Alastair Ronald ORR

ORR, Alastair Ronald

Service Numbers: SX23762, S28854
Enlisted: 1 July 1940, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: London, England, 2 March 1902
Home Town: Medindie, Walkerville, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

1 Jul 1940: Involvement Captain, SN SX23762
1 Jul 1940: Involvement Captain, SN S28854
1 Jul 1940: Enlisted Adelaide, SA
21 Nov 1945: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Captain

Letter to his son Hugh Orr dated 22- Jul-45: (5 years old at the time)

“I hear you are getting on well at school. Also mummy told me the other day you made your own bed which I was very pleased to hear about.
Well things are very quiet here now no fighting just where I am and one seldom hears the sound of guns or bombs. I think the Japs know that we can beat them and are thinking of all going home. You will be sorry to hear that I have not had a chance to shoot one yet – but then no Jap has had the chance to shoot me. ….. Very much love, old chap DAD.”

Courtesy of Douglas G Orr


Operation OBOE – the invasion of Balikpapan

Operation OBOE TWO’s objective was the amphibious assault at Balikpapan, the final in a series aimed at Allied Liberation of Borneo (the world’s third largest island) from Japanese occupation. OBOE TWO was not only the last large scale Allied Operation of WW2, it remains Australia’s largest ever amphibious assault. The Balikpapan invasion demonstrated not only the high level of expertise in amphibious operations, but also the degree to which joint and combined operations had developed during almost six years of war.

The objectives of OBOE were multiple. The invasion of Borneo secured oil and rubber supplies, it provided a venue whereby the Allies could control SE Asia and it likely had a strategic objective for Australia. The Government desired to make a significant contribution to defeating Japan during 1945 in order to confirm its place during later peace talks. There was also pressure on the government to reinstate the prestige of the British Empire by liberating British and Dutch colonies.

In July 1945 the Balikpapan Attack Force included an Amphibious Task Group, Cruiser Covering Group and an Escort Carrier Group. The Amphibious Task Group consisted of over 120 ships, including the RAN Infantry Landing Ships, Manoora, Westralia and Kanimbla. Overall there were 98 landing craft with a screen of 10 destroyers, 5 escorts and 2 frigates. The Cruiser Covering group consisted of 10 cruisers and 14 destroyers. The Escort Carrier Group included 3 carriers with approximately 90 aircraft in total, and a screen of 1 destroyer and 5 destroyer escorts.

Courtesy of Douglas G Orr


Important role in the planning and execution of invasion of Balikpapan

Ronald played an important role in the invasion of Balikpapan – the last large scale operation of the six years of WW2 in the region. The operation was ordered by the Combined Chiefs of Staff and US General MacArthur – who was operating out of Brisbane. The Balikpapan landings were under the command of Lieut-General Milford, and planned at regional HQ on the Atherton Tableland. Ronald clearly had a senior and influential position in its planning, since the main road on Balikpapan was known as the “Milford Highway” and that led to “Orr’s Junction”. His service record is not specific about his activities in the six months before the invasion, however, he was detached to “special duties” with US Forces in the last two months of 1944 and was elevated to temp Lieut. Colonel in Mar-45. Ronald had significant influence and contribution with the planning of Balikpapan landings at a high level, as his role as Adjutant on the Supply Flagship Manoora, and the fact that “Orr’s Junction” being named in his honour would attest.

Courtesy of Douglas G Orr

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

 Ronald Orr applied for enlistment in Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Adelaide 10-Nov-40 but was refused presumably as a result of his age (38) and because he had a wife and children.  Persevering, he enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces to do his bit.  Two years later he transferred to the AIF, and trained with US forces in anticipation of a key role as head of supply units for Australia’s largest ever amphibious landing:  OBOE 2 Balikpapan.

Citizen Military Forces: 15-Dec-41 to 2-Sep-42
Australian Imperial Forces:  3-Sep-42 to 20-Nov-45 (SX23762)

·         22-Jul-40: Enlisted at Keswick and was assigned 6th Armoured Brigade AASC (Australian Army Service Corp)

·         23-Oct-40: Commissioned as Lieutenant, 9 months at Keswick Warradale, North Geelong and Cheltenham, temp Captain 30-Apr-41

·         Captain 1-Sep-42, Trans to 6th Cav Brigade as Senior Supply Officer

·         Sep-42:  Volunteered and transferred to AIF

·         Apr-43: Posted to 1st Aust HQ Landing Group, Victoria then Qld.

·         8-Jun-44: temp Major, attached to 6th Australian Division

·         Nov-44: attached to HQ 21st Australian Infantry Brigade 

·         Dec-44: 2 months detached special duties US forces

·         31-Mar-45: temp Lieut. Colonel, detached to HMAS Manoora (ships Adjutant),  flagship of Transport Unit (including Westralia and Kanimbla), Operation OBOE TWO

·         10-Oct-45 1st Military Landing Grp enplaned Morati for Balikpapan.

·         20-Nov-45: Demobilized, granted rank of honory Lieutenant Colonel

·         Mar-47 – Mentioned in Dispatches: Lt-Col ORR, Alastair Ronald – Exceptional service in the field in the S.W.P Area

·         Ron’s wife Phyllis (nee Forwood) was a long term volunteer at the Red Cross

                                                                                        with thanks to Hugh Orr.