Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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2/3 Motor Ambulance Convoy

To this stage, most of my articles have dealt with Medical Personnel who were POWs of the Japanese. I now propose to deal with a unit about which little may be known. In 1941 the following medical units were in Malaya/ Singapore. 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station, Dental Units, 2/9 and 2/10 Field Ambulance, 2/10 and 2/13 Australian General Hospital and smaller Hygiene and Bacteriological units. There were also 2 Motor Ambulance Convoys (regarded as Service Corps and not Medical Corps).

The 2/3 Motor Ambulance Convoy was sent to Malaya in March to May 1941. The role was not to support the Australian troops. There was a convoluted arrangement where the unit was to serve 3rd Indian Corps, be rationed and equipped by Malaya Command, but, be attached to 8th Div for discipline. The Convoy comprised two wings. The Medical wing comprised 2 officers and 29 other ranks (AAMC). The Transport Wing had 6 officers and 250 other ranks. The principal officers were CO Major Robert Dick Medical Officer, OC Major G Campbell AASC, Adjutant Capt K Parsons AASC and Capt Des Brennan Medical Officer. The Convoy had 75 ambulances split into three sections or companies of 25. It also had about 30 mechanical workshop vehicles.

On or around 8 December 1941 (invasion day) one company of 2/3 MAC was actually 30/40 Kilometres inside Thailand in support of the Punjabis near the infamous “ledge”.
The 2/3 MAC transported all wounded in front of and behind the Malayan Field Ambulances. Their job was a very hard and difficult one. The Unit carried the wounded over long and hazardous roads, contending with bombing and aerial machine gunning, very often transporting patients from forward area to ADS and to CCS, then on to hospitals and often helping to move the hospitals before reporting to their unit headquarters. Many times the ambulances would make a last minute dash to get back behind our front line perimeter with the Japs breathing down their exhaust pipes. Often they escaped by taking routes through rubber plantations, river beds and native tracks. It was said that the Medical units were usually the last to retreat and outstanding work was done by the Ambulance drivers, the Regimental Medical Officers and the medical orderlies.

It is often reported that the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders(A & S) were the last to cross the Causeway onto Singapore Island. However, the Scots will probably be disappointed to learn that they may not have been the last. (To be fair, they may have been the last formed body of troops). The following is an account from Capt Des Brennan –Medical Officer 2/3 MAC-
….The Argyles & Sutherlands had marched across the causeway. The hand was about to push the plunger (to detonate the charges to breach the causeway), when to everyone’s astonishment, out of Jahore Baru, madly haring across the Causeway, instead of the Japanese, came several of our ambulances. They had gone back to rescue some wounded who had been left behind.
The source for this information is an article written by Capt Des Brennan in Barbed Wire & Bamboo around 1989 and two of the 2/3 MAC personnel who were in these last vehicles Gordon Nichol and Bobby Shoobridge. In an expression of appreciation, the CO of A & S presented Bobby Shoobridge with a pair of A & S tartan trews, which (in 2004) he still has. The author of this article has interviewed Gordon Nichol and Bobby Shoobridge and seen the cared for and treasured trews.

Following Capitulation the 2/3 MAC spent time carrying wounded and sick to the Changi area. In fact, they did much more than that. Contrary to Jap orders they concealed medical stores, instruments and drugs in their ambulances. These desperately needed stores subsequently proved of extreme value to the Medical personnel in the medical facilities.

Lt Col Glynn White AAMC seems to have been the person responsible for collection of the sick and wounded (British, Indian and Australian). Initially, by direction of the Japanese Chief Medical Officer Col Sekiguchi, he was given 7 days to complete collection with only 5 ambulances. He protested that he needed more ambulances. This was refused. He asked Sekiguchi that if he (White) could find more vehicles could he use them. This was agreed to. Next morning he assembled 20 3 ton trucks and 55 ambulances and a staff car. The use of these vehicles was agreed to. Sekiguchi personally obtained 76 Japanese passes to enable the ambulances to move around the Island. Subsequently White managed to stretch the collection time to 3 weeks. Many of the above vehicles were from 2/3 MAC together with their drivers and medical orderlies. At the end of the three weeks 12,000 sick and wounded had been moved.


Information for the above article was obtained from Bill Fitch, Bobby Shoobridge, Gordon Nichol, Arthur Lawlor, Bill Flowers and Capt (Dr) Des Brennan’s widow Eunice. Also consulted were various papers and copy of Barbed Wire & Bamboo which were provided by a number of people. (In due course, articles will appear about Captain (Dr) Des Brennan and Bobby Shoobridge who were sent to Manchuria (Mukden). Also covered will be Bill Fitch and Arthur Lawler (and Robert Cussen) who were sent to Thailand/Burma as medical orderlies on K & L Force (to care for the coolies)).


Prepared by Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired) JP
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