March of the Lark Force and Gull Force remembered
04 September 2015
September 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the march of the Lark Force and Gull Force from Trawool to Bonegilla.
Member for Euroa and Deputy Leader of The Nationals Steph Ryan said there was a very strong local connection to both the Lark and Gull forces in the Euroa electorate and it was important to remember this important time in the region’s history.
“Both battalions trained at Trawool near Seymour and then in September 1940 they marched to Bonegilla, passing through Avenel, Pranjip Creek, Euroa, Violet Town and Benalla along the way,” Ms Ryan said.
“Many of the soldiers originated from north-east Victoria and locals turned out all along the way to cheer them along."
Ms Ryan said the stories of the Lark Force at Rabaul and the Gull Force at Ambon were two of the saddest tales of World War II.
“Our men were assigned the overwhelming task of delaying the advance of the Japanese on the islands north of Australia,” Ms Ryan said.
“Worse still, they were virtually forsaken by the Australian Government who made no provision for safe, orderly retreat as the inevitable defeats occurred.
“The losses experienced by the Lark Force and the Gull Force were horrific. Up to 75 per cent of their members were either killed in battle, executed, died of starvation, illness or maltreatment.
“In the case of the Lark Force, around 800 of their number were killed when the unmarked Japanese ship (the Montevideo Maru) transporting them to POW camps was sunk by an American submarine.”
Ms Ryan said Benalla resident Jim Clark, whose uncle marched in the Lark Force and tragically never returned, was planning to commemorate the anniversary by walking and driving some of the trail with his sisters.
“My mother’s brother William Raymond Mason, known to everyone as Ray, was lost on the Montevideo Maru on Wednesday, 1 July 1942 at aged 40,” Mr Clark said.
“I am hoping to honour his memory and that of so many others by travelling some of the path that the Lark and Gull Force marched, myself.
“On the first day, 24 September 1940, the troops marched from Trawool to Avenel, camping at Lambing Gully Road, near where Fowles Wine now stands,” Mr Clark said.
“The next day they marched on to Pranjip Creek, camping in a paddock near the Hume.
“On the 26th they followed the railway line to Euroa where they camped at the showgrounds before making it to Violet Town on the 27th and camping at the recreation ground.
“On 28 September they marched from Violet Town to Benalla, stopping at Baddaginnie for lunch, before camping near the hospital.
“From there, they continued on through Wangaratta to Bonegilla.”
Ms Ryan said it was important that the significance of the Lark and Gull Forces to the history of the Euroa electorate was recognised.
“The impact of this tumultuous time in our history still affects us,” Ms Ryan said.
“I encourage people to take the opportunity to find out more about the Lark Force and Gull Force and its importance to our part of the region.”