Arthur Leslie VARLEY MC+ Bar, MiD


VARLEY, Arthur Leslie

Service Numbers: 3495, NX35005
Enlisted: 24 August 1915
Last Rank: Brigadier
Last Unit: 2nd/18th Infantry Battalion
Born: Lidcombe, New South Wales, Australia, 13 October 1893
Home Town: Armidale, Armidale Dumaresq, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grazier/Stock & Station Agent
Died: Killed in US Navy sinking of Japanese POW ship - Rakuyo Maru, South China Sea, 13 September 1944, aged 50 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Burial at Sea; (CWGC) Official Commemoration - Memorial Location: Panel 9, Labuan Memorial (within Labuan War Cemetery) Labuan Federal Territory. Roll of Honour: Gunnedah, Gunnedah Shire, New South Wales.
Memorials: Armidale Memorial Fountain, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Gunnedah Remembrance Grove, Labuan Memorial, Labuan Federal Territory, Malaysia
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World War 1 Service

24 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1
13 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3495, 13th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
13 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3495, 13th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Port Lincoln, Sydney
4 Oct 1919: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 12th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
4 Oct 1919: Discharged AIF WW1

World War 2 Service

22 Feb 1939: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Captain, SN NX35005, 2nd/33rd Infantry Battalion
4 Sep 1939: Involvement Australian Army (Post WW2), Captain, SN NX35005, 2nd/33rd Infantry Battalion
13 Sep 1939: Promoted Major, 2nd/33rd Infantry Battalion, (NAA, Pg-5)
7 May 1940: Enlisted Major, SN NX35005, 2nd/33rd Infantry Battalion, Paddington, New South Wales
13 Jul 1940: Involvement Lieutenant Colonel, SN NX35005, 2nd/18th Infantry Battalion
13 Jul 1940: Transferred Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd/18th Infantry Battalion, Transferred: 13/07/1940, Seconded to command 2/18th Bn, 8th Div., 2nd AIF, and to be - [Lt-Colonel], 2nd/18th Battalion, 8th Division, 2nd Australian Imperial Force, and to be - Lieutenant-Colonel; (NAA, Pg-5).
13 Jul 1940: Promoted Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd/18th Infantry Battalion, (NAA, Pg-5)
1 Feb 1942: Involvement Brigadier, SN NX35005, Malaya/Singapore
15 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Prisoners of War, Died at sea following the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru. Believed to have been machine gunned in lifeboats by Japanese Naval vessels.
15 Feb 1942: Involvement Brigadier, SN NX35005, Malaya/Singapore
6 Sep 1944: Embarked Brigadier, SN NX35005, Embarked with(1318-POW'S) Ship: "Rakuyo Maru", 06/09/1944, Singapore; Japanese - Convoy of ships: "HI-72"; Destination: Mainland of Japan - mines; Date and Location of Disaster: 12/09/1944, Off east coast of Hainan Island, Sth China Sea; Cause of Disaster: Unmarked Japanese Transport Ship, "Rakuyo Maru" was torpedoed by USA-submarine - "Sea Lion".

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"Arthur Leslie Varley (1893-1944), army officer and stock-and-station agent, was born on 13 October 1893 at Rookwood, Sydney, third child of native-born parents William Ashton Varley, telegraph operator, and his wife Elizabeth Ellen, née Stubbin. Educated in the New England region, Arthur began work as a clerk. On 24 August 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Sailing for Egypt in October, he was posted to the 45th Battalion and commissioned in March 1916.Three months later Varley arrived in France. In August he took part in the fighting at Pozières and was promoted lieutenant. He became adjutant in September. His battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel S. C. E. Herring, was to remember his actions at Messines, Belgium, in June 1917, when he guided the medical officer, a few signallers and Herring himself to an advanced battle station through a desolate landscape swept by fire—'a magnificent feat'. During that battle he also went forward to take control of two companies at Owl Trench and organized a counter-attack. He was awarded the Military Cross for 'his coolness under fire and utter disregard of personal danger' and next month promoted captain. Appointed staff captain, 12th Brigade, in January 1918, he won a Bar to his M.C. for supervising the resupply of a battalion while under heavy fire in operations east of Hamel, France, in August. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Sydney on 4 October 1919. He was mentioned in dispatches.

At St Peter's Cathedral, Armidale, on 17 December 1919 Varley married with Anglican rites Linda Adelaide Middleton; they had three children before Linda died in 1925. On 22 September 1926 at St Jude's Church of England, Randwick, Sydney, Varley married a 40-year-old divorcee Ethel Stevens, née Parker; they were childless. With Ethel's brother he ran a stock-and-station agency at Inverell. He also owned a grazing property named Kahmoo. A fine sportsman, he had played Rugby Union football for New England and tennis for Armidale. As a cricketer he was a consistent number-three batsman and a fast bowler. Alan Kippax, giving an exhibition in 1924, asked that he be taken off: 'It's impossible for me to give a demonstration when he's bowling like that'.

Active in the Militia from February 1939, Varley was given command of the 35th Battalion in September and promoted temporary lieutenant colonel in December. He had 'keen blue eyes and a sparsely-built frame which accentuated his military bearing'. Seconded to the A.I.F. on 1 July 1940, he was placed in command of the 2nd/18th Battalion, which reached Malaya in February as part of the 22nd Brigade. Varley's battalion did not go into action until the night of 26/27 January 1942, when it mounted an effective ambush at the Nithsdale rubber estate, south of Mersing. He continued to lead from the front when the Japanese landed on Singapore Island on 8 February. Four days later Major General H. G. Bennett relieved H. B. Taylor of command of the 22nd Brigade, replacing him with Varley, whom he promoted temporary brigadier. Singapore fell on 15 February.

In May Varley took command of 'A' Force, a working party of 3000 Australian prisoners of war drawn mainly from the 22nd Brigade. The force was sent to Burma to work on the Burma-Thailand Railway, and was joined there by prisoners from the Netherlands East Indies; from October Varley commanded some 9000 men. Lieutenant Colonel C. G. W. Anderson was to write of Varley's 'strong personality [and] his vigorous and fearless championship of the troops'. Varley recorded in his diary the conditions (the hospital was 'about equal to a fowl shed . . . on a very poor farm'), his efforts to obtain necessities for the men ('Must keep plugging. This is a battle for life'), and the names of the dead (the Japanese 'do not mind if the line is dotted with crosses'). With the railway completed, Varley was sent to Thailand in January 1944 then back to Singapore where a British gunner remembered him as 'a lonely rather majestic figure still with his faded red tabs, and an air of battered dignity'.

On 6 September 1944 Varley embarked for Formosa (Taiwan) in the Japanese transport Rakuyo Maru. Early on 12 September the vessel was torpedoed by an American submarine. Varley was last seen in command of a group of seven lifeboats, reportedly 'heading north-west'. Others in the water thought they heard machine-gun fire from that direction, possibly from Japanese frigates which might have killed Varley and his party. The date of his death, though probably 14 September, was formally given as 13 September 1944. He was survived by his wife and by the daughter and two sons of his first marriage. His elder son Jack had won the M.C. in Malaya; his younger son Robert was killed in action in New Guinea in April 1945. Arthur Varley's name is inscribed on the Labuan Memorial, Sabah, Malaysia, for servicemen with no known graves." - SOURCE (