2-i.c. Captain William M. Craig
          Transport - Captain James Wright
          Bty Sgt.-Major Reginald 'Abdul' White
     A Troop - Lieut. Charles Scott
          A1 gun - Sgt. Robert Jones
          A2 gun - Sgt. Ronald Weston
          A3 gun - Sgt. Roy Brockway
          A4 gun - Sgt. Jim Storey 
     C Troop - Lieut. Andrew Baillie
          C1 gun - Sgt. Dennis Kember
          C2 gun - Sgt. Gibson Brown 
          C3 gun - Sgt. Henry Evans
          C4 gun - Sgt. George King
The total strength of the LAA unit on Timor was 189 officers and men

To cope with the tropical climate, they were issued with Australian slouch hats onto which they pinned the Royal Artillery cap badge. This was the only non-Australian unit ever to be issued with the traditional Australian hat, KFF. They were almost straight into action with guns deployed at Tenau and Penfui, the airstrip. Their commanding officer, Major Dempsey, is well remembered by those who met the 79th LAA HQ group, for his generous offering of admiralty rum. Before leaving Java, his men discovered barrels of British Navy rum abandoned in stores at the wharf; these were then taken to Timor.


Mentioned in despatches, 'This unit showed its excellent discipline and training during the four days of action. Their guns registered eighteen hits upon enemy aircraft and reported 14 aircraft destroyed, including one four-engine troop carrier and a twin-engine flying boat. Dive bombing did not deter them in the least, only ammunition shortages prevented them from engaging all enemy aircraft presented.'  Two more planes loaded with paratroops were later discovered by the Timorese and with those that did not return to base, their likely tally was about twenty.

Bofors guns were at the forefront of fighting at Babau and the push back to headquarters at Champlong. They surrendered with the column at Airkom on 23rd February and went into captivity alongside the Australians. Many died from disease or accidents in slave labour camps throughout South-East Asia and Japan. One member was killed in action at Babau while thirty more died as p-o-w's.

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