The early history of our Sub-Branch is contained in our Book:
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 our past.
Members Stories is subject to copyright and may only be reproduced with permission of the North Beach Sub-Branch, RSLWA.
Table of Contents
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.