President’s Report 2017
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 Guinea regarding 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
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 Karsik and 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.