ANZAC Day 2022

Here are our listings for local ANZAC Day services.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the Quarry Park resumes in 2022

Good news at last. For the last two years, Covid has caused the cancellation of the popular and very moving dawn ANZAC Day service at the Quarry. Ferntree Gully CFA members and the Rotary Club of Ferntree Gully are working together to once again allow this wonderful service to resume.

Arrival at the Quarry at 5:45 am will allow the service to begin at 6:00 am. Parking in nearby streets is limited and it is suggested that those attending should park in Ferntree Gully Village area. Please bring a torch and if needed, a fold-up chair. 

Anzac Dawn Watch 2013. Photo: Barbara Oehring.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service – Boronia RSL

Boronia RSL will conduct their Anzac Day Dawn Service on Monday 25 April at 198 Dorset Road Boronia, commencing at 6:00am.

The service will be held at the Cenotaph in front of the RSL. Everyone is welcome so please join us as we remember fallen comrades who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today.

At the completion of the service we welcome everyone to join us inside the Sub-Branch for a gunfire breakfast and refreshments.

For more information please go to

Eighty years on – remembering Gull Force and Sparrow Force

By Ray Peace

In 1942 Private Lawrie Davis, aged 22 years, formerly of Ferntree Gully, knew he wasn’t coming back. Dazed from fatigue and hunger on a tropic island airstrip, he could expect no mercy from his captors. 

Like all his fellow soldiers on the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) that late wet-season morning in February 1942, young Lawrie was aware that he and his 6,000 fellow members of Gull Force, stationed on Ambon and the adjoining island of Amboina, were pitifully ill-equipped against a rapacious enemy that had swept aside all opposition since the devastating air attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. 

Lawrie Davis was part of the 21st Battalion of the 2nd AIF (Australian Infantry Forces) posted to Ambon on 17 December 1941 at the request of the government of the Dutch East Indies in Batavia (now Djakarta). The position of Ambon, centrally located only 1,000 km from New Guinea, Timor, the Celebes, and barely 600 km from the Northern Territory port of Darwin, was crucial. The Diggers, including Lawrie, knew they were the last line of defence for their homeland; Darwin was already within bomber range. If they couldn’t stop ‘the Japs’, who could?

Yet, Gull Force was ill-prepared for this desperate mission. From the first, the commanders of Gull Force requested more support, particularly air and artillery, from 3 Military District Command at their bluestone barracks in St Kilda Road, Melbourne. None was forthcoming: the best of the Australian Defence Forces were committed to the war far away in North Africa. (Gull Force had no mobile artillery support at all.)

Lawrence John Davis was born in the inner suburb of Carlton, in June 1919. In 1927, young Lawrie’s family moved to Ferntree Gully, where he enrolled at Ferntree Gully State School no. 1307. Lawrie’s stay in Ferntree Gully was brief: in October 1928, Lawrie transferred to Ringwood State School. 

In the 1930s, like many young Australians, Lawrie enrolled in the militia, the reserve force created after the Great War to provide the Army with trained fighting men in the event of war. In civilian life, Lawrie was a trained machinist; his mother, Rita Davis, was living in the inner suburb of Richmond when Lawrie enlisted at the Melbourne Town Hall, a week after his 21st birthday, in July 1940.

The 2/21st Battalion was posted to Darwin in March 1941, then to Ambon on 12 December 1941, five days after the outbreak of the Pacific War. Morale was already low: apart from primitive living conditions in forward areas, several companies of the 2/21st were shipped to what soldiers then regarded as ‘the real war’ in North Africa.

On the eve of the Japanese invasion of Ambon on 30 January 1942, Army Command made a crucial mistake. The commander of Gull Force, Colonel Roach, was replaced by a sub-ordinate, Major Scott. The combined Australian/Dutch defences were organised for an attack on the north coast of the rugged, 15 km long island; the main Japanese landing came on the south coast.

Only fifteen members of Gull Force were killed in the attack. The mountainous spine of the island was crossed by a few rough tracks through forest considered impenetrable. The Japanese, aided by horses and bicycles, excelled in attack in this kind of terrain and environment.

Over three hundred survivors of Gull Force, including Private Lawrie Davis, were rounded up on the airstrip at Laha. There they were cold-bloodedly massacred, by machine-gun fire, bayonet, or Japanese ceremonial samurai sword. Like so many of his comrades, Lawrie Davis has no known grave.

February 2022 is also a significant anniversary for another soldier with Gully connections. Reported Missing in Action on 22 February 1942 was Lance-Corporal William A Simeon, of the 2/40th Battalion, part of ‘Sparrow Force’ fighting further to the east of Ambon on the island of Timor. His wife, Daffney Mavis Simeon lived in Clematis Avenue, Ferntree Gully.  William Simeon had enlisted in July 1940, aged 26 years. His death was not finally confirmed to his wife until 1953. The remains of William Simeon were later re-interred at the Adelaide River war cemetery in the Northern Territory. 

It was to be another three and a half years before the forces in which over 400 residents of Ferntree Gully Shire enlisted, including 60 who gave their lives by land, sea and air, were victorious.

Ray Peace, Knox Historical Society

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