Soldiers in training at Moruya: ANZAC Day 2013

MORUYA resident Tom Irwin has an interesting photo taken of local soldiers in training during WWII.

He only remembers a few of the men in the photo but at the back left is Amos Walter Foster Windley enlisted in the Army on August 22, 1942 joining a transport unit.

Lieutenant Amos Windley was killed on February 4, 1944 after a jeep rolled on him in Queensland.

Standing next to Amos is Tom’s older brother William “Billy” John Phillip Irwin who went on to be a gunner and went to New Guinea twice. He was discharged on November 17, 1944.

Fifth from the left back row is Kenneth Francis Marsden who enlisted on July 29, 1942 and was discharged on March 28, 1946.

He was a driver in the 132 Australian General Transport Company. In the front row second from the left is Lawrence “Laurie” or “Sconny” Henry Mehl who was a Corporal with the Australian and New Guinea Administrative unit.

He joined the Army on July 24, 1942 and was discharged on May 13, 1946. Front far right is Kenneth “Kenny” James Behringer, who joined the Army on November 18, 1942 and was a Private with the 5 Transport Company before he was discharged on October 4, 1943.

The photo was believed to have been taken in Moruya some time in 1942 or 1943.

Tom Irwin, 88, himself is a veteran of WWII, having fought with the 55/53 Australian Infantry Battalion on Bougainville.

He enlisted in the Army on October 5, 1944 and served until December 10, 1946.

Tom doesn’t like to talk about his war experience because it was too horrific and he has never talked about it with his family.

The 55th and 53rd Battalions had different histories and didn’t merge until 1937.

The two battalions were initially made up of part-time soldiers of the Citizens Military Force and although the 55th demonstrated good potential for active fighting the 53rd did not fare well when it went into action for the first time along the Kokoda Trail and was thereafter disparagingly referred to as “that mob”.

The 55th/53rd soon lost its stigma during the hard fighting at Sanananda and on Bougainville that ensued.

Not long after Tom joined the battalion it sailed from Brisbane to Torokina, the Australians main base on Bougainville, where they joined other battalions to form the 11th Brigade responsible for the northern and central sectors.

During the first few months of 1945 the brigade managed to contain the Japanese to the Bonis Peninsula the northern most tip of Bougainville.

The 55th/53rd established the Ratsau-Ruri Bay line with constant patrolling.

However the Japanese resistance intensified and they infiltrated the line with constant shelling of the Australians. The terrain was also wearing down the battalion as the men had to patrol through leach-filled swamps and fast-flowing rivers.

Exhausted the men were relieved on May 19, 1945 and in September the battalion embarked for Simpson Harbour in New Britain where it joined the Australian force garrisoning Rabual where it was reorganised and remained until May 1946 before in returned to Australia.

During the Australian Bougainville campaign 8,500 Japanese were killed in action or died of wounds and 9,000 died of disease or illness. 23,500 Japanese surrendered to the Australians in September 1945.

During the whole of the Bougainville campaign, 516 Australians were killed or died of wounds and 1,572 were wounded.

Tom Irwin had three brothers and five sisters, with all the boys excluding the youngest son fighting in WWII.

ANZAC ceremonies around the district

 Narooma:

THE Dawn service is at 6am at the War Memorial at Club Narooma followed by breakfast at the club.

The 11am Memorial Service is also at the Club Narooma War Memorial with marchers gathering in front of the Visitor Information Centre at 10.40am.

The ANZAC service and wreath laying will be followed up by a luncheon at the club.

 Bermagui:

The Bermagui dawn service commences 6am at the War Memorial where lone piper Jessie Hardy will play a lament as horsemen from the Bemboka Light Horse parade towards the Memorial and fall in.

President Neville Staehr will conduct the service, followed by the traditional “Gun Fire Breakfast” at the Bermagui Country Club, catered by the RSL Women’s Auxiliary.

The Bermagui Memorial Service commences 11am at the War Memorial with participants forming up on Lamont Street opposite Spar and marching off at 10.45am sharp, led by the Light Horse.

Guest speaker will be Air Commodore (Retired) Dr Gary Waters.

Following the Memorial Service, RSL members and guests will have lunch at the Bermagui Country Club.

 Tilba:

A CEREMONY to commemorate ANZAC Day will be held at the Tilba District War Memorial in Bate Street, Central Tilba, commencing at 11am on ANZAC Day on Thursday, April 25. The ceremony will be preceded by a march past of service personnel and Tilba school children.

 Cobargo:

March starts at 10.30am at the Cobargo School of Arts. The ANZAC Commemoration Service will follow at the Soldiers’ Memorial on the Princes Highway.

 Tuross Head:

Dawn service at Memorial Gardens at 5.45am, then assemble at 10.30am for the march from Birdwood Circle to the Country Club, where the ANZAC service with an ADFA contingent will take place.

 Quaama and Wandella:

Quaama will host a brief service at the Quaama Memorial at 9.30am, while Wandella has a march and ANZAC Commemoration Service at the hall at 2pm.

 Other ANZAC notes:

Motorists are asked to also please drive with caution on Thursday morning for the ANZAC marches. Road closures will be Allenby Road and Monash Avenue in Tuross Head, the Princes Highway in Narooma and Bate Street in Central Tilba.

NSW Police are also urging motorists to drive with caution on the holiday and will have extra patrols and the Southern NSW Local Health District’s Drink Drive Prevention Team is also warning against drink driving.

Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly will represent Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith at this year’s ANZAC Day National Ceremony in Canberra, and he will attend the dawn service at Queanbeyan.

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