Secretary's Report 2013

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Category: History
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From The Secretary’s Desk

All my working life I kept what I referred to as my “Day Book” next to the telephone or beside the computer, so that I could summarise conversations or note any items of interest that may be useful at some future time.

When I became the Honorary Secretary of the Association, I adopted the same approach, except that I call it my “Log Book” and I keep it on my computer. It is where I keep brief summaries of letters, telephone conversations I have or emails I receive during the year. It makes the production of the annual Secretary’s Report and Sentry’s Log so much easier.

Whilst I still get occasional letters, most of the enquiries we receive now come through our web site (except when it was off line for about three weeks in January, caused by a technical glitch which was way beyond my capacity to understand – something to do with transferring our Domain Name Registration and Web Site Hosting).

Sadly, written letters tend to inform me that another of our veterans has passed away, and over the past twelve months, I received notification of the passing of Jack Berkley (8), Hugh Finn (9) and Bruce Tulloch (7).

Doreen Bryant, wife of our late former President Ron Bryant (8), contacted me to tell me she had received a phone call from John Croft (son of Jack “Nap” Croft (8)) advising that “Nap” had passed away. I subsequently had a long conversation with John Croft who confided that “Nap” didn’t talk much about his wartime experiences or the Association, but that he (John) was really interested in becoming a member.

I have again enjoyed some lengthy, informative and entertaining telephone conversations with Dave Humphreys (7), Bert Langley (9), Alan “Bushy” Read (9) as well as with former Committee members Cec Rae (9) and John Campbell (8) – more on these conversations in the Sentry’s Log.

Throughout the year, I was pleased to be contacted by a number of Association members with offers of photographs, including Graeme Guy (son of WH Guy [9]), Lyn Walsh (daughter of Frank O’Toole [9]), Shirley Brown (widow of Laurie Brown [7]), and Adam Elliot (grandson of John Malone [9]). John Fryer (son of Keith Fryer [8]) kindly provided me with some spare copies of early editions of “Take Post”.

Later in the year, John advised that his mother Trixie had passed away after a fall at her home – Trixie was a great supporter of the Association.

Once again the Association received a number of very welcome donations, which assists us in keeping the annual subscriptions low and enables us to underwrite the cost of the Annual Reunion Lunch and the production of “Take Post”. Thank you to all who made donations during the year, but special thanks to Dot Harris and Rosemary Weatherley.

2nd / 3rd Web Site

During the year we uploaded all the early Regimental Bulletins that were in our possession to the web site – they provide a fascinating insight into the life and times of former Regiment members in the ten years after the war – it is a great pity we have so few of these gems.

As is the case after the AGM and Annual ANZAC Day March, photographs of these events are uploaded to the web site, and other items of historical interest are added as they are compiled or become available throughout the year.

All of the photos taken at the Air Defence Luncheon in May have similarly been uploaded to the web site

When I assumed the Secretary’s role, I inherited a file full of “lists” and it continues to be the source of “rainy day” activities – for example, who was actually on Crete during the Battle of Crete, who was captured on Crete, who was transferred from the 2nd/3rd to the 2nd/4th and who was on what ship when the Regiment returned to Australia.

I have still have many lists to be added to the web site, and as time and inclination allows, they will be added under the Regiment History.

Membership

Again, we have welcomed new members of the Association over the past twelve months, with the number of descendants now numbering just on 100. However, I am at a loss to explain the non-renewal of memberships.

At the date of publication of the 2013 Take Post, there are only 34 surviving original members of the Regiment. There are nine former members of 7 Battery, nine of 8 Battery, twelve of 9 Battery and four of Workshops / Signals.

Widows of former original members account for a further 20 members.

SENTRY’S LOG

54 members, including 6 originals, attended the 2012 AGM and Reunion held in the Bourke Room at the RACV City Club. The originals in attendance were John Campbell (8), Ray Everlyn (9), Frank Hands (8), John Marshall (7), Cec Rae (9) and Earle Webster (7).

Approximately 20 members marched on ANZAC Day, and as indicated in the Mid-Term Report, for the first time since the end of WW2, none of our original members participated. Whilst the changed assembly point, appalling weather conditions and the number and advancing age of the remaining originals were factors in the low turn out, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the end of an era was also being signalled.

Early in the year, I received a lovely letter from Hugh Finn (9), in which he asked in his beautiful hand writing to be deleted from our mailing list as “my eyes are ‘kaput’ and my brain is following close behind (bad grammar here ending a sentence with a preposition” Hugh added “I still have my Pay Book and Discharge Book issued in the 40’s”.

Sadly, later in the year I was advised that Hugh Finn had passed away.

As reported in the Mid-Term Report, President Lynton Rose, Ian Rae (son of Cec Rae [9]) and myself accompanied John Campbell (8), John Marshall (8), Cec Rae (9) and Ian Rutter (7) to a luncheon with five serving officers of the Royal Australian Artillery held in The Cellar at the RACV City Club.

The animation of the discussions between the veterans and the serving members as they re-lived former experiences and explored modern warfare was something to behold and the afternoon flew by.

All the Association members present commented on the success of the occasion and I know from subsequent conversations with Captain Michael Squire that he and his four Lieutenants (Pru Connell, James Easton, Jimmy Nguyen and Sam Rynne) equally enjoyed the afternoon.

The presentation of the highly polished 40 mm Bofors shells to the veterans was a highlight of the afternoon. (see photos on page 15).

In April I had a very lengthy conversation with Dave Humphreys about his Crete experiences. Dave was the sergeant of the No. 1 gun at Maleme and his crew consisted of Les Harris, Ken Elder, Stan Watkins, Norm McDonald, Jack Ecker, Ron Selleck, Len Jeffreys, Lawrie Brown and Rupert Charles.

Dave also advised that:

Valda Malloch (widow of WG (Bill) Malloch [7]) sent me a lovely card with some very kind words complimenting the Association on the work it is doing to preserve the memory of the Regiment – thank you Valda.

Enquiries were received from the grand children of William Morrissy (7), John Confait (7), George Pope (8), Alan Rundle (9) and Percy Mortimer (Reinforcement) seeking information about their grand fathers and on becoming members of the Association.

In July Bert Langley (9) rang me to advise that a recent publication entitled “Australians At War – From The Beaches of Gallipoli to the Snows of Afghanistan” was available in Target Stores and it featured “our” Milne Bay photograph on the cover.

Bert, who was 88 in August (a young fella) advised me his No. 6 gun crew consisted of Dave Humphreys, Pancho McDonald, Frank Johnson, Alby Tyers, Eric Forrester, J McCoy, J Williams, Tom Dusting and ‘a fellow called Holland or Hollander’.

Bert also told me he went to Japan after the war as a member of the Occupation Forces as did Phil Roberts (see Phil Roberts Vale on Page 10).

Throughout the year I received several enquiries relating to the medals that fathers and/or grandfathers were entitled to wear.

Most of our members would be entitled to the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star, the Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Australian Service Medal 1939-45.

Those members who fought in New Guinea would also be entitled to the Pacific Star.

Photographs and criteria relating to the medals are on the web site.

Such an enquiry was received in September from Graeme Smith who contacted me with a request for information about his uncles (Lawrence Wollin Smith [8] and Charles Verdon Smith[8]).

With some valuable assistance from former Secretary, John Campbell [8], we were able to advise Graeme that both his uncles were captured during the Benghazi Retreat – because they spent the rest of the war as Prisoners of War, they did not participate in any action in New Guinea and therefore were not entitled to the Pacific Star.

It was interesting to receive a number of requests relating to the location of Memorials on Crete from descendants of former Regiment members who were planning to visit Crete.

There are six memorials on Crete commemorating the conflict that occurred on the island in 1941. They are located at Heraklion, Rethymno, Stavromenos, Maleme (Hill 107), the monastery at Preveli, and at Sphakia Beach. In addition, there is a significant war graves cemetery at Suda Bay.

The 2010 issue of Take Post contain a summary of our visit to Crete in 2009 and the 2012 issue contains a similar story relating to David McDonald’s visit to Crete in 2011. Both articles refer to the memorials on the island.

Whilst the past year has been a “steady as she goes” year, there remains a lot of hand written information and old typed (on a type writer) reports which we will in time digitise and upload to the web site.

For me personally, the year has again been both informative and enjoyable, and I continue to be gratified by the interest in and the support for the web site from both members and the general public.

As usual, any information about former Regiment members, be it anecdotes, stories, extracts of diaries and/or letters and/or photographs that individual families may know of and which we could use in future issues of “Take Post”, or to expand the photographic and document collection, is always welcomed.

My thanks go to all members of the Association for your continuing support.

Colin Bragg

Honorary Secretary