Cranston Albury McEachern (1905-1983), army officer and solicitor, born September 9, 1905 at Dongara, Western Australia, Educated at Brisbane Grammar School, Commissioned in the Australian Field Artillery, Militia, in 1924; and in 1936 he was commanding the 11th Field Brigade as a major (1929).
In February 1937 McEachern was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Following the outbreak of World War II, he gave up his law practice and on 1 May 1940 joined the Australian Imperial Force as a major. He regained his lieutenant colonelcy in October on being appointed to command the 2/4th Anti-Tank Regiment, which deployed to Malaya (Malaysia) with the 8th Division. The unit saw action against the Japanese from 27 December 1941 until the surrender on 15 February 1942. McEachern’s superior, Brigadier C. A. Callaghan, reported that, throughout the operations, he was ‘an inspiration to his Regiment owing to his outstanding ability, command and control which were exercised without regard for personal safety’. From 6 February he commanded the divisional artillery in Callaghan’s absence. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1947).
In captivity McEachern was assigned to command the Australian part (2220 men) of ‘D’ Force, sent in March 1943 to work on the Burma-Thailand Railway. At the Hintok Road camp, Thailand, he commanded the whole formation plus Dunlop Force (when Lt Colonel Dunlop agreed to concentrate on medical administration), some 5000 Australian and British troops. His men worked on the ‘Pack of Cards Bridge’ and ‘Hell Fire Pass’. He was promoted to colonel and temporary brigadier with effect from April 1942. When Japan surrendered in August 1945, he was the senior Allied officer in Thailand. He took charge of repatriating approximately 30 000 troops.
Claiming to the Japanese an authority he did not hold, he persuaded Japanese officers not to comply with Allied orders to concentrate their former prisoners in the Bangkok area. He knew that the already emaciated and malnourished soldiers would have been marched long distances, sometimes more than one hundred miles (161 km), and hundreds might have died. In November 1945 he returned to Australia. For his services while a prisoner of war he was mentioned in despatches.
He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 19 February 1946 as an honorary brigadier. McEachern resumed his legal practice; Cranston McEachern & Co. Honorary colonel (1966-70) of the Australian Cadet Corps, Northern Command.
He continued in full-time legal practice until his death on 15 October 1983 at Bridgeman Downs, Brisbane and was survived by his wife and their daughter and two sons, and the son of his first marriage.
NOTE TO ARTICLE.
D Force. Under joint command of British Lt Col G.G. Carpenter and Australian Lt Col Mc Eachern, 5000 POWs, 2780 British and 2220 Australian departed Changi 14th to 23rd March 1943 for Ban Pong. The Australians were organised into three battalions, "S' "T' "U", commanded by Lt Col McEachern, Major E.J Quick and Capt Reg Newton. This mixed force were spread over an area including Tarsao, Hintock, Konyu and Kinsayok and some worked on the notorious Hellfire Pass cutting.