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CALLANDER, Jack Warwick MBE (1921-2000)

CALLANDER, Jack Warwick MBE (1921-2000)

Lt Col Jack Callander

Lt Col Jack Callander

During World War II, Jack Callander enlisted (No. VX 62689) as a Captain in the 2nd AIF on 11 September 1941, and served throughout the war. A member of the 67th Infantry Battalion, Captain Callander, was Aide­-de-Camp to the Commander-in-Chief British Commonwealth Occupation Forces (BCOF) (Lt-Gen H C H Robertson). He later commanded C Company, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment in Korea, where he was wounded in action. He was awarded the MBE in 1951 and rose to the rank of major.

Born at Numurkah on 11 January 1921, the son of Norman Clements Callander and Agnes (nee Mcivor), he was enrolled at the College as a boarder from 12 February 1936 to May 1938. He had previously attended Yarrawonga State School. At College, he became a member of the 1st Football XVIII in 1936 and 1937, and the 1st Cricket XI in 1937 and 1938.

The School magazine Pegasus reported his activities on several occasiosn. In December 1949 Pegasus reported:
'Captain J W Callander, of BCOF Japan, accepted on behalf of his Company the cup awarded to the unit gaining highest points for sport, drill, field training and administration during the year.'

Eighteen months later Pegasus in June 1951 commented:
'Captain J W Callander, who had been Adjutant of the 3rd Australian Regiment, Korea, was severely wounded by shrapnel, but is making a good recovery. He has been awarded the MBE 'for unfailing loyalty and devotion to duty'.

During the Korean war, Pegasus of December 1952:
'On active service in Korea with the United Nations forces are Major Warwick Callander, who made a good recovery from his wound, Captain John H Anderson, Captain John Salmon and Lt John Hooper.'

He was discharged from the Australian Army on 2 February 1965.

Ad Astra in June 2010 included an article about Jack Callander’s experiences after the sinking of HMAS Armidale during World War II entitled ‘A Survivor’s story: The Sinking of the HMAS Armidale:'

‘The sinking of 'HMAS Armidale' in 1942 resulted in the highest loss of life for any corvette in the Second World War, with only 49 of the 149 men on board surviving the ordeal. Old Geelong Collegian, Lt Col Jack Warwick Callander (OGC 1935), was one of the survivors who lived to tell his miraculous story of bravery, sacrifice and endurance.'

Lt Col Callander was a boarder at the College from 1935 to 1938. He was an all-round sportsman during his time at the College, playing in the 1st XI Cricket team and 1st XVIII Football team, receiving honours and school colour awards in both. He was also a member of numerous sporting and curriculum committees.
Upon graduating from the College, Jack worked in the banking industry prior to joining the army in 1941. After serving in the Middle East, he returned to Australia in 1942 to prepare for the expected Japanese invasion. On 29 November 1942, he was assigned to serve on 'HMAS Armidale' which was to leave Darwin with 'HMAS Castlemaine' and 'HMAS Kuru' to resupply and evacuate troops and civilians from Betano Bay on the south coast of Timor.

'Armidale' and 'Castlemaine' arrived late to Betano after surviving repeated air attacks from Japanese bombers, missing their rendezvous with 'Kuru' which had already embarked refugees and made for open water. The two corvettes located 'Kuru' 110km off Timor and the refugees were transferred to 'Castlemaine', which returned to Darwin. 'Kuru' and 'Armidale' were ordered to continue the operation in daylight, however came under further Japanese attacks and 'HMAS Armidale' was sunk.

One motorboat had survived the sinking and a makeshift raft was constructed and lashed to a badly damaged whaler. After nearly 24 hours at sea and no sign of a rescue mission, the Captain and 21 other men, many of whom were wounded, took the motorboat and headed out to sea in search of land, rowing much of the way due to a damaged motor.

After four days at sea and no word from the motorboat crew, the physical and mental effects of the sinking were beginning to show among the remaining survivors. Food was in very low supply and the survivors had begun to die from pneumonia and drowning caused by exhaustion. The men were also fighting off multiple attacks from sharks and sea snakes. By this stage, the survivors had managed to patch up the whaler which was now the only thing floating above the ocean's surface.

Lt Col Callander and 28 other men took the whaler and went in search of help. Rowing in relays and fashioning sails out of overalls, the men managed to travel 165 miles before being sighted by planes after three days. Twenty-seven hours later, the men saw 'HMAS Kalgaorlie' steaming towards them and were lifted to safety. They learned that the motorboat had been sighted the same day the men left the raft on board the whaler, and the remaining men on the raft had also been sighted, however a plane had been unable to land due to a heavy swell. Despite an intensive air and sea search, the raft and the 27 men on board were never sighted again.

On recovering in hospital in Darwin, Lt Col Callander was ordered never to tell anyone where he had been or what had happened during those eight days, as the Japanese didn't know that Allied troops were in East Timor. His unit was led to believe that he had gone AWOL. Jack soon transferred to another unit and served in New Guinea and with the occupation forces in Japan, where he was Adjutant to Lt General Sir Horace ‘Red Robbie’ Robertson (OGC 1910). He also served in Bougainville, Morotai and later in Korea where he received Membership of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) after being badly wounded. He retired from the Australian Army in 1965.'

The story of HMAS Armidale has been documented in a book written by Frank B Walker entitled ‘HMAS Armidale Lives On’ . Lt Col Callander's son, Mr Angus Callander, presented the College with a signed copy of the book in August 2009.

Lt Col Jack Warwick Callander died in Western Australia on 18 September 2000.

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) includes three photographs of the interior of Callander's house during his service with the British and Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) Japan, showing the dining room, lounge room and bedroom: ‘Japan, 1947. Interior of the house occupied by 3 /37571 Captain Jack Warwick Callander and his wife, showing the (bedroom, dining room and) lounge room. The panel mounted against the wall at left is part of the central heating system, while a fan on the floor at centre provides cooling. Standing on the dressing table at right are two portrait photographs which are probably images of the soldier's parents or those of his wife.’

In addition to the photograph described above, the AWM also holds a series of photographs, taken at Kure, Japan, on 16 August 1950, depicting the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable R G Menzies, inspecting the Guard of Honour during his tour of the BCOF, with Lieutenant General H C H Robertson, and his ADC, Captain J. W. Callander.

Sources: December 1949; Pegasus June 1951; Pegasus December 1952; ‘Geelong Collegians at the Second World War’ by James Affleck p562 (citing The Pegasus; Australian War Memorial; National Archives); Ad Astra June 2010 p37. OGC 1935.
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