A Spirit of Courage and Mateship; Commemorative Service Recognises Central Queenslanders' Roles in Changing the Course of WWII

Article excerpt

Byline: WORDS: Chris Chase

Lest we forget

A commemorative service to mark the 70th anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk will be held at Rockhampton's Jeffries Park, on the corner of Alma and Albert streets, on Saturday, December 10, from 9am;

Later in the day about 80 people will attend a special luncheon at The Cambridge Hotel;

Among the attendees will be Central Queenslander's last remaining Rat, Howard a[approximately]Blue' McArthur and Gordon Wallace, a Rat who is coming from Brisbane for the service;

Victoria Cross recipient Keith Payne will also be among those in attendance and he will perform the call of the honour roll at the service.

MORE than 80 people will attend a commemorative service in Rockhampton next Saturday to mark the 70th anniversary of the siege of Tobruk.

It will be a special day for those involved as they remember the 100 or so Central Queenslanders who played their part at Tobruk, a Libyan port.

For many the gallant efforts of the Rats during the 242 day siege in 1941 was a turning point of World War II. It was the first defeat of the highly-decorated German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps and marked the start of progressive victories for the Allies.

Here Rockhampton's Chris Chase, whose father Brian fought and was injured at Tobruk, details in his own words how events unfolded.

When war broke out in 1939, young Australian men, including about 100 from Central Queensland, answered the call to join the armed forces and go overseas to repel axis forces who were striving to conquer the free world.

These young men, some as young as 18, left their homes, their sweethearts, their jobs and their sports to follow a dream of adventure and danger.

With the defeat of the Hun in the first war embedded in their memory, or in the memory of their fathers, they prepared to face the enemy.

They sailed across the Indian Ocean on the converted cruise liner the Queen Mary; a vessel so fast the submarines of the enemy and even the escort destroyers couldn't match her speed.

One can imagine the feeling of excitement and anticipation in their minds.

The many poker games won and lost occupied the young soldiers' time.

They sailed through the Suez Canal on route to Gaza to complete their desert training, with a limited supply of adequate arms.

Their inducement to desert life, with the traditional supply of flies and dust storms, was testing to say the least.

Rations were limited with the supply of cigarettes a necessary part, as were the needs of the day.

The Australian soldiers were unique in their larrikin image, of soldiers of little discipline and much bravado, but this image was tempered by their success on the battlefield and the reality of soldiers well trained and with a ajob to doa ; a job they did with a spirit of mateship and courage. …