May 1, 2018

Song of Bill Doolan's Last Stand, Gull Force, Ambon, WWII, 1942

Following Submarine Matters’ publication of ANZAC Day Songs an Anonymous commenter has recounted the sacrifice of Australian soldier William (Bill) Doolan.

The Ambonese people (living on Ambon island in Indonesia) have a song about Doolan set to the tune “The Rose In Her Hair” (see Youtube below). Doolan single handedly held up a Japanese advance in Ambon in early 1942, during World War Two. Driver/Private William Doolan served in the 2/21st Australian Battalion, which made up much of "Gull Force".

Gull Force soldiers brought the tune “The Rose In Her Hair” to the Ambonese, who put new lyrics to it in remembrance of Doolan’s last stand. The Youtube version above is sung by Simani 
("Sim and I") a Newfoundland and Labrador (Canadian) traditional music group.

The Morwell Advertiser (newspaper of Victoria, Australia) published a front page article dated December 13, 1945 with the words:

"Song of Doolan" The following extract from "Ambon News" of 7th November [1945], tells the epic story of a Morwell boy...Driver Tom Doolan, the son of Mr. Tom Doolan and the late Mrs. Doolan, was born, reared and educated in Morwell, from where he enlisted.

"The original song 'Rose In Her Hair', was brought first to Ambon by the Australian [Gull Force] in 1942, and it was a song that the Ambonese have heard [the Australians] singing while working on the roads as prisoners-of-war. [the Ambonese started singing the tune themselves, in Ambonese Malay in which the name “Doolan” could be distinguished.

"Not far from the [Tantui, on Ambon] beside a track leading to the hills stands a grave, and over it a wooden cross marked:

VX 35406 Dvr. Doolan, W. T., 2/21 Bn. K.I.A. 1/2/42.

[When the Japanese Army were invading Ambon in January/February 1942 Doolan] was alone when he made his last stand. High in a Gandaria tree near the Batoegantoeng River, he built a machine gun nest and waited in it with his gun aimed on the bend of the road.

"Three trucks full of Japanese soldiers came roaring up the narrow track, and as they passed, Doolan poured the devastating fire at point blank range. The Japanese casualties were staggering. Doolan stayed where he was, waiting. Then some hours later, Japanese snipers who were sent out to pick him off, found his hiding place, and he was shot through the back of the head, crashing through the branches on to the ground, dead.

Then the Japanese moved on, and the Ambonese came back rescued his body and laid it to rest. To this day-they tend his grave...Here it is in Australian translation:

"On the first day of February. An Australian soldier climbed into his strong post; Thousands of soldiers of Japan lay killed and wounded. Shot by the great guns, machine guns and rifles Of the Australians on Ambon.

One Australian named Doolan
Had killed many men of Japan
He did not retreat or withdraw
Until at last he was killed alone
An Australian named Doolan
Died by the side of the road
His grave is under a Gandaria tree
The tale is told everywhere on Ambon
An Australian named Doolan
Died by the bullets from the men of Japan
Calling his mother, father, wife and children
But they could not hear him.

Here is further reading about the Ambonese, Gull Force and Bill Doolan, scroll a third way down this pdf file to the subheading about Doolan “He inspired a war chart [chant]”

An Anonymous and Pete

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