Order of Battle: The Commanders

Sparrow Force, originally consisting of 1,400 Australian and 500 Dutch troops, was commanded by Brigadier (Brig) Veale. Following defeat in West Timor the remnants linked up with the 2/2nd where Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Spence had skillfully deployed his 2/2nd platoons in the mountains above Dili. With Veale’s evacuation in May 1942, Spence took command of Sparrow Force.

He [Spence] had an amazing memory. He would look through a window and see a man he had not seen for months, yet be able to tell me his name, which section he was in and what he had been involved in.

Lieutenant (Lt) Eric Smyth,
Intelligence Officer with HQ

Major (Maj) Callinan then commanded the 2/2nd with the three platoons led by Capts Dexter, Laidlaw and Boyland. A fourth, D platoon, formed from fit soldiers who escaped from West Timor, was under Capt Turton. The sections of 20 men that made up the platoons were under lieutenants. The aggressive patrolling sub-sections of privates were ordered to include a noncommissioned officer in all ambush parties.

Maj Callinan was a talented, shrewd and aggressive leader who walked for a month to visit all platoons and fix rallying points in the event of a major Japanese assault. He had great foresight.

The Dutch troops were led by Capt Braemour and patrolled back into West Timor.

A small ‘International Brigade’ of Portuguese colonists was led by Sergeant (Sgt) Tomasetti of the 2/2nd.

In mid November Spence was withdrawn and Callinan commanded Sparrow Force and Laidlaw led the 2/2nd.

He [Laidlaw] was the kind of officer who was ruthlessly efficient in the execution of his duties yet equally at home sharing a beer with men in their tents. The troops held him in such high regard they would do almost anything for him.

Lt Eric Smyth,
Intelligence Officer with HQ

Sparrow Force Commander Lt Col Alexander Spence (left) discusses tactics with In

Sparrow Force Commander Lt Col Alexander Spence (left) discusses tactics with Intelligence Officer Lt Eric Smyth and Maj Bernard Callinan Commander 2/2nd Independent Company.
Damien Parer, courtesy Australian War Memorial AWM 013762