The early history of our Sub-Branch is contained in our Book, accessed by clicking on the following Link:
It contains interesting accounts of our early days and the community spirit that was the core of its foundation.
Many of our past members had their stories, just as do our current Members. Thanks must go to the Member or the family of the Member concerned, for it gives a valuable picture of those who served, and of our past.
Members’ Stories is subject to copyright and may only be reproduced with written permission of the North Beach Sub-Branch, RSLWA.
Click on the Item in the Table of Contents to jump straight to the article.
Table of Contents
Peter Bowring – Mission Timor 2000
5713614 Royal Australian Medical Corps, 2nd Field Ambulance Vietnam 22 May 1966 to 25 April 1967
Station Sergeant 848 Federal Police (Ex) Timor Leste
Sergeant I/c Western Australian Police Force (Retired)
Peter served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 with the 2nd Field Ambulance attached to Med Evac Chopper Dust off and Engineers Field Medic. He also served with the Western Australian Police Force for 30 years, retiring as I/c Sergeant in 2001.
This is Peter’s story of his involvement with the first team from the Western Australian Police Force (WAPOL) in its service as Federal Agents and United Nations Police serving under the United Nations Transitional Administration East Timor (UNTAET) as Peace Keepers /Makers.
All those that served and are associated with Timor understand its history, the conflict, violence, killings, destruction and political upheaval involved during its path to independence as Timor Leste.
A team of seven officers from the WAPOL, five serving and two retired, travelled to Canberra in February 2000. Following induction under the guidance of the Federal Police the Team, with its Contingent Commander Terry Clarke, was transported to Timor by RAAF Hercules C130 as the 3rd Contingent on 1 March 2000. The mission was for 3 months, although requests were made for the contingent to continue in the country.
The contingent was conveyed to accommodation at The Turismo Hotel in Dili, the prior HQ for Major General Cosgrove of INTERFET. It then attended the UN Dili compound for further induction. Peter said that “this compound was previously the scene of attacks from gangs of militia on unarmed Peace Keepers and Timorese. On a lighter note, we had to prove that we could speak English and drive motor vehicles prior to being certified.”
Peter’s posting was as Station Sergeant on the border post of Maliana. He travelled to Batugade with UN Police convoy en-route to Maliana where his team provided security and support for Border crossing of the Family Reunion operations that involved 3000 East and West Timorese. “Five such operations were undertaken and involved riots, shots being fired, searching for weapons and illicit arms, flags, alcohol and propaganda. Constant supervision was required with the identification of persons of interest as militia or associates who were taken into custody.”
The UN Maliana compound had previously been a TNI (Indonesian National Military) Parachute Regiment Base and was partly destroyed and burnt. Patrols were conducted in the Bobonaro region where there was significant devastation of local schools, houses and infrastructure. The destruction was comparable to some that Peter experienced in Vietnam.
Peter stated that “the Commander was a Texan, Donnnie Hensley, who provided a strong work ethic and leadership. The rest of the team was made up of Police Officers from Egypt, Bangladesh, Nigeria, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Portugal. A 24/7 operational status was a priority in providing a Blue Beret presence through the Region, including in Memo, Balibo, Calico and Bobonaro. This required policing, constant patrols, interaction with locals, and liaison with the military (with my Army background this was well received), while maintaining morale, as well as being aware of threats from the militia and environment.”
Soon after arrival at Maliana the Commander was still trying to obtain delivery of firearms, body armour, and riot control equipment which were being delayed. Weapons were becoming a priority as the team was located on the border and information had been received that up to twenty militia were in the area with the intention of breaching the base. “With no weapons, we broke down the tables to use the legs as clubs and maintained 24/7 stand to. The arrival of an APC from 5 / 7 Battalion was greatly appreciated. Shortly after this Dili issued all of the required protective arms and equipment including 9mm Glocks and Body Amour, replacing those table legs”, Peter commented.
“We were summoned to Bobonaro to assist the Pakistan Army. One of the villagers was armed with spears and on the previous day had wounded one of the soldiers. The OC of the soldiers indicated that under Rules of Engagement if the villager resisted, they would have to shoot him. Following a further spear through the doorway on our arrival our negotiations with the villager allowed him to be disarmed and restrictions enforced”.
Segio De Mello the Special Representative for UNTAET was to visit Bobonara and there had been information received that there was to be an attempt on his life. “We provided Close Person Protection over two days for this impressive man, he spoke many languages and had the interest of the Timorese. Sadly, following Timor he went on to Iraq as the UN representative and was killed by a suicide truck bomb in his office complex.”
Peter was involved in dealing with numerous captured Militia by interviewing them regarding crimes committed, and then conveying them to Bachau Prison in Dili. “We conveyed them to Dili in the back of our 4 x 4 vehicles for the three hour road trip. It appeared through our Interpreters that every time the vehicles slowed or stopped because of road conditions or dodging convoys, the prisoners believed that they were going to be executed. It was food for thought considering the horrendous crimes many had committed. As a result, they were very quiet during the trips.”
The 3rd Contingent in Timor during 2000 was a great success and the combination of the Police Peacekeepers and Military provided a stable platform for transition to democratic governance of Timor Leste.
(23 August 1923 – 26 April 2021)
A Life Well Lived
Compiled by Bev and Colin Benporath, edited by Brian Jennings
Louis Ronald Ager was born in Nurse Ashes house in North Perth on 23rd August 1923. Always to be known as Ronnie or Ron.
His medical history if anything, gave him a most fortunate life. Why? Because, from his early days his Grandmother was often heard to say, “that poor wee Ronnie is just a bag of bones”, and his school reports stating, “Did well despite absences from illness”.
Ron’s earliest employment was with the State Saw Mills from April 1935. In December 1941 he enlisted as W19683 in the AIF – Service Corp. He was manpowered out in September 1942.
However, improved health convinced him and the Royal Australian Air Force medics on 5 June 1943 that he was suitable for Aircrew training. Initially he was a Trainee Pilot – with his old school mate (and later his Best Man) John Casson as his instructor.
On the way to Canada for Pilot Training with the Empire Training Scheme, Ron’s asthma played up and was disembarked in San Francisco and spent some time in Letterman Hospital under the care of the Royal Canadian Air Force until he was repatriated to Australia. On his return he undertook a Fitters Course until once again ill health saw him eventually being discharged as Permanently Medically Unfit on 18 July 1945.
The one thing that is learnt from Ron’s service is that he was determined to make a valuable contribution, and for this, his tenacity has to be admired. It really reflects the attitude of all service people during WW2, they all wanted to play their part and contribute to Australia’s War effort.
Ron was obviously a realist and accepted the fact that his health may impact his life, but obviously he was not going to let it stop him from living a fortunate life. Typically, when Ron asked his girlfriend Norma to marry him, it was only on the basis that she fully understood that he would be the first to go because of his ongoing health issues.
On discharge Ron was employed with Post War Reconstruction until the C.E.O. guided him to the Commonwealth Bank in July 1947. Thirty four years passed and with good luck tapping him on his shoulder, it was work that he truly enjoyed.
From an early age, and to support of his Mother’s Christian beliefs, Ron regularly attended Church. He relished that association, firstly at St. Margaret’s in North Perth and then Innaloo church from 1967 until its closure in March 2007. His then attendance at Wembley Downs, he thought, arrived a little late in his years for him to contribute as he would have wanted as a Life Elder of the Presbyterian/ Uniting Churches.
Ron was a Church Elder, participated on the Aged Care Council for the Uniting Church for 10 years and was the inaugural Chairman of Chrystal Halliday. He oversaw the building of that facility 50 years ago.
He was proud of his continuing association with the Church, the 1937 Perth Boys Group, his annual Air Force get-togethers, and personal contacts with many friends.
Over the past few years Ron said many times that he was not sure how he was still here at the age of 95, 96, 97 and couldn’t really believe he was that old and the last one standing. Often, when asked his age he would say “92” – he never lost his amazing sense of humour.
Even when very ill he would say that he didn’t feel too good. His family would reply “It’s because you have fluid build-up, a fractured pelvis, or pneumonia.” His usual reply, “No, it’s because I’m old”.
Ron reflected that his interest in motor vehicles helped him in his Bank career. He said that “The outgoing officer, knowing my interest in motor vehicles, would recommend me to the vacancy – it was worth at least two promotions”. Motor vehicles was a hobby that also gave him lasting pleasure and the opportunity to help people start car ownership on a sound footing. It was his care in vehicle selection that generated a comment from one car dealer that, “You are too fussy”.
His first car was a 1936 Rover sedan and he paid £300, a lot of money back then but cars were scarce after the war. Fifty additional cars later in 2017 he said, “I’m out for good”. A total of 51 cars, not bad records to have.
Ron did indeed have a fortunate life.
Ron proudly served his Country, his Church and was a regular attendee at the RSLWA North Beach Sub-Branch.
He was fondly thought of, and We Will Remember Him.
BOWN Maud Cecelia nee WILLIAMS
WF92919 Signals – Australian Special Wireless Group and Discrimination Unit
The official Service records from the DVA Nominal Roll and the National Archives of Australia record Maud’s last name as BOWEN, however the spelling should have been BOWN.
This is Maud’s Story.
Compiled by Kevin Bown and Brian Jennings
Maud Cecilia WILLIAMS, WF92919, was born in Northampton, Western Australia on 6 November 1923. She was one of eight girls and one brother in the family. Her family roots with Northampton go back to 1841 when her Great Great Grandfather emigrated to Australia from Northern Ireland and went to Northampton soon after.
On leaving school Maud was employed as a Waitress in Northampton. Maud said “I moved to Geraldton and then Perth prior to war being declared. I signed up for service and was enlisted on 27 November 1942 in the Australian Women’s Army Service.”
“My initial training was undertaken at the WACA, where we were sleeping on straw mattresses on iron bedsteads in the open grandstand. It involved marching around the WACA ground and the hilly streets of East Perth. On 31 December 1942 I was posted to 2 Signals Training Battalion at Ivanhoe, Victoria.”
Following that she was transferred to the Special Australian Wireless Group at Bonegilla, a top secret group. Maud always remembered how cold it was there. “We would dress in layers of clothes at night to keep warm. The washing hung out overnight was usually as stiff as board in the morning because of the cold.” Maud’s postings included Perth, based in Queens Park, Queensland, Victoria and finally Canberra. By June 1943, Maud was posted to the 52 Australian Wireless Section. “All my travel around Australia was by train in tough conditions, but I did see a lot of the country.”
“By August 1943, I was based at the Headquarters of the Australian Special Wireless Group at Kalinga in Queensland and served with the 64 Australian Special Wireless Section” Maud said that from feedback received she was “highly regarded” at what she did. Maud said, “The work was so intense we were on revolving shifts of 4 hours due to the concentration required”.
“It was not until February 1944 that I was entitled to Adult Rate of Pay”, Maud said. In June she was with HQ of the 1 Australian Sig Group and graded Sp 1 Operator.
What Is Special About Maud
The Australian Special Wireless Group was part of MacArthur’s and Blamey’s top secret intelligence unit called Central Bureau which comprised the Australian Army, RAAF and US Army personnel.
AWAS personnel were the core of the groups and intercepted and logged Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force Kana (morse code) messages, recording and forwarding them to the Central Bureau where the code that was in them was deciphered.
The opinion of the Wireless personnel at the time was that they were doing an important job that was really making a difference in the war. And they certainly did.
The Australian Special Wireless Group, AIF, was a secret group. One batch of recruits for ASWG was told:-
“Not only do you not exist, you never will have existed. You will remain for always unknown and unacknowledged. There will be no awards, no glory. There will be no medals for this unit.”
They were trained in Morse Code and Japanese operating methods, and their role was to:
- intercept enemy transmissions
- check for possible clandestine stations
- monitor Allied operators to ensure there were no security breaches which could allow an enemy interceptor to identify a unit or its location
The Australian Army intercept portion of the Australian Special Wireless Section moved to Bonegilla in Victoria and on 18 May 1942, was renamed the Australian Special Wireless Group with a War Establishment of 1,000 personnel. Most of the new personnel were recruited from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, and increasingly from the AWAS.
Some operators were involved in what was known as high speed work. Morse signals were transmitted at high speed and were recorded on Edison wax cylinders and replayed later at a slower speed.
ASWG Sections were widespread and based in: Bonegilla, Brisbane, Broome, Darwin, Exmouth, Ferny Creek, Finschhafen, Groote Eylandt, Hollandia, Milne Bay, Mornington, Morotai, Nadzab, Park Orchards, Perth, Port Morseby, Townsville, Wau and Yanrey.
Maud recalls that, “While waiting to be called up for enlistment I returned to Northampton to see my family. During this time I met Reg Bown, who was on Army training around Northampton.
We kept in touch and whilst based in Victoria we decided to get married while Reg was in Sydney”. Maud arranged leave and Reg obtained a 24 hour leave pass. “We married on 9 January 1945 and had two of Reg’s mates in attendance, and his sister Fay as bridesmaid.”. Fay was in Sydney as a 16 year old US War Bride on her way to the USA with her Air Force serviceman Jimmy.
Maud said, “We had such a good time that we exceeded our leave passes. Consequently Reg was classified as AWOL, was caught after three days ‘on the run’ and finished up with a very tough Field Punishment in Queensland prior to shipping out to Borneo with the 2nd / 9th Battalion. I didn’t get into any trouble.”
In 1945 Maud was with the top secret Discrimination Unit at Balcombe, and by November was transferred to Western Command for Discharge on 9 November 1945.
“Like a lot of families at that time, my brother Kevin and sister Joan were in the Services. We are all together in this photo with our Mother.
Kevin enlisted on 16 August 1940 and served with the 2nd 16th and was discharged as a Corporal on 23 November 1945.
My sister Rita Joan (Joan) Williams enlisted in the AWAS 27 December 1942, just after me, and was discharged as a Sergeant in the District Accounts Office in Perth on 21 August 1946.”
Maud is rightly proud of her service and remains a member of the RSLWA North Beach Sub-Branch. Although no longer attending meetings, Maud remains very much interested in the RSLWA and North Beach Sub-Branch.
Maud and all of her fellow Australian Wireless Operators played a significant part in Australia’s War effort and it is for their service that we salute them.
BOWN Reginald Frederick
10 December 1923 to 17 October 2014
WX36268 2/9th AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION
The official Service records from the DVA Nominal Roll and the National Archives of Australia record Reg’s last name as BOWEN, however the spelling should have been BOWN.
Compiled by Brian Jennings, David House with the valuable help of Reg and Maud’s Son, Kevin Bown.
Reg was born in Boulder, WA, on 10 December 1923 to Fred and Bernice with a younger sister Fay. Bernice’s mother also lived in Boulder in a very tough conditions in a tough town just out of Kalgoorlie and lived there all her life. Reg’s family left Boulder when the Mining Riots started around 1934 and moved to Perth.
Reg and sister Fay continued their education at the Claremont Practical School, later to become East Claremont Primary School. Reg loved sports and involved himself in as much as possible. He grew up in the Claremont area and would spend many years of his married life in the same area until moving to North Beach in 1991.
He joined the Army on 23 December 1942 at the age of 19. He had to get his father’s permission to serve overseas.
Reg’s initial training involved time in the Northampton region of WA where he was to meet his future wife, Maud. He was then shipped to Queensland for further training, in particular jungle warfare.
Reg joined the 2/9th and was shipped to Milne Bay and then Buna.Gona in New Guinea.
The 2/9th Battalion was originally formed in Queensland and served in the United Kingdom in 1940, forming part of a small Australian garrison sent there to help defend against a possible German invasion, before being transferred to North Africa where it took part in the Siege of Tobruk. It then undertook garrison duties in Syria following the Syria-Lebanon Campaign in 1941.
In early 1942, the 2/9th was brought back to Australia where it was re-organised for jungle warfare and took part in the New Guinea Campaign. Throughout 1942–1944, the Battalion was committed twice to the fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea.
In 1942–1943, the 2/9th fought actions at Milne Bay and Buna Gona before being withdrawn to Australia for rest prior to returning to New Guinea to take part in the advance through the Finisterre Range where the Battalion took part in the Battle of Shaggy Ridge in 1943–1944.
The Battalion’s final involvement in the war came during the Borneo Campaign in mid-1945, when it took part in the Landing at Balikpapan. It was disbanded shortly after the war in early 1946.
Following Buna Gona, Reg returned to Australia for further jungle training. The 2/9th then returned to New Guinea and he was involved in the Battle of Shaggy Ridge, an historic battle. During his final service overseas he was in Balikpapan, Borneo, when the war was coming to an end. He was still fighting the Japanese in the Borneo jungles for three days after the war had ended until his unit finally received communications it was over, and the Japanese had surrendered. The 2/9th was involved in the repatriation of POW.s.
Reg, when interviewed by our Member David House, said that the highlight of his period with the 2/9th was his marriage to Maud, who he had kept in contact from their meeting in Northampton in 1942.
Maud, at the time of deciding to get married before Reg went overseas, was serving in the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS), in particular, the top secret Australian Special Wireless Group.
She was based in Melbourne at the time and was given 24 hours leave in order to get married in Sydney. As this was not enough both agreed to go AWOL. Reg said that, “I was caught up with and had to spend a lengthy period in the slammer, it was well worth it though.” He was caught AWOL three days over time and finished up with Field Punishment in Queensland before shipping out. Reg said, “It was bloody tough but got me very fit having to give up the fags at the same time.”
Maud on the other hand, escaped penalty.
Reg was discharged following the end of the War on 30 January 1946
Following his discharge, like many ex serving personnel, he found it difficult to gain employment and started by carting bread for Naylor’s Bakery based in Reserve Street, Claremont, using the horse and cart method. His faithful horse Bessy died in what was a sad time for him during that job.
Following that he worked in the local corner store, virtually running the place for the owners. He finished up working in plumbing supplies – originally starting as delivery truck driver and eventually becoming the Sales Representative dealing directly with clients. He retired in 1984. Reg also played football for Claremont Football Club at Reserves level and A Grade cricket for Nedlands Cricket Club as wicketkeeper / batsman. One of his proudest moments in cricket was stumping Bob Simpson, the Australian Captain, who was playing in the A Grade competition at the time.
Reg was a Member of RSLWA North Beach Sub-Branch up to the time of his death, and at the date of writing Maud remains a Member.
Reg contributed significantly to the service of Australia and for that, we salute him.
Jack Meyer – A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS
13 Squadron R.A.A.F – WW2
Compiled By Brian Jennings
Two Guildford born brothers both served in World War 2 with 13 Squadron of the R.A.A.F. Notification of “Missing in Action” of one, motivated the other to enlist as soon as he was able.
Francis Norman (Frank) Meyer, Service Number 290745, was born 1921, the year the R.A.A.F. was founded. He joined the RAAF in February 1940 at age 18 and by 30 January 1942, as Flying Officer, was in Ambon, Dutch East Indies, when the Japanese invaded. One serviceable Hudson left Ambon with as many personnel as it could carry. 11 R.A.A.F personnel did not make that flight, including Frank, and tried to quickly repair the remaining Hudson in order to evacuate. They were unable to make repairs, immediate evacuation was not available, so they were left to plan other options.
The group made their way across Ambon to escape by boat to the island of Ceram. Arrangements had been made with the R.A.A.F. to rendezvous there to be evacuated to Darwin. They were captured by a Japanese Patrol boat, taken prisoner to Laha on Ambon, and executed. Their deaths as Prisoners of War was recorded as 20 February 1942 – the precise date was not known. About 300 Australian Army members of Gull Force were also massacred at that time.
His younger brother Edmund John (Jack) Meyer, Service Number 436335, was born in 1924 and was only 17 years old when he heard that Frank was “Missing in Action”.
Jack said, “As to be expected, it had a profound impact on me, and I let it be known to my father that I wanted to enlist in the R.A.A.F. as soon as I could. At the time I was 17, and a Corporal in the Air Training Corp, 78 Squadron. My father, after receiving confirmation advice that Frank was ‘Missing in Action’, wrote a letter of appreciation to the R.A.A.F. He did this because of the support it provided the family in clarifying, the best it could at that time, the circumstances surrounding Frank.”
Jack’s father wrote:
“We are delighted to know that he was granted the privilege of being associated with that fine body, the R.A.A.F., in the defence of his country. It was bad luck, it’s the fortune of War that he was out so soon. However his brother, an enthusiastic member of the A.F.C., only awaits his 18th birthday next month to follow in his footsteps with, we hope, a little better luck.”
“It wasn’t until mid-1946 that detailed information leading up to Frank’s capture and death was provided to my father as a result of trials and interrogation of the Japanese forces who served in Ambon at the time.”
At 18 and one month, Jack had joined the R.A.A.F. “I was enthusiastic to be in the R.A.A.F. I was unable to be a pilot so trained as an Air Gunner. I was too young to go to the UK, but with some satisfaction I was later assigned to 13 Squadron, my brother’s squadron”. Initially trained on Hudsons, Jack and crew were posted to the reformed 13 Squadron flying Venturas. He said, “On our first flight, approaching take off speed, something happened, and we ended up doing ‘ground loops’, just missing the hanger and other aircraft.”
Initially flying escort duties and anti-submarine patrols, the crew relocated to Gove. “We carried out anti-submarine patrols and armed reconnaissance, flying out of Gove and Truscott. We were assigned bombing raids on shipping and supply barges in and around the then Dutch East Indies of Sumba, Sumbawa and the Flores. We were targeted with anti-aircraft, machine gun and small arms fire, but with no major incidences.” Jack recalled that, “On one mission we spotted a Japanese vessel at anchor, but needed to reload to bomb it, so instead we attempted to use our guns, but problems with the Gun Turret forced us to return to base.” A lucky escape.
“Towards the end of the War we flew in and out of Morotai, ferrying high ranking Defence personnel to the RAAF Command base there, for them to participate in conferences with the Americans. On our flights to and stays on Morotai and New Guinea, we also experienced being bombed by the Japanese Airforce.”
Jack reflected that, “The relationship between members of the crew was very supportive and we enjoyed a camaraderie that was typical of a R.A.A.F. bomber crew.
Jack served with distinction and would have made Frank proud of him. He was discharged on 14 November 1945 with the rank of Warrant Officer. He then re-joined the S.G.I.O, and by 1948 was with the Commonwealth Bank. He completed his career in 1982 as Manager of its Belmont Branch.
“I joined the RSLWA, Maylands Sub-Branch, in 1945 but didn’t remain a member. In 2007 following the death of my wife, I joined the Air Force Association and the North Beach Sub-Branch. I attend as many meetings as I am able and enjoy the friendship and support it offers.”. “I also used to deliver Sub-Branch newsletters to those members who lived in my area and were unable to attend meetings”.
John Rolfe, the North Beach Sub-Branch President said: “Jack is an active and respected member, attends our meetings, commemorations and social events. It is important that we all respect and honour our World War 2 Veterans and their service.”.
Jack is three years younger than the R.A.A.F, and reflecting on this he said, “I’m proud of the contribution I made, as it was my passion to serve with the R.A.A.F. from a young age.” He commended the R.S.L., and in particular his Sub-Branch, for “the support, respect, and friendship it offers .”
It is the service of people like Frank and Jack, that has helped make the R.A.A.F what it is today.
Geoffrey Noel POPE
2nd/13th Battalion and 66 Battalion BCOF Japan
Compiled by Brian Jennings
Geoffrey Noel Pope VX 94388 was born on 25 December 1925 and was raised in Warrnambool, Victoria. Geoff enlisted on 23 February 1944 at the age of 18. “My motivation for enlisting was that my father served in World War 1 in Gallipoli, my brother was in the R.A.A.F. flying Lancaster Bombers over Germany and my sisters were employed supporting the war effort.”
“I did my initial training in Cowra, my Stretcher Bearer/Medic course at Darley Camp, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and then returned to Cowra. I was at Cowra when the Japanese Prisoners of War staged the breakout from the Prisoner of War Camp, very close to our base”.
The Cowra Breakout occurred on 5 August 1944, when 1,104 Japanese prisoners of war attempted to escape from a prisoner of war camp near Cowra, in New South Wales, Australia. It was the largest prison escape of World War II, as well as one of the bloodiest. During the escape and ensuing manhunt, 4 Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were re-captured and imprisoned.
Cowra Prisoner of War Camp Before the Breakout
Geoff presented the North Beach Sub-Branch with a mounted piece of barbed wire from this Camp.
From Cowra he relocated to Singleton, NSW, Eagle Farm Queensland, and undertook jungle training at Cunungra in Queensland. He then joined the 2nd 13th Battalion in Morotai. “Morotai was a staging post for the 2nd/13th to join in the invasion of Borneo”, Geoff said.
In June 1945, the 2nd/13th took part in Operation Oboe, the last major Allied campaign in the South West Pacific during the War to liberate Japanese held British and Dutch Borneo. This was a multi force operation planned primarily by General McArthur, with combined forces of the navy, air and army invading from multiple directions, forcing the Japanese to relocate inland. Geoff said, “Before we landed in Borneo on Sunday 10th June 1945 the crew of the ship gave us a chicken breakfast, just to say farewell”.
Geoff was involved with others of the 2nd/13th in undertaking a number of fairly complex reconnaissance missions. He recalled, “I remember one in particular; we went up river in canoes paddled by the natives. There were about six of us in the canoe, one native in the front and one in the back, and there were rocks everywhere that they had to dodge. It amazed me that the one in the back of the canoe knew exactly what the other was thinking. I think the one in the front turned his head in the direction the canoe should go, this sending a message to the native in the back. We got outside the targeted POW camp to find out how many Japanese and our boys were there. We were told that the Air Force were also there, but we didn’t see any. On the way back the natives had a race down the river in the canoes and I tell you what, it was rather hairy at times.”
POW numbers in Borneo were more than 4600 with only 1393 surviving at the War’s end.
“At one stage we were guarding an R.A.A.F. radar installation, and on the outer perimeter a group of Dayaks came through our lines wanting ammunition for their rifles and Bren Gun, which were all brand new. We let the leader go through to see our Colonel and got talking to the men. They were very short, muscular and really good men. We found out later that an Australian Captain organised these blokes to fight the Japanese. They left late in the evening, and during the night we heard this terrible noise, banging and carrying on, all the rifles and guns were firing. Radio communications later confirmed that the Dayaks we’re going back through the Japanese lines.”
The Dayaks were trained by Special Operations Australia, the Z Special Unit, well prior to the June 1945 invasion of Borneo. The aim was for the Dayaks to operate covertly behind enemy lines. This very much supported the Allied invasion.
“When we were advised that the War was over, we returned to normal duties and digging our fox holes, as the Japanese of course had not heard the news. It was some time before the more remote forces of Japan surrendered to the Allies.
In December 1945 the Army called for interest to go to Japan with the Occupation Force, so I volunteered. I went back to Morotai to wait before going to Japan. Nothing seemed to be happening, so we had a stop work meeting.” The delay was the result of communications between the Allied commanders and time to organise shipping. “In February 1946 we finally arrived in Japan. It was mid-winter and very cold in our billets, especially as only one blanket was allocated to each man”.
The Australian contribution included forces of the 65th, 66th and 67th Battalions. “I was with the 66th and based in Hiro in Southern Japan” Geoff recalled, “I went to Hiroshima to see what that was like. We were astounded at the devastation. Bricks on the side of the road turned to dust on touching them.”
“I was then sent to a village in the mountains to help organise the disposal of a large number of gas bombs and to use Japanese labour to render them safe. We managed to make use of an old electric train as transport from the village to Hiro and back again. I travelled up and down quite often to replenish the medical supplies. Two engines were needed to get up the mountain. Coming back down the mountain was a different matter, the drivers of the two engines, on the same narrow gauge line were racing and bumping each other having a great time. I was glad to get off that train.”
“From there I went to Tokyo to do guard duty, but our Commanding Medical Officer wouldn’t allow this, as we were Medics and needed to support the medical team. So, I got out of guard duty”.
“While in Tokyo I met up with two Americans, a Scotsman and a New Zealander and we all went on a tour of the city. The locals wondered why the Scotsman was wearing a ‘skirt’ as a uniform. Needless to say, we all had a good time.”
“We were relieved by a New Zealand contingent, but as they were short of medical supplies I had to stay on. Although their supplies arrived the next day, I remained for an additional 10 days. When I returned to Hiro, I reported to the Orderly Room only to be told that there was no record of me being in Tokyo at all. I said, ‘thanks very much, I could’ve stopped there’. My next assignment was the island of Etajima, the BCOF Hospital. The best part of it was that the hospital cook was my brother in law, so I had some quite good meals out of him.” Etajima was used by the Japanese as a Naval Base. The BCOF used the facilities on the island as a hospital for the Occupation Forces.
“In September 1947 I returned home on the ‘Kanimbla’. My brother in law was on the same ship and we were both discharged in Melbourne. After discharge I was walking down the street and a Provost pulled me up and asked for my Leave Pass. I replied that ‘I didn’t have a Leave Pass’. He demanded, ‘why not?’. After showing him my Discharge Papers he wished me good luck and I was on my way” .
“I returned to my home town of Warrnambool but felt a great difference in the place. It was as though I was a stranger. I decided to join the Warrnambool Volunteer Fire Brigade, which I enjoyed very much, made new friends and got to know everybody once again. I then went to Hobart to join their Fire Brigade. On December 27th, 1952, I married, had two sons, Andrew and Mark and was employed in various occupations over the next 30 years before coming to live in Perth.”
Geoff is a regular attendee at the North Beach Sub-Branch and is a well-respected Member.
In 2020 he received his 50 Year Membership Certificate, but first joined the RSL shortly following his discharge in 1947.
Geoff has also received a Certificate from the Prime Minister expressing thanks from a grateful nation for contributing to Australia’s efforts in the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan.
Geoff is truly a loyal member of our RSL.
Captain Stan Hummerston M.C. WW1 (from Wayne Koch)
Compiled by Wayne Koch and Brian Jennings
Wayne Koch 5715685, a long standing member of the North Beach Sub-Branch was born in Boston USA in 1947. When National Service was introduced in Australia in 1965 he was, on turning 20 years old, conscripted to serve his 2 years. During his service he served in Vietnam from November 1968 to November 1969 with the Royal Australian Army Service Corps with Headquarters, 1st Australian Task Force.
In 2012, Wayne made a trip to Gallipoli along with 26 other Australian Conservation Volunteers to help with the commemorations of ANZAC Day 2012. Ninety Seven years before, on 25 April 1915, his Grandfather Stan Hummerston was where Wayne stood. This was truly a time of reflection.
However, this is not a story about Wayne. Like many of his generation, his father and grandfather served during World War 1 and World War 2. This is a story about his maternal Grandfather, Horace Stanley Hummerston (Stan), Service Number 677.
Stan was born in South Australia in 1890, the son of Charles Hummerston who later became the owner of the Kalamunda Hotel.
Stan enlisted in September 1914 at Bunbury and was allocated to the 16th Battalion. He was 24 years old, 6 foot 2 inches tall (188 cm) and 175 Pounds (79 kg) and was working as a railway Sleeper Hewer.
After initial training, the 16th Battalion left Albany for Egypt on ‘HMAT Ceramic’ in late 1914 with the second contingent of troops ships via the Suez Canal. On arriving in Egypt he wrote from Heliopolis:
Note: This letter is published as it was written and reflects the language of the time. It shows the wonderment and excitement experienced by many of the young Australians prior to their first time in battle.
“Heliopolis,” February 10, 1915.
Well I, with the rest of the boys, have arrived in the land of the Pharaohs, and what a bonzer trip we had getting here! Not a ripple big enough to drown our sorrow at leaving Australia, let alone make us sick.
Well mate, after leaving Melbourne our first stop was Albany, where we put in three days, but the censorship was so severe that I did not think it was worth while writing. After leaving Albany we had a long stretch of water, but the monotony was broken by ships passing and a few islands which we passed.
We left (that is, three of the transports) the rest of the fleet about three days off Colombo and made for Aden, so I can tell you nothing of Colombo, but as we stayed three days, at Aden—on board all the time—I will tell you how it struck me. It is one huge rock, honeycombed, the same as Gibraltar, and the town is situated on the only level piece of ground, which is close to the water. The town itself we never had chance of seeing, but I think like all of these places this way, it looks better at a distance. The next thing, and perhaps the funniest of the lot was the “bum boats,” which were in swarms. All the boys had been paid a couple of days previously, so business was brisk. The first day the “nigs” had a great win at our expense, but the second and third days we started to “take a tumble,” and the things we were paying a shilling for at first we bought for 3d. Oranges, for instance, we paid a 1/- a dozen for at first, but we got them for 3d. a dozen and less just as the boat was leaving. So the “nigs” will be waiting for the rest of the shrewd heads from Australia the same as we were.
The letter goes on to describe in detail the remainder of the trip to Alexandria, but this has been omitted from this story.
On disembarking we boarded a quite respectable train and started on a 120 mile ride. Dad, this is where I nearly died from shock, and so did everyone else who has never been here. Expecting to go through arid desert on our way to Cairo we went through nothing else but one vast green field of lucerne, clover, and other such grasses, except in places where there were extensive vegetable gardens. You cannot credit it is so fertile a country between Alexandria and Cairo, and right along the Nile unless you see it. But out the other side of Cairo is all desert, and also out from our camp.
Where we are camped is about half a mile from Heliopolis, which is an aristocratic suburb of Cairo, and it is one of the finest places as far as buildings and train services go, that you would wish to see. There is not building in the town under 3 storeys high, and every building built of white freestone. The hospitals and mosques here are magnificent, and other buildings, too numerous to mention, are worth a long walk to see. They also have a place called Luna Park here, exactly the same as the one at St. Kilda, aerial railways, water chutes, etc., so we can have a lot of fun for half piastre (1.25 pence). Cairo is the dirtiest place that God ever meant humanity to live in. Some of the streets are not ten yards wide, and every window is a shop—some fruit, others beer, dance rooms, and everything you can imagine. There are also some nice streets and buildings in Cairo but taken as a whole I will write it down as rotten, and I don’t think I, or any of the boys, will trouble it much, as Heliopolis is good enough for us. Heliopolis is seven miles from Cairo by train, and the fare is half a piastre.
On Sunday we went to the Pyramids, where the first contingent are camped, and that is about 11 miles from Cairo in the opposite direction to us. For that ride they charge you one piastre, so it does not cost you much for travelling.
The Pyramids are great giant heaps of stone, built systematically, of course, and how they got some of the stones there, God only knows. We went inside, but to describe it by letter is beyond me, and but for the fact that we had a guide I don’t think I would have risked it, as it is very slippery and loose in there.
We also went and saw the boys of the first contingent, and on the whole they all seem in splendid “nick.” I had a talk to Bert Baker (another Kalamunda contingenter), and you can tell his people if you see them he is in splendid health, and as merry as a lark. We are allowed leave till 9.30 in Heliopolis every night, and the boys conduct themselves splendidly— so the Colonel says, and that is good enough for us. One great peculiarity of this place—also of Cairo—is, as soon as you get in the town, there are hundreds of kids—black, of course—who say “stalia goot, boots shine mister?”, and they will clean your boots for half a piastre, and often for a cigarette. Every second “nig” you strike has got either postcards or silks to sell you, and you want about ten men to clear a way for you. There are also a lot of Territorials here, and most of them are not much older than our compulsory cadets, and certainly not as tall, but they are not a bad lot of fellows, and we get on with them all right.
Well, mate, I don’t know when we will be in the firing line, but I hope it is soon, as we are all looking forward to a fly at the Turks.”
In concluding his letter, Stan promised that any news omitted would be furnished in his next letter, and he conveyed his kind regards to all his friends. However, his letters may not have been frequent, as his sister wrote to a West Australian Senator to obtain help in obtaining his mail address. She was successful in obtaining this.
On 12 April 1915 Stan embarked Alexandria with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces for the Gallipoli Peninsular. He arrived on the beach on the afternoon of 25 April to a now alerted Turkish Army. In May he was wounded in the left hip, but soon returned to action. During his time in Gallipoli he was promoted to Corporal, Sergeant, and Second Lieutenant. Like many other troops he had bouts of sickness that required him to spend time on Hospital ships that were offshore from Gallipoli, and on Lemnos. These were staffed by both Australian and New Zealand Nurses who were also on the first and second contingents of troop ships that left Albany and other ports for Egypt.
In September he was admitted to hospital in London and by November 1915 returned to Ismailia via Alexandria in Egypt. He was promoted to Captain in April 1916 and by June that year was in France.
Stan served with a Major Black in Gallipoli, right through to the first Battle of Bullecourt where Black was Killed in Action. On Black’s death Stan, as senior officer, took control organising his sector of the battle. On 11 April 1917 he was wounded and was reported as “Missing in Action”. As a result of this action he was subsequently awarded the Military Cross, but this was not formally approved until 1919 as he was a P.O.W. for the remainder of the War. The Citation reads:
“This officer is brought to notice for his exceptional powers of leadership , organization, and bravery under very trying conditions. He led his Company in the charge against the HINDENBURG LINE near BULLECOURT on the morning of the 11th April 1917.
He was the first of his Company into both the first and second objectives , and by sheer bravery and example carried his men with him over absolutely untouched barbed wire into the second objective. He was the Senior Officer of the Battalion in the line ( Major BLACK having been killed after taking the first objective ).
He superintended the organization and distribution of the men in all parts of the line captured and held by us. He was always to be found at the points of greatest danger assisting , encouraging and leading his men with a remarkable disregard for his own personal safety.
It is due to the resourcefulness of this Officer in husbanding ammunition and organizing troops to the best advantage that our troops were able to hold on to a most hazardous and difficult position for so long. He refused to leave the trenches until he and the handful of men remaining were surrounded on three sides.
He then directed the getting away of these men and saw that they had got a fair start for our trenches before he himself left on the hazardous return journey. He was seriously wounded when returning to our trenches and was subsequently picked up and made Prisoner by the enemy.
For his magnificent courage and devotion to duty he is very strongly recommended for the highest distinction”.
During this action he was taken as Prisoner of War in France and interred for the remainder of the War in Germany. His Service Records show he was P.O.W. in Karlsruhe on the French German border north of Strasbourg. The photo shows him in Krefeld, which is on the Dutch German Border, so he may have been relocated.
Australian Prisoner Of War (POW) Officers at Crefeld [Krefeld] POW camp in Germany.
Standing higher at back, left to right, Lieutenant (Lt) James Matthew Cooney, 13th Battalion, from Bodangora, NSW, and Lt Vincent William Charker, 20th Battalion, from Sydney, NSW;
Back Row, left to right, Lt Norman George Blanchard, 20th Battalion, from Sydney, NSW; Captain (Capt) Alexander Smeaton Robertson, 21st Battalion, from Melbourne Vic; Lt Oliver Stanley Gluyas, 13th Battalion, from Melbourne; Lt Peter William Lyon, 11th Battalion, from Perth, WA; Lt John Hamilton Matthews, 55th Battalion, from Cootamundra, NSW; Lt George D’Arcy Folkard, 55th Battalion, from Walcha, NSW; Capt Horace Stanley Hummerston, 16th Battalion, from Kalamunda, WA; Lt William Alroe Halvorsen, 51st Battalion, from Perth; Lt Reginald Edwin Sanders, 14th Battalion, from Wodonga, Vic; Lt Frederick Mitchel Culverwell, 16th Battalion, from Blackboy Hill, WA; Lt George Douglas McLean, 16th Battalion, from Adelaide, SA; Lt Joseph Huxley Honeysett, 47th Battalion, from Hobart, Tas; Capt Robert Alyth Keay, 32nd Battalion, from Perth; Lt Hugh Cresswell Anthony, 7th Battalion, from Melbourne.
Second Row, left to right, Lt Alfred Tonkin Brine, 12th Battalion, from Claremont, WA; Capt Arthur Gerard Fox, 13th Battalion, from Sydney NSW; Capt George Guyatt Gardiner, 13th Battalion, from Sydney; Lt Albert William Montague Bowman, 53rd Battalion, from Sydney; Lt Herbert Johnson, 21st Machine Gun Company, from Stanthorpe, Qld; Lt Leo Clement O’Kelly, 8th Battalion from Gippsland, Vic; Lt Norman David Lloyd Cumming, 22nd Battalion, from Castlemaine, Vic; Lt Ernest John Leslie Edmonds, 14th Battalion, from Melbourne; Capt David Leslie Todd, 50th Battalion, from Adelaide; Lt Maxwell Gore, 50th Battalion, from St Peters, SA; Lt John Ernest Edwards, 50th Battalion, from Footscray, Vic; Lt Harold Redman Lovejoy, 54th Battalion, from Penshurst NSW, Lt William Murdoch, 15th Battalion, from Irvinebank, Qld;
Front Row, left to right, Lt George Cummins, 20th Battalion, from Sydney; Lt Alan McGown, 13th Battalion, from Sydney; Lt Leslie Percival Ridgwell, 46th Battalion, from Ballarat, Vic; Lt Albert Morris Marshall, 15th Battalion, from Ulverstone, Tas, Lt Charles William Hooper, 4th Battalion, from Sydney NSW, Lt William Stanley Missingham, 15th Battalion from Kingaroy, Qld; Lt Edward Binnington, 15th Battalion, from Bundaberg, Qld.
His last letter home, probably written immediately prior to his capture shows a vastly different mood from his first letter, and this is understandable, considering his battlefield experience. This reads:
“Somewhere in France.
I hope you are all in the ‘pink,’ for we are well here. As you will no doubt know, things here are moving, though at present slowly, and we are in it, and intend to be in it at the finish. I believe fruit is very plentiful this year. Strange to say, fruit is a thing that does not trouble us much here, for you can just fancy this with a nice ripe orange, and the thermometer at 7deg. less than zero.
The ‘burning question’ here at present is: Do the W.A. people know that the 16th Battalion, A.LF., came from Western Australia? If not, why not?
By the people of W.A., I mean people who haven’t any relations or very near friends in the Battalion, and if it is widely known that we are a W.A. Battalion. What have we ever done wrong to deserve the treatment we have had since the two first formed – i.e., if it wasn’t for the extremely patriotic people in South Australia, ‘this Battalion’ would be very poorly represented on the gifts cards. The South Australians in the Battalion are less than 100, and this out of say eleven hundred men is but a small proportion, and yet South Australians practically monopolise the picture with regard to gifts received by us to date.
This Battalion has been formed practically from the inception of the A.I.F., and has to its credit some of the finest exploits on Gallipoli and in France; yet when we read our W.A. papers, we see of committees being formed for all Battalions with the exception of the first two formed, i.e., the 11th and 16th. The ‘Sunday Times’ and daily papers received by the last mail are the papers quoted.
The ‘Victoria League’ has certainly very kindly sent us papers and some gifts, but not more than enough to go round. Hearing our grand lads complaining and talking of this, what we think is lack of interest in some of W.A.’s best men, and knowing it ourselves, is what made me at last mention it.
Now I have finished for the time and do not want anyone to think we say that we are any better than any other Battalion, but a little enthusiasm displayed towards a small committee or two will certainly help to get our boys a fair share of W.A. gifts, which are so thoughtfully sent to her lads on active service.”
Stan was repatriated on 1 January 1919 with other Prisoners of War to Rippon, England and embarked to Australia per “HMAT Anchises”. He disembarked in Albany on 10 April 1919 and was discharged from Service on 10 June 1919.
He was active in the Kalamunda community following the War and records show he was able to win a batting award representing the local cricket club in season 1919 – 1920. Like so many of the young men returning after World War 1 his health was seriously impacted by his service, wounds and gas exposure at Bullecourt in 1917. He developed “Pulmonary Tuberculous/Galloping Consumption” and died in 1926 at the age of just 36.
His Obituary in ‘The West Australian’ of Tuesday 31 August 1926 stated that his funeral was well attended by members of the community, community organisations and fellow members of the 16 Battalion. It stated that he was yet another victim of the scourge of the War.
A short lived life, but just one of many who were lost during and as a result of World War 1.
Basil Best AO
30 October 1923 – 5 April 2019
This is Basil’s story as told by him and held by the Battye Library to celebrate the centenary of Anzac.
Basil was an energenic and staunch supporter of our Sub-Branch.
I was born at home at 17 Norfolk Street, North Perth on 30 October 1923 so that at the onset of World War II, I was 15+ years old. I left Perth Boys’ School at the end of Year 3 Secondary and sat for the Junior Certificate, which in those days was virtually a ticket to get a job. I think I passed 9 subjects. I applied in writing for 43 jobs in the clerical area and finally received an appointment with the Agricultural Bank (which was later to become a trading bank – the Rural and Industries Bank and which in turn is now named Bankwest).
I was a junior clerk working in the Records Department and helping with the huge mail and filing. The Agricultural Bank was government owned and was not a trading bank but a government department which handled all loans to farmers who were setting farms on newly released land and also loans for clearing, Group Settlement for farmers, loans for wire netting, all designed to help the man on the land as many had come from England to start new careers in farming and had no finance, equipment, or knowledge.
On the day I turned 18, I, together with 5 other young chaps with whom I worked went to the Royal Australian Air Force Recruiting Centre in St Georges Terrace. My application was refused on the grounds that my eyesight was not good enough for air crew (pilot, navigator, etc), although of the six of us I had the essential mathematics needed to become a pilot.
On 8 January 1942, I was called up for service with the Army. In 1942 there were really 2 armies in Australia, one termed The Australian Imperial Force who were all volunteers and could serve anywhere in the world. The other section was called The Australian Military Force and consisted of conscripts, as I was, and whose service was limited to service only in Australia or its Territories. As soon as it was practical, I volunteered for service with the former, or the A.I.F. as it was called. I was enrolled at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds Claremont, issued with a full kit including rifle and together with about 100 new recruits marched, carrying all this gear to our camp at Swanbourne which housed the 5 Garrison Battalion which prior to us arriving was made up of veteran volunteers from World War I (1914-1918).
That camp is now the Special Air Services Regiment Headquarters. After 6 weeks initial training, we set up a tent camp on the council reserve at Allen Park, Swanbourne. The tents we erected ourselves and no one had any idea how to do so, but by the time they were up, I had been made an acting lance corporal with one stripe on my right arm. During periods of rifle drill and other training exercises, the entire company was given the job of erecting barbed-wire entanglements along the sandhills. I believe this barbed wire was to face the ocean for the entire Perth metropolitan area and was so designed so as to act as a deterrent against Japanese invasions. Some deterrent!! When members of the company wished to go to the local pictures without permission they simply crawled under the wire.
After some 4 months or so, we were all transferred to the Northam Camp prior to being drafted for overseas duty. I was to join the 2/28 Infantry Battalion (AIF) but suffered some virus, which caused me to miss the draft which went to North Africa and which joined the battalion at the disastrous action at Ruin Ridge.
By about October 1942, I was made a Corporal and drafted to 28 Infantry Battalion (AMF) stationed in the Dandaragan area. I was selected to undertake an officers training course, on the completion of which, I would be commissioned a lieutenant.
Fate plays a big part in a serviceman’s life as to where one serves and one’s overseas deployment is out of the individual’s control. Fresh from helping the local farmers safeguard their fast ripening wheat crops from fire and completing the Officer’s Course with ease, something happened that changed my life. Applications were called for volunteers to join the commandos. I submitted my name in a flash although I had no knowledge what commandoes did. I was paraded before the Commanding Officer who suggested that I withdraw my application, as I would forfeit my commission, which was ready to be promulgated. I persisted as my father had died when I was 14 and so I had no one really to discuss my decision with. So, I went on draft with 100 other hopefuls.
In my army career, I was plighted by a comment in my pay book, which stated my occupation as ‘Bank Officer’. I did the mail and other lowly clerical jobs. But, in the army and having non-commissioned rank, I was detailed those jobs others shied at. For example, with this draft, when overnight leave was granted, who had to prepare and sign the leave passes? Me. And so, with the railway tickets for this draft going to Cunungra Queensland.
In the early days of the conflict with Japan, for personnel travelling by the trans train, rail tickets were issued. These tickets comprised perforated sections to Kalgoorlie, to Pt Pirie, to Melbourne etc, and I had care of these tickets, and as we reached a town so nominated, I would tear the appropriate section off and give to the Station Master, portions of tickets for that section for the 100 men in the draft. I will remember until the day I die, how we left from Karrakatta Station by train to travel to Queensland. The travel was in a normal local passenger train, and the little compartments accompanied about 8 persons, and I do believe that there were not any toilets in some. When we left Claremont, there was not one person to see us off except when we passed the red light area of Roe Street when some girls came out to wave us goodbye.
On leaving Perth Station a few disinterested bystanders just stood and watched us go, no cheers n’ no farewells, no best wishes, no nothing. I remarked to a chap sitting opposite whether we would see Perth again, and several in that compartment didn’t return.
Remember, we were all about 18 years old and several guys had tears in their eyes. Today the contrast is so marked. A ship or an army detachment leaving for the Persian Gulf has a band playing and relatives and friends of the servicemen and women waving goodbye. So, off to jungle training I went and received some facts of life. The officer in charge of jungle training told us that it was hazardous and that he was permitted a mortality rate of 5 percent.
As I am a bit of a pessimist, I felt I would be one of that 5 percent. I would like to say that the idea of the glamour of War is very much over rated. I would consider that my time spent overseas in particular, one was terrified for say 5 percent of the time, 5 percent of the time being very excited, and about 90 percent bored.
Army life is a cultural shock for many young men of my age. Prior to joining, I played many sports and had to shower in the company of many the same age. We all came from the same background, possibly went to church on Sundays and maybe had jobs in banks or similar but the shock of 30 or so in a hut sleeping side by side on a palliasse of straw, using communal toilets and showers, and many of us came from such a variety of occupations. In my hut, we had miners from Kalgoorlie, shearers, farm workers, wharf labourers, truck drivers, shoe salesmen, clerks, window dressers, so our social values were different and a real cultural shock.
Following our training, I was sent to New Guinea and on my return was detailed to a hospital in Toowoomba, Queensland. Why? That thing in my pay book. They wanted a paymaster and there I stayed until Peace in the Pacific was declared. And how the town of Toowoomba turned it on. Almost all businesses shut for two days to celebrate and celebrate they did with a communal BBQ of 3 bullocks, about 12 sheep and several goats. The hotels ran dry, and, on that occasion, I had my first drink of an alcoholic liquor.
With the impending end of war, I was further detailed to go to a Prisoner of War Control Centre in Kununoppin, WA. I had applied to go to the Occupation Force that went to Japan, but I was refused, as I was the sole person living at home with my aging mother. The POWs in this centre were all Italians and worked on nearby farms, as so many of the farmers’ helpers, both male and female, were in the services. I met some very interesting Italians, one with whom I had a game of tennis with, had actually played Davis Cup tennis.
I won’t bore you with the obvious result. Another one returned after repatriation to the farmers and in due course married the farmer’s widow and in later life became a Road Board councillor.
On demobilisation, everyone was offered courses under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme which was devised to give young service personnel whose studies had been interrupted the chance to improve their employment opportunities. I opted to do car maintenance as I opined that this would be handy as a car owner. It was not available, and I was offered a course in Farm Machinery, which I declined. After the war, I returned to the bank, which soon became a trading bank and was offered a promotion as Accountant/Teller at a country branch but as I was engaged to be married, I declined and went to work with the Native Affairs Department.
I always had a hankering for teaching, as my father had been one. I started doing my Leaving Certificate (now T.E.E.) and was informed that assistance would be available through the CRTS. All fees, books were paid for to enable me to do my Leaving subjects at evening classes in two years and complete an Arts Degree and Diploma of Education as a part time student at the University of Western Australia.
I also became a teacher and finally retired due to health problems as a Principal (now Director) of a Technical and Further Education College.
In addition to my full time employment with the Education Department for 13+ years, I was actively engaged as an instructor with the Citizen’s Air Force (RAAF), retiring as a Flight Lieutenant. I was a Founder and Director of the now defunct Teachers’ Credit Society and the Founder of an organisation for Retired Technical Officers and actively concerned with the professional organisation of my craft and in due course recognised with a Community Award.
In my retirement, I worked for 12 years in building and maintaining a community hall for the elderly. I have been active in Probus and the RSL and I am currently engaged in the project “Wheelchairs for Kids’ which has seen over 4000 locally made chairs sent to needy nations overseas to help alleviate the trauma experienced by those young people who need a wheel chair for their mobility.
I’ve had a good life and I am terribly proud of being an Aussie.
Lance Corporal W. J. (Bill) Ellis
KIA Korea 19 December 1952
Bill Ellis had all the qualifications to be a member of the Returned and Services League, but he never had the opportunity to join the Sub-Branch, for he was killed in action in Korea. Bill’s is a typical story of popular and dynamic young fellows meeting their death, not always because of loyalty to the Nation, but because of economic times, responsibility to the family and the will to succeed. Whenever the chips came down these fellows were loyal to the cause, the Nation, their fellow servicemen, no matter whether in Darwin, New Guinea, Korea or anywhere. It touches on the responsibility, too, that the Army accepted for the sustenance of his widow and daughter, and that Legacy contributed in a small way, to the education of his daughter. More dramatically it touches on the catastrophic effect of his daughter’s deep suspicion for nigh on forty years that her father in some way had abandoned both her mother and her, by volunteering for service in a War Zone.
Bill’s father Charles, a WW1 veteran of the ANZACS in Gallipoli. He migrated to Western Australia, left the South West Group Settlement Scheme and took his wife Ruby and family to Harvey, where Bill was born. A neighbour, Kitty Smith, then an eight year old girl, had a real doll to nurse. That is how, over the years, a strong friendship with Kitty, later Mrs Ted King, prospered. We find Charles a loyal member of the Harvey RSL Sub-Branch, attending all Anzac Services. At the age of fourteen years, Bill, a well-developed and handsome lad, with a keen sense of humour, was a very capable boxer. Some local Harvey people organised a boxing bout with a visiting 21 year old English sailor, and Bill ably quitted himself. A few years later Bill’s family came to North Beach.
Bill married a North Beach girl, Daphne Sabine, who lived in Ada Street. During 1950 his daughter Caryl was born. With some members of his family he participated in a carrying business. The Metal Trades strike of that era had a profound impact on their business. Money was short, and it appears that Bill was very conscious of his obligation to wife and daughter. He had to get a •job and the Army had vacancies. Bill enlisted, but initially not for overseas service.
The History books state that the troops for Korea were mainly selected from the 65th, 66th and 67th Battalions, part of the Occupational Forces in Japan. Out of that body the Royal Australian Regiment, comprising the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions, was formed, the honour of ‘Royal’ being bestowed on the 22-11-48, the celebrated birth date of the Regiment. Bill was told by an old timers’ who had served overseas in World War Two that he would not get very far in the Australian Army unless he experienced overseas service. He therefore volunteered for duties in Korea and joined the 1st Battalion.
Bill posted a parcel to Kitty King’s mother, Mrs Smith, of Harvey, on the 9th December 1952, for that is the post mark date on the neatly sewn calico parcel that your editor clearly witnessed. It contained a photo Album, obviously purchased in Korea, as a Christmas present for Mrs Smith. Ten days after mailing the parcel, on the 19th December 1952, whilst on night patrol duties in Korea, acting as Sergeant, leading his section, Bill stepped on a land mine. Apparently, he knew that he had tripped the mechanism of the mine, for he stood still whilst he called a warning to his men, who dived for cover. (The anti-personnel land mines as used at that time were s armed’ by a person standing on them, causing the mechanism to make a ‘click’ noise. They exploded as soon as the weight was released. Ed).
Bill’s death is recorded in the book “Australia in the Korean War “(* see hereunder). It is recorded that when a patrol commanded by Lt Boyd, who appears to be O/C No 10 platoon, accidentally entered a mine-field at the foot of Hill 227 (Fanny Hill). Bill, the Forward Scout, was killed and that Boyd and Pte Cupitt were wounded. They were eventually rescued by their Sgt Corcoran, (later Premier of S.A.) organising a squad. After forty one years it is difficult to find and interview any of the troops that were with him at that tragic night. That he called a warning to his men and the circumstances of his death was related by a stranger to Kitty and Ted King, of Harvey, at a dance, some years ago. Efforts have been instituted to contact some of his associates on that dangerous mission. (See Can You Help, West Australian 3-7-93). Ron Cross, a close fellow serviceman friend, stated that Bill had a premonition that he would not return, whilst his brother Don felt that Bill had a feeling that nothing would go wrong with him.
The Christmas parcel arrived at the Smith household the day after the news of Bill’s death. After opening the parcel Mrs Smith informed her daughter Kitty that the album should be put away and given to Billy’s baby daughter as soon as they met her. That meeting did not take place for forty years, by which time Mrs Smith had died. Kitty, long married to Ted King, was an elderly lady herself, but still holding on to the parcel.
When Daphne went along to claim a War Widow’s pension at the appropriate office there was some confusion, for apparently there were not many Western Australians with dependents meeting their deaths in the services at that phase of time. Bill had also taken out an insurance policy, the small print showing some confusing words to the effect that death must occur more than twelve months after enlisting or being posted. The family were only able to collect, because more than twelve months had elapsed from the date of Bill’s enlistment due to him being unfit to leave Fremantle with his original posting, and not having commenced his tour of duty until the next round of departures from Sydney.
Caryl did not know her father. Over the years she created the belief that Bill had abandoned his wife and her. As she went through her teen-age years, often shorter of money than many of her fellow scholars, and struggling to gain a University Degree, she alternated between feelings of rage at her father and self-pity at having been so hardly done by. Legacy contributed what help it could and the Defence Department, because of her academic progress, extended its support through to Post Graduate Studies.
The economic years in which Caryl was maturing saw much development in Western Australia. The development of the Oil Refinery, followed by the discovery of the massive deposits of iron ore and the great reserves of natural gas, brought much wealth to many people. Young maturing people throughout the affluent sixties and seventies did not realise just what slumps meant to families and the community. Caryl did not consider the fact that Bill, with possibly some creditors, had seen the Army as an avenue in which he could get financial relief and support for his family. His case was typical of many men of the 1939 era, initially joining the Army for financial relief, but never flinching in the service of the Nation.
Daphne had moved to the country and remarried. Throughout most of those forty years Caryl chose, quite deliberately, to have no contact with Bill’s brothers, Don and Gerry, and their families. In 1992, backed by support and caring from members of the Centre for Attitudinal Healing, Caryl came to finally understand that the only person being punished by her anger at Bill’s death, and apparent ‘abandonment’, was herself. She then contacted her Uncle Don, who took her to Harvey to meet the Kings. They put her in touch with people who had known and loved Bill during his childhood and had been close friends of her Grandparents whom she had never known.
The laughter and the stories told by the Kings in 1992, finally convinced Caryl that her father was a man who loved life, his wife and his daughter and who had simply made the best choices that he knew to take care of them all.
It was with a deep sense of love and respect for the man, her father, Lance Corporal W.J.Ellis, 5/1677, that Caryl has approached the North Beach Sub-Branch for some memorial to him.
The two Remembrance Rocks placed at the front of the Elected Members section of the City of Stirling Council Chambers make no reference to the Korean War. Members of the Korea and South East Asia Forces Association refer to the Korean War as ‘The Forgotten War’. One caller has advised that there is a Korean War memorial in Melville. Many of Bill and Caryl’s relatives live in the North Beach and adjacent areas. May this epistle stimulate some interest in the community so that the troops who served in Korea, ever loyal to this Nation, to their fellow soldiers and service personnel, to their families and the community in general, are suitably recognised.
The Korean War, being a United Nations War, saw the Australian soldiers not a part of an Australian Force acting with the Australian Air Force and Navy, but as individual small components attached to the much larger forces of Britain and the United States. Yet the Australian Army suffered 277 fatalities and 1210 wounded. Combat casualties were also suffered by the Navy and the Air Force.
© North Beach Sub-Branch RSLWA
*”Australia in the Korean War 1950-53″ by Dr R. O’Neill, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London. The volume mentions the difficulty of obtaining the intimate facts, for at that phase of time, inter alia, Australia did not have its own set of War Diaries as the Australian Regiment was under the jurisdiction of the British Commonwealth Brigade and the records are in the British Ministry of Defence.(see p. 751).
Merchant Navy WW 2
Ted, a member of the Merchant Navy, joined the MV Duke of Athens as a 16 year old galley boy at Fremantle on the 27th May 1942. The ship picked up a load of wheat at Geraldton and set sail for Europe via the Capetown. The ship joined a convoy which assembled at Freetown, Sierra Leone.
In crossing the Indian Ocean, the ship went south-west-wards to sail into the Roaring Forties. Galley boy Ted had to go outside the galley into the frequent storms to pump water into the urn. Woe betide him if he didn’t keep that urn full! It wasn’t only the cook, but the other hands as well who made tea and coffee at all hours of the night and day. Ted became accustomed to the big waves that frequently broke on the side of the ship. One day was particularly rough and the ship was rolling badly. As Ted pumped away a colossal wave suddenly broke over the ship. The parapet was more than ten feet above him, and the wave was higher than that. He wore no safety belt; it is doubtful if the ship had one. Ted hung on to the pump handle, facing a grim death. Although the galley was closed, water flooded it. Ted clung to the pump handle and watched the water flood down the scuppers, a gaping hole a metre by two metres wide. Later Ted mentioned to a sailor mate that he wondered if the ship would have been able to turn around and recover him should he have washed away. He was informed that it would be futile to make the attempt as the propeller would have made mince of him as he flowed by!
About a fortnight out of Freetown, Ted’s ship was on the port side of the convoy and the third in the line. The leading ship exploded without warning and sank in a few minutes. It was very bewildering to a lad of 16 to observe how a ship could be there one minute and then disappear forever. Later that night, star shells were fired from an escort, which illuminated the sky. The next day saw two more ships sunk and the armed Merchant escorting cruiser was hit in the bows. Most of the day the crew were at action stations. As ships were sunk the ships moved up the line. Ted’s ship was shortly the leader, which was now considered to be an unlucky location.
Nearing the Irish Channel more escorts joined the convoy. A submarine was sighted, the escorts dropped depth charges, but fortunately Glasgow was reached. Ted went to London to visit relatives, and there he heard the wailing Air Raid Sirens. He joined the SS Fort McLeod, anchored at the mouth of the Thames and again experienced the Air Raid Warnings continuously. Leaving London on the 10th October 1942, down through “Bomb Alley” and “U-Boat Alley” for Glasgow, which took fourteen days. They had called at several ports, and by the cargo that had been stowed, the crew assessed that a second front was being established.
They assembled to form a convoy at Gourouch. The crew did not sleep too well that night. The crew gained the information of their destination because the radio operator, had gleaned the information from the poor BBC broadcast reception. It was to be North Africa, through the Mediterranean Sea. The 20th November saw three ships of the convoy sunk, the attacks coming earlier than expected. There was another ship in the convoy that was on fire and beginning to lag. At the same time a plane was seen skirting the convoy which Ted assumed to be friendly. When it neared the convoy a warning shot was fired across its bows for it to establish its identity. It did not respond to the challenge and many ships engaged it. It successfully passed the escorts and then it was every ship for itself. It was a float plane flying directly at their ship. Ted thought that the gunner had waited too long before he opened fire on it. But the man was perfectly accurate and immediately hit the plane with a number of shots. Ted feared that the plane, now on fire, would crash on the deck, but at the last moment it veered and fell into the seas some fifty metres to the side. Ted returned to the other side of the ship to notice that the burning ship was about to sink. The convoy continued and frequent alarms occurred day and night until Algiers was reached on the 25th November 1942.
Some years later Ted was discussing the incident with a Royal Navy man who also had been in the same convoy taking supplies for the North African campaign when they thought that they were being attacked by a Catalina type plane with a German crew. The man made the remark that it was strange that Ted should mention the incident, for a Sunderland had skirted the convoy, dropped the wrong identification signal and was shot down. The BBC news that evening had stated that the Duke of Kent had failed to return to base.
Returning to Wales from North Africa the empty ship struck a severe storm in the Atlantic. A lifeboat become insecure and nearly caused extreme damage to the ammunition locker. With considerable difficulty between squalls and the extreme rolling the crew, aware of an impending explosion, was able to cut it free and let it drop into the sea. A cup of tea was enjoyed.
Ted was sent to Glasgow to join the “SS Orbita” and went back to Algiers, a trouble free trip. They were only in the port at Algiers one day but there was a high altitude air attack causing no damage to his ship. The next few months saw considerable sailing without many alarms and very few scares.
However, when leaving India one of the crew mentioned that “things” were appearing to smell. In fact, things were beginning to stink, for troops had been taken aboard. On reaching Port Said dozens of troopships were lying around at anchor. Barges replaced lifeboats. Once through the Suez Canal Ted’s ship was tucked away in Alexandria, empty, for the troops had been landed. The crew pondered what it was all about. The troops returned a few days later with books on Sicily. Later the skipper called the crew onto the top deck to inform them that they were to be part of the invasion of Sicily. As if they didn’t already know!
Arriving at Saracusa they saw many crashed gliders on shore. There were ships that had been hit in the harbour and only partly sunk and guns firing like hell on shore all day. It appears somebody was getting a hiding and they hoped that things were going their way for a change. Alerts occurred all day. A plane fell in flames from the sky, on whose side Ted did not know. They left the same evening, only just in time, for a very heavy attack commenced astern. The Jerry artillery was fiercely hitting back good and hard. Suddenly there was a blinding flash, followed by a loud explosion. The crew rushed to the side of the battleship to ascertain what had happened, some saying that it was a flying bomb or rocket, others being uncertain.
Later in the Mediterranean, homeward bound, some of the crew were on deck relaxing, talking of the things that they would like to do on being discharged. Without warning there were the sounds of loud explosions. Ted thought that it must be an air raid on shore, but he was told that there was no land around. explosions followed and again more a few minutes later. Some gun fire rang out. Next morning, they discovered that a U Boat had been sunk.
Returning to Alexandria via Malta several months passed without incident. Then to London to spend his leave where he found that there were air raids every night, some bombs falling nearby. At various times Ted experienced flying bombs and rockets. He found it much better to be back on board making for Algiers with fresh troops. Being on night duty Ted was asleep in his bunk one afternoon. He heard someone in the alley-way say, “She has hit us”. He went to wake his mate and said, “We have been torpedoed”. “Ya’re balmy, mate”, he replied, “the Duchess of Bedford’ has rammed us”. They returned to Gibraltar for repairs.
After being hospitalised in London with a throat infection, catalysed by being run down through the harsh naval conditions, he returned safely to Sydney for discharge.
Laurie P Movley
Laurie was born in Stratford, Connecticut, U.S.A. on 17th February 1918. He is American by birth, British by Nationality and Australian by Choice. He is a British National, for his family returned to England when he was three years old. He was, in 1939, a member of the 677 Construction Company, Royal Engineers, and later “B” Field Company. He served in France with the Royal Engineers during 1939-40 and was evacuated off the beach at Bray Dunes north of Dunkirk. On July 18th, 1940, his father was advised by letter by the Royal Engineers Record Office Brighton, that ” Sapper Movley was reported Missing by his unit”.
“The report that he is missing does not necessarily mean that he has been killed, as he may be a prisoner of war or temporarily separated from his regiment.
Official records that men are prisoners of war take some time to reach this country, and if he has been captured by the enemy it is probable that unofficial news will reach you first. In that case you are asked to forward any Post Card or letter received at once to this Office, and it will be returned to you as soon as possible.”
WHERE WAS LAURIE? When the German attack was launched in May 1940, they ignored the famed Maginot Line, a prepared defensive line of fortifications lining the border of France and Germany. The German Forces swept through Belgium on the northern end of the Maginot Line and behind the prepared defences.
At the same time northern France and Belgium were subjected to the full force of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) comprising bombers, dive bombers and fighters. The chaos brought about by the air attacks caused every road to be completely blocked with refugees going anywhere and nowhere. They were dive bombed and machine gunned mercilessly resulting in civilian carnage of unbelievable magnitude, making the movement of allied troops virtually impossible.
At this point Field Company was formed with explosive specialists. Small sections operated with the retreating infantry who were forming a defensive perimeter based on the evacuation port of Dunkirk. His section consisting of a Staff Sergeant, 2 drivers (of which Laurie was one) and six sappers plus two trucks loaded with demolition equipment operated with the Guards Brigade. Their task was to place demolition charges on the bridges that the Brigade had to cross as they withdrew. As Northern France was serviced by many canals their task was difficult.
They continued with this until arriving at Bray Dunes where they dug in on the beach. It was under constant attack from the air, the artillery and small arms fire. The method of evacuation was to wade out into the seas and wait to be picked up out of the water by a small boat and transferred to a larger ship. He was put on the destroyer H.M.S. Ivanhoe, which was later sunk, and returned to Dover.
They were immediately put on a train which when full to overflowing departed, making room for another train. The complement was made up of allied troops of all types. The train stopped at various stations which were full of civilian volunteers. These people handed out food and drink and clothes in which they were in need, as they had not had any organised food for days. and only had the clothes that they stood in.
Eventually they detrained at Winchester and were billeted in the Rifle Brigade Barracks. After a few days, any Royal Engineers were sent to Newark, and again from Newark to Ripon, a Royal Engineers Field Company Depot. Laurie’s unit was found at Upper Heyford, an R.A.F. bomber station in Oxfordshire where their task was to repair the runways after bombing raids. He re-joined his unit along with two other members about the 14th July.
With the threat of invasion by the Germans who were massed on the coast of France 22 miles away, reorganisation of the fighting forces was priority One. All this was taking place while all the major centres were under heavy air attack. Civilian and service personnel casualties were horrific.
On reaching England he was Commissioned into the 7th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and served in Northern Ireland until 1943.
After returning to England in 1943, he was promoted to the rank of Captain, training in Combined Landing Operations. He commanded a Mortar group of the Northumberland Fusiliers, the Fighting Fifth, which landed on Sword Beach, Normandy the day after D Day. In repelling a German counter attack the unit put their barrage down at such a speed that a captured German Artillery Officer asked to be allowed to see the belt-fed field guns, for he did not believe it possible to gain such a speed by hand.
Laurie was wounded in Zettin, outside Arnhem, Holland in 1944 and hospitalised in Ghent, Belgium. He returned to active service in 1945 as second in command of “A” Company, of the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, an infantry Rifle company.
When Germany capitulated, he was made a Brigade Staff Captain and took control of a ration supply dump in Germany, servicing 93,000 displaced persons and former prisoners of war. He remained there in Germany until he was demobilised on 1Ith July 1946.
On 16th May 1951, living in Flora Terrace, he joined the North Beach Sub-Branch.
E. G. (Ted) DYAS
At the age of twenty Ted joined the Navy on the 14th October 1940 at Hobart, Tasmania, at the depot called “H.M.A.S, HUON”. After some training there and at Flinders Naval depot in Melbourne he was drafted to “HMAS Kuttabull”, an old Sydney Harbour ferry, commandeered for accommodation at Garden Island. That was the vessel that the Japanese midget submarines torpedoed and killed 19 ratings when Sydney was attacked.
On 5th June 1941, Ted, now an Able Seaman, was stationed as a loading number on a four inch twin barrel anti-aircraft gun on “HMAS Hobart”. Further training saw him a range taker and stationed near the bridge in the 4″ Director Control tower, later being promoted to the 6″ D C Tower, general duties being his lot whilst the ship was in Port.
Ted soon became the Commander’s coxswain, utilising a 14 foot boat for conveying confidential messages to other ships and ashore. In Naval terms the Commander’s boat is always called ’The Jolly Boat’ and was, when in port, always secured under the pole extending at the bow. Ted was therefore similar to the ‘Don R’ in an Army establishment – always ready on the dot for messages or conveying super cargo.
“HMAS Hobart was involved in many actions during his four and a half years with the ship, and it became known as the “lucky ship”. Ted recalls that when in the middle of the Indian Ocean an exhausted Albatross landed on the fore-deck. The crew gave it food and drink and it flew away. There is an old sea faring proverb with sailors that if ever an Albatross lands on a ship at sea and survives, then that ship will never sink. And so it was with the “HMAS Hobart”.
During the night of 20th June 1941, at 2200 hours, the Hobart slipped out of Sydney Harbour for the Mediterranean. She entered the Suez Canal, but was forced to reverse out of the narrow channel because mines had been dropped ahead by enemy planes. History recalls the intensive bombing by German aircraft on the Suez Canal and to shipping at Port Tewfik, the entrance to the Canal. Ted’s initiation to bombing there was intense, for the Germans persisted for four and a half hours that first evening. During the night “HMAS Hobart” moved its anchorage twice. That albatross knew what was going on, for each time the spot where the Hobart had just left was bombed.
Nearby, only 300 metres away, the crowded troopship “Georgic” was hit by a stick of bombs and caught fire. The “Hobart” lowered its boats, set up a medical post ashore, and ferried troops to safety. Meanwhile in attempting to beach the “Georgic” it collided and interlocked with another ship, the “Glenearn” which also caught on fire. In the dark of night, the Hobart was so close that the steel plates could be seen to be red hot and buckling, with intermittent explosions.
During these crucial periods when all hands were ‘Up’, that is at Action Stations and every man having a specific place on the ship for a considerable period, food was still required. Each section would send a man to the galley to get some ‘Tiddy Oggies’. Tiddy Oggies were pasties made from M & V, tinned dog or whatever ingredient the cook found expedient to feed the massive crew.
Dawn revealed a sorry sight. Two big ships, on fire, locked together and beached. Later that day the Hobart towed the “Glenearn” free. The “Georgic”, despite being completely gutted, was later salvaged and in post war years carried Greek migrants to Australia.
The Mediterranean was reached on the 16th June, and Alexandria Harbour the following day. There the “HMAS Perth” was waiting to return to Australia, leaving next morning. She had been severely damaged during the evacuation of Crete. The naval historians have recorded how the “Hobart” valiantly operated in the Mediterranean until the Japanese entered the War. Two days later, on 9th December, she set sail for Fremantle, and by 20th January she was in the South China seas. “HMAS Perth” was sunk on 27th February 1942 in the Java Seas Battle. “Hobart” was some 300 tons short of fuel which prevented her from rushing to the aid of its stricken mate.
By 14th April 1942 “Hobart” was back in Sydney for a clean-up. On the 1st May “Hobart” and “Australia” steered north and participated in the “Battle of the Coral Sea”. That battle prevented the Japanese from landing on Australian soil and turned the tide of the invading forces. The outstanding cruiser Captain Harry Howden left the ship after the battle. Ted recalls how the skipper watched the bomb bays of the high level bombers being opened. He then would slew the ship around by reversing two motors, dodging the falling bombs. The ship creaked and shuddered but survived.
To the “Solomon Islands Landing Campaign” on 7th August 1942 with a new Captain, H.A. Showers, was the next mission. Although it was a successful campaign there were severe losses, for three American cruisers and “HMAS Canberra” were sunk. After patrolling in the Coral sea for some months “Hobart” joined Admiral Halsey’s Task Force No 74 which was based at Espiritu, Santo (north of the New Hebrides) on 16th July 1943. Whilst on patrol duty with “HMAS Australia” 300 miles West of the New Hebrides on the 20th July 1943 Hobart was hit by a single torpedo. It did considerable damage to the port quarter. 13 men were killed and 7 were wounded. Ted was lucky, for he was on the bridge at that moment. Less than five minutes later he would have been at the fatal spot. A bird lover, he remembered the albatross! Repairs were made at Espiritu, the ship then returning to the dock in Sydney for major repairs.
Ted was returned to “HMAS Huon” during the overhaul, returning to the great ship when it sailed to the Philippines, New Guinea and Borneo, and finally to Tokyo. There on Sunday, 2nd September 1945, aboard the “US Missouri” the signing of the surrender was effected.
Nine days later the famous “HMAS Hobart” returned to Sydney, eventually to be stripped and sold to the Japanese as scrap. But the ship showed reluctance to go, and caused considerable trouble to the purchasers, breaking away from the contractor’s tugs in the Great Barrier Reef. It was towed back to Brisbane for some modifications before it was subdued. Ted was discharged fit and well on the 22nd November 1945 after serving five years in the Royal Australian Navy.
Fifty years after the day that the torpedo struck, Ted, on 20th July 1993, celebrated at Anzac House, Perth, with a few of his surviving jack tars.