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Gallantry and Distinguished Service

Gallantry and Distinguished Service Awards
received by members relating to their service in the Regiment

While the Association acknowledges the dedication, sacrifices and gallantry of all members of the Regiment, here we acknowledge, and provide information about, the members who received gallantry and distinguished service awards while serving with the Regiment, or with one of its batteries following the disbandment of the Unit in mid-1943.

With the exception of Mentions in Despatches, for which very few recommendations survive, awards were made under the statute or royal warrant of the order or decoration concerned. Commanders-in-Chief in the field were usually given powers to make awards within a ‘scale’. This scale was based on the number of troops under command over a given period. It was not unusual for recommendations to be altered to reflect senior commanders' views, either on the level of award or whether the award should be for gallantry in the face of the enemy or for ‘meritorious service’ (that is, not in the face of the enemy).

It is unusual for files relating to honours and awards announced prior to 1950 to have survived. (Adapted from UK National Archives http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/wo373.asp .)

 

Military Medal (MM)

The Military Medal (MM) was awarded to warrant officers and other non-commissioned ranks for gallantry in action against the enemy. It was an Imperial, not Australian, award.

Recipient

Citation & recommendation

ADAMS, Arthur

L/Sgt

VX44744

8 Bty

POW

Citation: ‘Calm courage at DERNA PASS on the 7th April, 1941’.

Recommendation:

7 Apr 41 in Western Desert about 10 miles NW of DERNA PASS.

This NCO was No. 1 of a gun team operating LAA portée-mounted Breda 37 m.m. guns in an anti-tank role. He engaged the enemy after his Portée had been hit several times and was on fire, and continued to fire at close range until all his ammunition was expended.

Throughout he gave a fine example of calm courage under extremely trying conditions.

Recommended for MM.

Presented by the Governor of Victoria at Government House, Melbourne, on 19 April 1950.

Further information is available in On Target, pp. 169-70.

A photograph of L/Sgt Adams at a POW camp in Yugoslavia in 1944 is available at the web site of the Australian War Memorial: http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P00092.059

Note: in this context, a ‘portée’ is a gun mounted on the tray of a truck, as illustrated at http://www.antiaircraft.org.au/photo-gallery/root-category-picture/breda-gun/breda-396 .

COURTNEY, Edward James

Gnr

VX24598

8 Bty

Citation: ‘Great courage during air raids at PILASTRINO 25/4 and [7/5, 1941]’.

Recommendation:

For Bravery and Devotion to his Duties in an A.A. Detachment while under heavy dive-bombing and machine-gun fire.

At TOBRUCH on 25th April and 7 May, 1941 –

1. On 25th April at PILASTRINO [a location within the Tobruk garrison] when over 40 E.A. [enemy aircraft] took part, the Breda gun on which Gnr. Courtney was a gun number had a stoppage during the engagement. The detachment took cover – with the exception of Gnr. COURTNEY who remained at his post working to free the stoppage in spite of heavy machine-gunfire and in the bomb explosions, and succeeded in getting the gun into action again and enabling the detachment to re-engage the E.A..

2. On 7 May when protecting a Troop of 60 pdr. guns in another dive-bombing attack, Gnr. COURTNEY's gun again had a stoppage. He proceeded to clear the stoppage despite the fact that 3 ME110s [German Luftwaffe heavy fighter aircraft] machine-gunning along the ridge and several of the bullets entered the gun pit narrowly missing him while he was working. Through his efforts the gun was eventually brought back into action.

Presented by the Governor of Victoria at Government House, Melbourne, on 10 July 1947.

The March 1991 issue of Take Post (p. 4) reports that Gnr Courtney ‘…was the first Australian anti-aircraft gunner to be decorated during this war’.

Further information is available in On Target, p. 202.

Photographs of Gnr Courtney are available in the Photo Gallery part of this web site and at the web site of the Australian War Memorial: http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/020589 and http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/020801.

Mentioned in Despatches (MID)
Commanders-in-Chief in the field submitted periodical lists of officers and soldiers who were ‘mentioned in despatches’. Award of a Mention ranked below the military Cross (awarded to officers) or the Military Medal (awarded to NCOs and ORs) and could be for gallantry in action or for a wide range of services on and off the battlefield. (Source: National Archives (UK) Recommendations for Honours and Awards 1935-1990 http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/wo373.asp ).
The Mention in Despatches (MID) is the oldest British award and was a device used by commanders at sea or in the field to bring the services of deserving servicemen to the attention of higher authority.
The MID was instituted in Australia in 1920 and took the form of a small oak leaf device. For those awarded during World War II, the device is placed at the centre and at 60 degrees on the ribbon of the 1939-1945 War Medal.
The MID is the only form of recognition, apart from the Victoria Cross, that could be made posthumously for gallantry or distinguished service in action or on operations. It is not included in the Order of Wearing of Australian Honours and Awards published by Government House. (Adapted from Its an Honour: Imperial Awards, http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au/honours/awards/imperial.cfm#mid .)
The Australian War Memorial advises that ‘As the Mentioned-in-Despatches (MID) does not entitle the recipient to use a post-nominal, it is not displayed on the Nominal Roll’.
Recipient
Citation & recommendation (if available)
BELL, David Carstairs
Gnr
VX40134
8 Bty
No citation available.
On Target, p. 166, quotes a serviceman’s documentation of the ‘Benghazi Handicap’, the April 1942 retreat from the Benghazi area east to Tobruk: ‘While we were waiting to join up with our other detachments, the Allied forces were having trouble with transport due to so many breakdowns with trucks in the harsh conditions. Gunner Dave Bell worked tirelessly shuttling back and forth along the road ferrying stranded troops back to safety. Quite a few troops who reached Tobruk owed their safety to Dave Bell. By then the road was under spasmodic attack. Dave’s efforts brought a special commendation from 9th Division Headquarters.’
Perhaps this was the action for which he was awarded the MID?
CANNING, Maxwell C.
Sgt
VX40806
9 Bty
No citation available.
CRAWLEY, Reginald James
Sgt
VX26135
7 Bty
POW
MID for ‘Gallant & distinguished service in the field in EUROPE’
KOSKA, Karl George
Bdr
VX37082
7 Bty
POW
‘Gallant & distinguished services whilst a P.O.W.’
PHIPPS, George Alfred
Gnr
VX33354
7 Bty
POW
MID for ‘Gallant & distinguished service in field EUROPE’
ROLLING, Lawson Francis
Gnr
VX36871
7 Bty
POW
No citation available.
STOKES, Philip William Clifford ED
Maj
VX47598
8 Bty
No citation available
SULLIVAN, Keith Harold
Sgt
NX38247
8 Bty
‘Exceptional service in the field in S.W.P. [South West Pacific] Area’
TONKIN, Rolstyn Nicholas
Sgt
VX37081
7 Bty
POW
No citation available.
Mentioned in On Target at pp. 79, 80, 91 and 143.
Blog entry ‘Undercover POW’ at the Australian War Memorial’s web site http://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2010/09/03/undercover-pow featuring his work in conveying intelligence back to the allies whilst a POW. This is reproduced in Take Post, 2011 issue, pp. 14-15.
Notes
1: Gnr JG COWIE
The Regiment’s history, On Target, describes an incident at Tobruk: ‘A 155mm shell hit the edge of the dugout in which Gunner Ince and Scottish driver Jock Rodgers were lying and partly buried them. They were pulled out, covered in dust and blood, but not too badly injured. Gunner Jim Cowie who drove them through heavy shellfire to the Casualty Clearing Station was mentioned in despatches for his effort’ (p. 185).
We have not been able to find any other record of this award.
COWIE, James Gordon, Gnr, VX33224, 8 Bty, killed in action at Tobruk 25 Sep 1941, just two days before the Battery was evacuated.

2: Maj JE PAGAN
The Australian War Memorial’s online Honours and Awards data base erroneously lists Maj John Ernest PAGAN NX12402 as a member of the 2/3 LAA Regt. He was actually the OC of the 2/3 LAA Bty, a sub-unit of the 2/1 LAA Regt, and was awarded an MBE for ‘Meritorious leadership at FINSCHHAFEN & SCARLET BCH.’