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President's Report 2016

President’s Report 2016

 2016 marks the 75thanniversary of the departure of the 2nd/3rdAustralian Light Anti -Aircraft Regiment from Fremantle and its arrival in Haifa, Palestine.

The Regiment embarked on HMT Mauretania at Port Melbourne on 29 December 1940. The convoy arrived at Fremantle on 3 January 1941, reaching Colombo on the 14th January where the Regiment transferred to HMT Devonshire. On 30 January the Regiment arrived at Haifa, Egypt, and on the following day disembarked and moved by train and bus to Kassa Camp, where the 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion had erected tents and had an evening meal waiting for them. On 6 February 1941, 8th Battery moved out for Libya; this Battery had not been issued with any guns and on arrival at Tobruk had to make do with captured Italian 20mm Breda Lt A.A. Guns.

On 11 April 1941, 7th and 9th Batteries moved out of Kassa (with Bofors guns) to join Lustre Force to defend Greece. Due to the rapid change in events in Greece, 7th Battery was ordered to Crete to defend British air bases on the island, and 9th Battery was ordered to the Western Desert to defend air bases in that area.

Thus we also mark the 75thanniversary of

  • the Battle for Crete and subsequent evacuation which began in May 1941 and involved 7thBattery
  • the Siege of Tobruk from April 1941 involving 8thBattery and
  • Operation Battleaxe in June 1941 (to raise the siege of Tobruk) involving 9th

 This year’s Take Post contains a wonderful mix of poignant, informative and humorous articles.

Our cover story is a book review of Archipelago of Soulsby Gregory Day (2015 Picador Australia).  I was sitting in my island paradise on Flinders Island in Bass Strait late last year when a friend recommended this novel due to the references to King Island and it’s similarities to Flinders. I immediately ordered the book when I also discovered that its fictional character is an Australian soldier on German occupied Crete during the war.  Like Gregory Day, when I visited Crete in 1985, I found the Cretan people very warm and hospitable particularly when I mentioned that my father’s regimental mates had served on Crete during the war. A fascinating read. I recommend it to you. Incidentally, I am currently reading Magda Szubanski’s Reckoning (2015 The Text Publishing Co. Australia). One of the issues she explores is coming to terms with the deeds committed in war time and the notion of bravery, specifically the deeds of her father in the Polish Resistance and of her relationship with him. Another good read.

 There’s news from the Honorary Secretary and also Research Officer including enquires and information from family members about members of the regiment.

 Other stories include a return to Borneo of eight WW2 veterans last year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their contribution to the Oboe campaign— the landings of Australian troops on Borneo to liberate the island from Japanese occupation. Our 9th Battery contributed to Operation Oboe in June- July 1945.

The Australian Mint has minted a new coin paying tribute to the Australian World War 2 soldiers and commemorating the battle for Crete as part of its Australia at War series. I do think that the anti-aircraft gun on the coin looks like a stylised version of a Bofors and the gunner in the foreground has a cunning resemblance to one I’ve seen in photos of a regimental gun crew.

 The article on aircraft recognition and bomb types, originally published in 1943, would have been somewhat less helpful than the disciplinary antics of “Spotter George” the white cockatoo who was the mascot of the New Guinea Air Warning Wireless Company, or “Gunner” the kelpie in alerting the troops of impending air raids in the Northern Territory!

Sadly we also read of the passing of five more of our “boys” including a Vale to Earle Webster who became known to us through his attendance at the annual reunion and AGM. He will be greatly missed.

Each year our numbers at the Anzac Day march are increasing and I encourage family members to come and join us. Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, the original members of the Association, were keen for us to continue in their memory and in the memory of their mates who didn’t return and to meet together to enjoy each other’s company. Attendance at the AGM and Reunion and at the march on Anzac Day enables us to do this.

Anne Rae