President’s Report 2021

What an unusual year it has been with the 2020 ANZAC Day March cancelled, as well as our 2019-20 Annual General Meeting, reunion and lunch, due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

With no official March and with the lockdown confining us to our homes, the ingenuity and commitment of members came to the fore. I received a messages from a number of members regarding the way that they and their families had commemorated ANZAC Day, mostly with personal and family dawn services conducted at the end of driveways.  

This year the RSL has determined that only current veterans are permitted to participate in the ANZAC Day March and that banners belonging to Associations such as ours, must be delivered to the RSL, to be carried by scouts in a massed display. This arrangement is ostensibly due to the requirement to manage the total numbers participating in the March to less than 5,000 people.

The Committee has decided that as our fathers and grandfathers treasured the Regimental banner we are not prepared to hand it over for others to carry, where its safety and care is beyond our control.  Thus the Regiment will not have a presence at this year’s March. However I trust that with the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination program will see us again participating in 2022.

It is with pleasure that I welcome Allicia Rae, grand-daughter of Cec Rae (9thBattery), who kindly volunteered to assist with organising the AGM, reunion and lunch for 2021 and has been co-opted to the Committee.

Of particular interest to all those researching their father’s/grandfather’s war history, the official 2/3 ALAA Regimental H.Q. and some battery, signals and workshop War diaries have been digitised and uploaded to the Australian War Memorial website this year and are available on-line at https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C2660276.

Our Research Officer David McDonald has been busy ensuring that all past copies of our annual publication Take Post from 1988 to 2008 (printed copies from his own collection), and digital copies from 2009 onwards, have now been catalogued by the National Library of Australia and available on-line through its Trove collection. This has ensured that current and future generations who are searching Trove can readily find information about our Association.  See https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/266934360 . 

At this year’s AGM the Committee is recommending that the membership consider the move for the Association to become an Incorporated body. There are several reasons for this, the most pressing of which is to continue to secure the Association's website domain name asantiaircraft.org.au as it has been since the website was launched in 2008.  It is due for renewal in June 2021 and we have been advised that due to a rule change, Unincorporated Associations such as ours can no longer use .org.au in their domain name, and must become Incorporated Associations if we wish to retain our domain name when the current registration expires.

 Additional benefits from incorporating our Association include providing a transparent structure and set of operating rules, and also limiting the liability of members in the extremely unlikely event of someone threatening, or taking, legal action.

This Take Post is again jam-packed with interesting stories and information and I congratulate Colin Bragg on another excellent edition. As this year is the 80thanniversary of the siege of Tobruk, the feature article relates to the Regiment’s and in particular, 8thBattery’s role in that event. The war diary extracts of Gunner Leslie Miller (8thBattery) provides us with the first-hand and personal experience of a Rat of Tobruk at that time.  

This year is also the 150thanniversary of Australian Artillery. Events will be held in Canberra 1st August and in Sydney on 6thNovember. See http://artilleryhistory.org.

My sincere thanks go to the Committee members for their work throughout the year to ensure that the story of the men of the 2/3rdAustralian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment and particularly those that didn’t return, is not forgotten.

Sadly, Vice President Matthew Heddle and Treasurer Colin Bragg have decided to stand down from their positions. I wish to thank them both very much for the excellent work that they have both done to further the interests of the Association. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Thankfully Colin has agreed to continue to edit Take Post into the future.

Anne Rae

13 April 2021

President’s Report 2020

Another year has passed and it is now 75 years since the end of the War in the Pacific and       the Second World War, and the disbanding of the final Batteries of the Regiment.

75 years ago, former members of Regimental Headquarters and Signals and Workshops Sections had been disbursed to various other units, although some of the latter stayed with 7th, 8thand 9thBatteries until they were disbanded at the end of the war.

By April 1945, 7thBattery were at Caboolture, Queensland, after having provided anti-aircraft (AA) defences at Buna Beach and the nearby Cape Endaiadere in what is now the Oro (Northern) Province of PNG, as part of the 2/2ndComposite AA Regiment. Over 100 men of the Battery were still POWs in Europe.

8th Battery had been disbanded in September 1944, and some of its men formed a new ‘C’ troop in 7 Battery of the 2/2 Composite AA Regt. This was previously an independent battery providing AA defences at Buna, Territory of Papua.

9th Battery were at sea off the coast of New Guinea on the troopship SSSea Ray, going ashore at Morotai, and participating in the Labuan landing in June as part of the 2/3rdComposite AA Regiment.

The men of the Regiment saw active service in many of the theatres of war in Tobruk, Crete, the Western Desert, Syria, Port Moresby, Milne Bay, Lae, Buna and Borneo.  Through our website, Take Post and our AGM and Reunion, the Association continues to inform descendants of the original members and the public at large about the important contribution that our men made to Australia,

Thanks to our Editor Colin Bragg, the Association is pleased to present another very interesting edition of Take Post. This edition includes excerpts from John Campbell’s (8thBattery,VX38276) war diaries covering his time during the siege of Tobruk, which I found to be riveting.  It is very sobering to think of those young men, many like John barely 20 years of age, with the responsibility of the world on their shoulders, facing their own mortality in such dreadful circumstances. John wrote at the time:

Such is war you can never tell when you are going to get it next. Just like these chaps walking around full of life one moment, the next killed or blinded for life. But I suppose that is war. It is an utterly stupid thing; War. I wish all this could be settled without it.

The “companion piece” to John’s war diary are articles from the Tobruk Truthof 27 August 1941 and the Special Supplement of the Tobruk Truth dated 14 April 1941 which provide both a global as well as a local context for John’s story.

Covering a different part of the world, Foster Crooke (son of J.D. Crooke, 9thBattery, VX 46047) writes a fascinating account of his two recent military history tours of Papua New Guinea, visiting Pacific War Sites. Foster’s father saw service at Port Moresby, Milne Bay and Lae.

My thanks go to our committee and office bearers for their work throughout the year. I encourage you to join us in the annual ANZAC Day march to keep the banner flying and remember the men of the Regiment and the sacrifices that they made for us.

President’s Report

 75 years ago at this time the regiment had separated: Regimental Headquarters, Signals and Workshop Sections were at Berkshire Valley Camp WA, some Signals and Workshops attached to 7th, 8thand 9thBatteries. 7thBattery was providing AA defences at Geraldton RAAF station WA. Over 100 men of the Battery were POWs in Europe, having been captured in Crete. 8thBattery were providing AA defences in WA at Pearce Aerodrome near Perth; the Catalina bases on the Swan River; and at Geraldton, Onslow & Exmouth Gulf, while 9thBattery were at Milne Bay, then in the Australian Territory of Papua. In July 1943 the Regiment was disbanded and the batteries became independent.

 Once again your Committee has been busy since the 2017 Reunion and Annual General meeting.

David McDonald has organised for the Regiment’s handwritten nominal rolls to be gifted to the Australian War Memorial (AWM), allowing access to a much wider audience and ensuring their preservation. This was organised by David  (see From the Secretary’s desk…).

Several members of the committee have catalogued books relating to the Regiment, AA defence or WW2, either held by them personally or on behalf of the Association.

 In August, my brother Ian and I were incredibly fortunate to be selected to travel to Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea to commemorate the 75thanniversary of Battle of Milne Bay. This battle was the first time the Japanese forces were defeated on land during their invasion of the Asia Pacific. Two troops of 9th Battery were involved in the defence of Milne Bay. Organised and financed by Thales Australia, with the support of the Australian War Memorial, we found the trip to be a very educational and emotional experience for both of us. I hope we have conveyed this in our report in this edition of Take Post. Peter Brune’s book A Bastard of a Place – Australians in Papua which attempts to “restore Milne Bay, Gona, Buna and Sanananda to their rightful place beside Kokoda” and describes how Blamey and MacArthur scapegoated many of the Australian field commanders to protect their own positions and lied about what actually happened. This then became legend and therefore only Kokoda is really known about.

During a visit to the 2/3rdALAAR’s memorial plaque and tree in the Shrine Reserve on Remembrance Day last year Research Officer David McDonald noticed that the base of the plaque has deteriorated. Upon our request the Shrine Trustees have organised for the plaqueto be reinstated in a new concrete base.This plaque,commemorating the theatrehonours of the Regiment, was unveiled beside an upright Simon Poplar Tree at the Shrine of Remembrance by members of the regiment and dedicated by the Staff Chaplain, Southern Region. The ceremony took place on May 4, 1997 on a very wet day. The ceremony was organised by John Campbell.

The committee commissioned the manufacture of a small lapel badge in response to strong support at last year’s AGM. It is based on the colour patch that the men of the Regiment wore. The colour patch is not unique to the regiment, being the colour patch of the Royal Australian Artillery, 1 Aust Corps, of which the 2/3rd LAA Regt was just one unit. In the first instance the badge will be available to members at the Reunion and AGM Lunch on 21stApril.

We have recently installedtechnology (a SSL Certificate) on our website to ensure  that all data passed between the web server and users remain private and secure. This will provide confidence to legitimate users of the website and dissuade hacking.  It is an additional cost to the Association but a necessary one.

Despite instructions to the contrary from the RSL,16 descendants marched behind the Regiment banner on ANZAC Day in Melbourne in 2017. The Kindred Organisations and Unit Associations of the RSL had requested that descendants march at the rear, well away from our banner.  I note that in the 1998 President’s report in Take Post, Cec Rae wrote “The March (1997) was also well attended but as decreed by the unit associations only ex-service personnel were permitted to participate. In my opinion the younger generation should be welcomed to the March, as it is only through their interest the March will continue to remind people of the destructiveness of war.”

Some things don’t change – neither the opinion of the RSL, nor our resolve!

My thanks go to the Committee and office bearers for their work throughout the year, it is a real privilege and pleasure to work with them.

Colin Bragg has once again produced another excellent "Take Post" assisted by Malcolm Wrigglesworth. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and I trust you will enjoy reading Colin’s recent interviews with Dave Humphries (7thBattery) and Allen Martin (9thBattery) and be appalled as I was in reading John Purcell’s (7thBattery) description of  the desperate situation during the bombing prior on Crete to the invasion.

If you haven’t before, consider coming to the Reunion and/or the March with your family. You will be made most welcome and by including families we will continue to “remind people of the destructiveness of war”

 

Peace

 In the wake of the devastating Christchurch shootings this year, it is timely to remember what it was that our fathers and grandfathers fought for. They understood that their very way of life was threatened.

My father, Cec Rae VX48132, explained to me that when Britain declared war on Germany following Germany’s invasion of Poland, and Australia followed suit, Dad made up his mind that he would be ‘in it’. So, after the fall of France, the loss of troops at Dunkirk and the possible invasion of Britain, he and a number of his friends enlisted. From his memoirs: “in June 1940 came the surrender of France with the desperate evacuation of most of the British forces at Dunkirk. If Britain should fall where would Australia be? We young, fit and able chaps felt we should do something about it.”I can recall on a number of occasions, Cec warning of the danger to democracy and our way of life posed by right wing extremists.

 These men believed that it was their duty to fight against fascism, Nazism and (later) Japanese supremacy – extreme right wing ideology that lead to genocide, murder, torture and privation. They witnessed this and many succumbed in the name of war.

Whenever people, especially the young are alienated and disengaged, whenever we disregard the circumstances of others and fail to try to walk in their footsteps, whenever we look to simplistic, sloganistic ideology to explain our social and political situation, then we allow extremist views to perpetuate.

The Christchurch massacre reminds us that we each need to reach out to our neighbours and follow the example of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to ensure a peaceful, civil, inclusive and compassionate society for which our fathers and grandfathers fought.

75 years ago the Regiment had disbanded as an entity, with members of the Regimental Headquarters comprising part of the newly-created 102 Composite AA Regiment and based at Corunna Downs, W.A., Camp 319 Australia. 7thBattery were designated 2/7thLight Anti-aircraft Battery of the 2/2ndComposite AA Regiment, providing AA defences at Buna Beach and the nearby Cape Endaiadere in what is now the Oro (Northern) Province of PNG. Over 100 men of the Battery were POWs in Europe. 8thBattery was an independent airborne battery providing AA defences at Buna, Territory of Papua. 9thBattery was designated 2/9thLight Anti-aircraft Battery of the 2/3rdComposite AA Regiment, an independent battery providing AA defences at Milne Bay, Territory of Papua, while the Signals and the Workshop Sections were part of the newly-created 102 Composite AA Regiment, supporting the guns in NW WA.

This year’s edition of Take Post contains a number of fascinating stories ranging from the individual – those of John Campbell VX38276 and Bill Schack VX2541 both of 8thBattery, in A Tale of Two Ratswho were interviewed by our editor Colin Bragg, also the memoirs of Cec Donelly, VX46836, 7thBattery including his time as a POW – to the more general –Remembrance Group member Russell Luckock’s recent trip to Crete following the footsteps of 7thBattery, a reproduction of the Tobruk Truth of September 1941, and Paul Keating’s speech on the 75thanniversary of Armistice Day. This speech is still as powerful now as it was then.

As mentioned in my mid-term report, Research Officer, David McDonald has recently uploaded information regarding the 2/3rdALAA Regiment plaque to the Australian War Memorialwebsite: Places of Pride, the National Register of War Memorials. This is an Australian War Memorial initiative to record the location and gather images of every publicly accessible war memorial in Australia. You can view the 2/3rdAustralian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment memorial plaque entry at  https://placesofpride.awm.gov.au/ and enter anti-aircraft in the Search box.  The plaque situated under a Simon poplar tree was dedicated to the regiment in 1997 and can be found on the Shrine Reserve, between the south east corner of the Shrine of Remembrance and St Kilda Road, near the Park Street intersection.

Thanks again to the committee for their hard work throughout the year and particular thanks to Colin Bragg our Treasurer who once again has brought us a fascinating edition of Take Post. 

President’s Report

This year, we remember that seventy-five years ago, the 2nd/3rdAustralian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment departed the Middle East for Australia. Singapore had fallen to the Japanese and Australian Prime Minister Curtin insisted that the Australian troops come home as Northern Australia had been bombed by the Japanese. The men, having been away from home for more than a year disembarked in Adelaide and were billeted with families there. Regimental Headquarters and all three batteries paraded together. This was the last time this occurred. After disembarkation leave at home, RHQ, 7thBattery and 8thBattery (men, guns & equipment) travelled by train from Adelaide to Perth to provide air defences in WA and 9thBattery departed Adelaide for Queensland for jungle training, after which it travelled via Port Moresby to Milne Bay.

2017’s “Take Post” is again full of fascinating articles and my congratulations go to our editors Colin Bragg and Malcolm Wrigglesworth on another excellent production.

Our cover story juxtaposes the stories of two Prisoners of War (POWs) from the Regiment, Ian Baxter and John Hilliard, whom Colin recently interviewed. Coincidently, I recently read Barrie Cassidy’s book Private Bill: In Love and War(2014 Melbourne University Press) and was astonished to discover that Barrie’s father Bill was a member of the 8thBattery, 2/3rd ALAA Regiment (VX32438). Barrie, best known as the host of ABC’s Insidersprogram, writes a compelling story of Bill’s arrival on Crete on 25thApril 1941, his subsequent wounding and capture during the battle of Crete, and his four years as a POW. Like many of the men, on his return home to his wife and family he spoke little of his experiences and of the brutality and horror of war, his attempts at escape and the retribution that followed. Similarly, his wife Myra only revealed after 50 years the loneliness and loss that she felt when he was missing in action and the secret that she had kept for all those years.  This is a moving, well written story and includes some references to men and activities of the 2nd/3rdALAAR.

The 1942 account of the Battle of Crete from the German context from the “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” on page 8 of this edition provides the contrasting German perspective on the Battle written just 12 months afterwards.

Page 12 contains an excerpt from a book Wrecks & Reefs: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinearegarding the MVMacdhui. My father recorded in his diary boarding the Macdhuion 12thJune 1942 with 9thBattery. It sounds like the boat journey was a wonderful holiday from the bully beef and spuds they had been living on in Townsville. He wrote “The ship is quite nice and we are well situated near all conveniences. There is a wet bar on board.” For the next few days he describes the trip, the excellent food and “we had pure white table cloths, lovely silver cutlery, which we would have like to have souvenired but didn’t.” Take Post includes the menu from one of the meals.

The Battery disembarked on 15thJune.

17.30 Arrived in Moresby Harbour which is very sheltered – only one small jetty so we have to wait for a ship unloading there to leave.

17.45 Pulled in at the jetty.

18.00 Had dinner before we left – very nice. Driven out to the 3 mile ‘drome in trucks. There are some rather nice homes here but Moresby is not very large

June 16.

Up at 7 & we were rather surprised to find the country so nice. It could almost be around Fern Tree Gully. Quite a few gum trees around. Along a small range of hills to the south are some bomb craters nicely spaced.

In his memoirs Dad also wrote “Meanwhile Jim (Jim Paton VX48145, Dad’s mate) was not so fortunate as he had been detailed with several others to travel with our guns and equipment on the ship Karsik. This ship flew the Dutch flag and had been captured by the Dutch from the Germans on the outbreak of war. Her skipper was a rotund Hollander who enjoyed his Bols gin.

On 17thJune, 18 Japanese bombers escorted by fighters dropped several bombs around the Karsikand the Macdhui. The Macdhuiwas hit and was run ashore, but was of no further use and to think of all those lovely meals we had enjoyed on her and the silver we should have souvenired.

Remember Jim Paton and his mates were on the Karsik. Jim told me after the bombing that the bombs had missed the ship by good luck and the adroitness of the captain. However the men on the ship had several bad moments and it was at this time Jim took up smoking to steady the nerves. Apparently one of the Malay crew was calling to Allah for help and no doubt there were some silent prayers said to the Almighty. Jim spent two days on the Karsikbeing a target for the bombers. It would have been just too bad if the Karsikhad been hit as all our guns, trucks and some of our men would have been lost.” 

 This year will also see a different format for the Anzac Day March in Melbourne with descendants instructed to walk at the rear of the march rather than under our Regimental Banner.  This was not what our fathers and grandfathers wanted and I hope that the RSL will reconsider their instructions in the future. I urge you to continue to join together in the memory of the men of the Regiment and in particular those who did not return.

 Anne Rae