Keith Mortimer HAYES OAM

HAYES, Keith Mortimer

Service Number: WX12317
Enlisted: 2 May 1941, Claremont, Western Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/11th Infantry Battalion
Born: Maylands, Western Australia, 15 January 1921
Home Town: Perth, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

2 May 1941: Enlisted Private, SN WX12317, Claremont, Western Australia
2 May 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX12317, 2nd/11th Infantry Battalion
1 Oct 1941: Involvement Private, SN WX12317, 2nd/2nd Independent Company, Australia's Northern Periphery
28 Aug 1946: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN WX12317
28 Aug 1946: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX12317, 2nd/11th Infantry Battalion

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"They are known as the second-second, but the men of the 2nd Independent Company were Australia's first commandos, and in 1942 they became our first troops to stop the Japanese juggernaut. With the support of Timorese villagers, they tied down thousands of Japanese troops in a year-long guerrilla war on the island of Timor, diverting the enemy from New Guinea.

Only two members of the unit are alive today, and one of them, 95-year-old Keith Hayes, tells an incredible story of survival thanks to the aid of Timorese woman. Twelve hours after the Japanese bombed Darwin, they landed 5,000 troops on the island of Timor. The Australian commandos, who were already in Timor based in the mountains outside Dili, had no idea the Japanese troops had arrived. The morning after the Japanese landed, 20-year-old Mr Hayes was one of 15 men who drove down to Dili in a truck to pick up supplies. Even though his mountain base was only 11 kilometres from Dili, a heavy fog had prevented a signaller from getting a message through. Signaller Bryant Gannon died in vain as he flashed a Lucas lamp to alert the base. The fifteen Australians fell into an ambush and were captured.

Mr Hayes was one of four men lined up for execution. Eleven other commandos were executed later that day. But the bullet and a subsequent bayonet did not kill him. "I don't know how long I lay there but when I went out they were turning blue, they were gone, the others," Mr Hayes said. He somehow survived and managed to make it to the edge of the jungle. "I saw two little kids. They took me up to dear old Berta (Martins), and from then on she was in charge," he said.

Ms Martins knew a thing or two about traditional medicine, and she knew how to hide him from the Japanese. "She made up some paste to stop the bleeding, a green mixture, some herbs crushed up. She did that every day, even fed me, every day I went down a tunnel, stayed down there all day," Mr Hayes said. "At night-time if there was any noise she'd wrap me up in a cane mat. "People in the village must have known, but not a word was said about it. "Anyone wanting a spare bob could have put me in." Mr Hayes was being hidden just a few hundred metres from the Japanese, who were guarding the airfield. Ms Martins lived in a village next to the Dili mosque, which the commandos called the Arab village. After about a week, she arranged for two men to put Mr Hayes on a pony and take him back to his unit in the mountains. As a parting gesture, Ms Martins gave Mr Hayes a pink handkerchief and a big hug. When the company doctor saw the way she had treated Mr Hayes's wounds, he said he could not have done a better job.

At the time of his return, Mr Hayes' company was embroiled in an effective guerilla war against the Japanese, even though they lacked supplies and radio contact with Australia. But Joe Loveless, an ABC radio technician from Hobart, led a small team that worked day and night to build a radio set out of bits and pieces to reach Australia after 10 weeks of isolation." - By The Australian's Paul Cleary - READ MORE LINK (