Gunner Allan Austin McLennan, the son of Roderick Hugh McLennan and Emily Ethel McLennan (nee Davis), was born at Armidale in New South Wales on 16th December 1906. He was educated at the North Toowoomba State School and later attended the Toowoomba Grammar School. At the age of 33 years and 7 months he voluntarily enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Toowoomba on 1st August 1940 after swearing the statutory oath of allegiance. He had no previous military experience. At the time of his enlistment, he was unmarried and employed as a Bush Worker and residing at 86 Bridge Street in Toowoomba. His physical description at the time of enlistment was that he had brown hair and brown eyes. He stated that he was of the Presbyterian religion. He gave his next of kin as his father, Mr Roderick McLennan, residing at Rockwell Mail, Tara, Queensland. He later married Miss Mary Henry who at some time during his service resided at 127 Jellicoe Street in Toowoomba.
Gunner Allan McLennan was allotted the regimental number of QX16565 and he joined the Grovely Camp on 3rd August 1940. He then served in the 3rd Infantry Training Battalion. He joined the Field Artillery Training Unit at Grovely Camp on 1st November 1940. He was promoted to the rank of Lance Bombardier on 13th December 1940. He was promoted to the rank of Acting Bombardier whilst at training at Redbank Camp on 2nd June 1941. He was granted pre-embarkation leave during the period 16th July until 24th July 1941 to finalize his affairs and farewell his family prior to travelling by rail transport to Eastern Command in New South Wales in preparation for overseas service in the Australian Imperial Force. He left Redbank by rail transport as a member of the 2nd Reinforcements of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment on 28th July 1941 and proceeded to Sydney in New South Wales.
Gunner Allan McLennan embarked for overseas service from Sydney in New South Wales on 29th July 1941 he disembarked from the ship at Singapore on 16th August 1941. He joined the General Base Depot at Johore later that day. He was appointed an Acting Bombardier on 16th August 1941 and he reverted to the rank of Gunner on 26th September 1941. He was admitted to the 2nd/4th Casualty Clearing Station on 8th November 1941 and transferred to the 2nd Convalescent Depot on 18th November 1941. He was discharged to the General Base Depot on 28th November 1941 and re-joined the 2nd/10th Field Regiment on 5th December 1941.
Gunner Allan McLennan became a prisoner of the Japanese when the Allied Forces at Singapore surrendered on 15th February 1942 and he was interned with his regiment at Changi. On 14th May 1942 Gunner Allan McLennan embarked on the ship “Toyohashi Maru” from Singapore Harbour as a member of “A Force” a work party sent to Burma by the Japanese to work on aerodrome construction and the building of the Thailand/Burma Railway. Along with other members of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment, he disembarked at Tavoy in Burma after a 12 day journey under hellish conditions on the ship. After being forced to labour on the construction of an aerodrome at Tavoy for three months, in September 1942, work on the aerodrome having been completed, the prisoners-of-war were shipped to Moulmein. After disembarking there they were transferred by train to Thanbyuzayat where he was assigned to the embankment gang on the infamous Death Railway at a camp at Alepauk, 18 kilometres from Thanbyuzayat. He was later informed by the Japanese that he was to join the line laying gang. On the march back to camp the men threw their tools away. The next day, the Japanese lined them up, and threatened them with swords and revolvers, to find out where the tools where. The Australians pretended not to know, and fortunately the Japanese gave up. Once McLennan reached 75 Kilo Camp he was sent to 55 Kilo Hospital Camp due to illness.
Allan McLennan died of dysentery whilst a prisoner in Burma on 5th October 1943. At the time of his death he was 36 years of age. He was buried in a cemetery beside the railway in Burma. After the war his remains were exhumed and reburied in the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery in Burma. His headstone in the cemetery contains the family inscription “He Gave His Life That We Might Be Free – Proudly Remembered”. For his service during World War 2, Allan McLennan had entitlement for the 1939/1945 Star, the Pacific Star, the War Medal and the Australian Service Medal 1939/1945. His next of kin also received the Memorial Scroll.
Photo and Text: Gunner A.A. McLennan, Toowoomba. He was born at Armidale on December 16, 1906, and received his education at the North State School and the Toowoomba Grammar School. He later went on the land and was well known in many country districts surrounding Toowoomba. A keen sportsman, he was a good football player and was a member of the Past Grammar Rugby Union team. He enlisted in the A.I.F. from Toowoomba in August, 1940, and sailed for Malaya in July, 1941. He took part in the Malayan campaign and was among those taken prisoner at Singapore. Gunner McLennan married Miss Mary Henry, daughter of Mr and Mrs J. Henry, Jellicoe Street. Mrs McLennan has been honorary secretary of the Red Cross Society’s Prisoners of War Fund in Toowoomba since its inception. Gunner McLennan is survived by his widow, a son Roderick, his parents, two brothers and a sister. The brothers are Malcolm, who is a member of the A.I.F., and Eric, who resides at Tara. The sister is Miss Joan McLennan. A younger brother, Clarrie, who enlisted in the R.A.A.F, was killed in England in February, 1942.
Newspaper Item. The death took place in a Japanese prisoners of war camp in Thailand on October 5 last year, through illness, of Gunner Allan Austin McLennan. Although the death took place 10 months ago, advice to this effect was not received in Toowoomba until this week. Gunner McLennan was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs R.H. McLennan, of 86 Bridge Street.
Note: Gunner Allan McLennan’s brother who served in the Royal Australian Air Force (405021) also lost his life in an aircraft in England whilst serving on attachment to the Royal Air Force.
Toowoomba Grammar School archive records show that he enrolled as a student on 20th July 1921 and left the school on 1st December 1923.
A comprehensive history of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment’s service during World War 2 can be found in Dr Bob Goodwin’s book, “Mates and Memories – Recollections of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment”, Reprinted by Merino Lithographics Pty Ltd, Moorooka, Brisbane. 1998. ISBN 0 646 22166 3. The book contains a Roll of Honour of members who died during the war.
View on Australian War Memorial
AWM Distance between camps on the Burma-Thailand Railway