Chris De Lacy and her late father Alex Hawkins who served in the Second War War.
Chris De Lacy and her late father Alex Hawkins who served in the Second War War.

Tattoo tells the story of an Anzac hero

HIDDEN under her watch, three dots tattooed on Chris de Lacy's wrist perpetually remind her that her father Alex Hawkins was a hero who paid his debt to his country.

The proud Eidsvold daughter lost her father in 2013, but he won't stray from her mind this Anzac Day as she remembers his remarkable service in the Second World War.

Mr Hawkins was one of 1131 men in the Gull Force sent to defend Ambon, Indonesia.

When his battalion faced surrender in 1942, Mr Hawkins and 21 of his mates decided that surrender was not an option for them and they made their escape through the jungle to Ceri on the coast.

They sailed over 2000 miles, befriended pirates and posed as native fishermen before finally making their way back to Karumba, Queensland.

"Later they were flown to Brisbane, still in tattered shorts, no shoes and mostly no shirts," Ms de Lacy said.

"Here they faced a long and gruelling debriefing as many could not believe that they had successfully escaped...

"As amazing as all this was it was only the beginning of the war that lay ahead for Alex Hawkins. Things were about to get even more complex and exciting."

Mr Hawkins was then selected to join the highly secretive and elite group called the "Z" Special Commando unit which specialised in reconnaissance and sabotage.

Stories of the Z Special Unit have only been made public in recent years as the files weren't opened for 50, and all members were sworn to secrecy.

 

Alex Hawkins will be remembered as a war hero by his daughter in Eidsvold this Anzac day.
Alex Hawkins will be remembered as a war hero by his daughter in Eidsvold this Anzac day.

Mr Hawkins first underwent extensive training at Canungra and Fraser Island included parachuting, silent killing, hand to hand combat and extreme jungle warfare.

He was then sent to work off American submarines carrying out undercover operations, wherever silent attacks were deemed suitable.

The submarines would surface at night several miles off the target and the commandos would assemble their canvas kayaks, paddle to the target and plant Limpet mines in complete silence on the hulls of Japanese ships.

"I remember being told stories of the times when they were under attack from Japanese warships and the sub would sit quietly on the seabed while depth charges were going off all around them, bouncing them around and causing considerable stress," Ms de Lacy said.

"At one time their sub had to negotiate Lombok Strait which was heavily guarded on both sides by Japanese defences who were aware of their presence.

"Constantly under enemy guns they had to make their run through under cover of darkness."

When the coast was considered clear, the submarine would surface and the men could go on deck for fresh air.

If a plane or ship was sighted the diving alarm would sound and they would rush down the ladders in seconds.

"One occasion though caught them off guard and four men were left on deck, including Alex, when the hatches were sealed and the sub began to submerge," Ms de Lacy said.

"Fortunately it was discovered the approaching plane was friendly so the sub resurfaced and, apart from being a bit damp and with considerably raised heart-beats, the men were safe.

"They had many very close encounters where they were lucky to have escaped so eventually the American Navy deemed these missions as too dangerous and risky for their subs and were subsequently abandoned, but not before doing considerable damage to the Japanese fleet."

Z Special Unit activities were then transferred to Borneo where they worked behind enemy lines in Sarawak, organising and training the local Dyak headhunters to become guerilla fighters.

Without dog tags and acknowledgement from their country, Ms de Lacy said the commandos were on their own in Borneo.

She said many of the stories that her father told could not be repeated.

But one she could repeat was the story behind the tattoo on her wrist, just like her father's.

"...He and a friend became "blood brothers" with a Dyak chief called Pungulu Balaja," she said.

"The Dyaks used heavy facial tattoos to signify blood-brothership, but Alex and his friend had to convince them that this was really not acceptable in their culture, so they settled for three dots- signifying the three brothers on their left wrists so that they could eventually cover them with their watches.

"The Dyaks made excellent jungle fighters and were greatly feared by the Japanese because they were, after all, headhunters, and had cannibalistic tendencies."

Ms De lacy said much damage was done to the Japanese in Borneo, who became shy about entering the jungle, more than a short distance from the coastline.

After the Japanese surrender in 1945, Mr Hawkins returned to Australia and was demobilised, but remained on the Army Reserve for many years.

On August 8, 2013 Mr Hawkins peacefully passed away at the age of 92.

"He left a legacy of love, admiration and awe for his family," Ms de Lacy said.

"I am so proud to have called this man 'Dad'."


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