IN MEMORY OF THE FALLEN
from Beecroft and Cheltenham in World War II by Tony Cunneen
Beecroft War Memorial
Killed 1939 -1945
There are twenty names on the Beecroft War memorial under the section World War Two.
These men who died in that conflict measure in some part the grief and disruption of the district during the period 1939 to 1945. Many other men and women joined the Armed Forces as well. The district sent personnel to all theatres and facets of the war: prison camps in Borneo, air conflict in the Mediterranean and Europe, as well as the trials of infantry combat on the Kokoda track.. By focussing first on the men listed on the memorial it is hoped to give some indication of how the War years passed, marked by the death in action of many local men. The initial outbreak of the war with Germany in 1939 saw professional servicemen placed on active duty.
While a number of men from the district had either joined up early or been active in the Services before the war began it was the commencement of the war with Japan in December 1941 which increased the involvement of the local men in the fighting and brought the first fatalities. The Japanese attack down the Malay Peninsular to Singapore marked the introduction to action of the 2/18th the 2/19th and the 2/20th Battalions as well as the 2/3rd Ambulance. These Units comprised many men from the Sydney region and so a number of men from Beecroft and Cheltenham saw their first action against the Japanese and a number went into captivity. Later in the year there were fierce battles in New Guinea in which local men lost their lives. The first casualty was in early 1942. He was a popular, powerful man who lived in Copeland Road East), Tony Smith.
THOMAS ANTHONY (TONY) SMITH NX2157. A.I.F. 2/19TH Bn.
Tony Smith was one of Nature’s gentlemen. He was born in England, and when his brothers enlisted in the army he felt he should too – probably assuming he would be sent to fight Germany. He was well known in the district as a casual laborer, getting what work he could. There was still mass unemployment. He was physically a very strong man who helped the local grocer, Frank (Jack) Powell, and the local newsagent with their deliveries. He and his wife lived towards the end of Copeland Road East. They had one son, only a few months old when Tony left for war. Tony trained for the infantry in 1941 in a variety of camps including Dubbo. He went overseas with the 2/19th Battalion to Malaya. Unfortunately the Japanese attack down the Malay peninsular towards Singapore caught the Australian, Indian and British troops by surprise. Many of the Australian troops were called on to steady their allies, who were untrained in jungle warfare. Tony wrote to his wife: “You may not hear from me for a while.” It was his last letter. There were a series of increasingly desperate rearguard stands. The Official History of Australia in the War records that on the 18th of January, 1941, the 2/19th Battalion was put in to defend the village of Bakri on the West coast of Malaya from assault by the 4th and 5th Japanese Guards regiments. There were a number of engagements during the day in which the Japanese used tanks against the Australians. In one of them Tony Smith was killed. The commander of this action, Lieutenant Colonel C.G.W.Anderson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his leadership over the fighting withdrawal over five days. His wife did not hear of Tony’s death until a week later. She was left with a baby of nine months. The post master would make many such deliveries before the war ended. Tony Smith is buried at Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.
REX GRAHAM ATKINSON. N175926.
Private Atkinson was the son of Eric and Hilda. Eric had been a captain in the 19th Battalion in the First A.I.F. in World War One. His address was given as Bondi, but he is on the Beecroft Memorial. His cause of death is listed as ‘Accidental Drowning” at the Australian War Memorial. The date given is the 1st of April, 1942. He was a member of the Service Corps.
THOMAS WATKINS RAYMENT 1258093.
Commonwealth War Graves notes that Flight Sergeant Rayment was the son of Herbert and Loise of eecroft. Herbert was a Justice of the Peace. Thomas died on the 16th of June, 1942 and is buried at Avesnes-sur-helpe communal Cemetery, Nord, France. He is not listed at the Australian War Memorials Roll of Honour, so it is possible he was a British Citizen, serving in the Royal Air Force.
ATHOL CAMPBELL BAIRD NX56438
Lieutenant Baird was listed on the War Graves Commission as the son of Arthur and Mylie of Point Clare on the Central Coast. His Uncle, Major T.P. Clark had won the Military Cross in World War One. Athol was an insurance clerk and accountant before he joined the Australian Field Regiment in the Artillery and served in New Guinea. In August, 1942, he saw action against the Japanese in the Battle of Milne Bay. The Official History of Australia in the War (pg169) states that on the 27th of August, 1942, “the battle was going against the defenders. As midnight approached Major Miethke (of the 2/10th Battalion) had four separate frontal attacks by chanting Japanese. Strong attacking groups were fighting the Australians from many points inside their own defences, however, and the numbers of these groups were constantly increasing. The Australian casualties were mounting, among the killed being Lieutenant Baird,” who was acting as one of the Artillery observation officers communicating with headquarters in the rear. It was a fierce battle.
1943 saw the Nazi occupation of Europe, allied bombing raids over Germany and the continuing battles in New Guinea. Local men were still in captivity and others fought in a variety of campaigns.
GEORGE FRANCIS FLYNN VX89756.
Acting Lieutenant Flynn first lived in Pennant Hills Road, Beecroft, the son of James and Thyna. His occupation was listed as a Land Valuer in the Valuer Generals Department. He was married to Gwenyth. He joined the 29/46 Australian Infantry Battalion. He was listed as killed in action in New Guinea on the 22nd of March, 1943
HAROLD KENNETH PRIESTLEY NX49597.
Corporal Priestly was the son of Herbert and Daisy of Boundary Road Pennant Hills. He attended West Pennant Hills Public School. He was a ledger keeper before joining the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion. He served in Papua New Guinea and was killed in action on the 23rd of December, 1942. During that month Priestley’s unit was involved a “slow struggle amongst the swamps bordering the Sananda Track” according to the Official History of Australia in the War (pgs 497 – 501). It had been a hard campaign for the militia unit and they were spread amongst a number of units. There was another attack by the 49th
Battalion on the 19th of December and in the ensuing, confused series of actions Priestley was killed.
DERMOT PATRICK AHERN NX13958.
Sergeant Ahern was the son of Patrick and Josephine Ahern and the husband of Nancy. He was born in Ireland and is listed as living in 48 The Crescent, Cheltenham. He joined the 2/15th Field Regiment, the Royal Australian Artillery and was captured n thefall of Singapore. He died on the notorious Burma Thailand Railway on July 17, 1943, aged 36.
FRANK S. SPOONER 402682
Flying Officer Spooner joined No. 8 Squadron, the RAAF. The Official History (Pgs 82-83) states that in March 1943 the Squadron was given Beaufort Airplanes and had “rigorous training as a torpedo squadron. They served in Queensland then went by ship to Goodenough Island, to Vivigani Airfield, to the north of New Guinea in the Solomon Sea. On the 23rd of September, 1943, under the command of Wing Commander Nicoll the squadron attacked the Japanese held Cape Hoskins Airfield at dawn, “losing one crew, captained by Flying Officer Spooner.” Spooner is also commemorated in St Alban’s Anglican Church in Epping.
1944 was the year of the allied invasion of Normandy and the continuing Pacific Campaign against the Japanese. Many local men were active in the air campaigns in both theatres. Casualties amongst local men would reach a peak during this year.
FRANK PHILLIP STANGER 413683
Pilot Officer Frank Stanger was the son of Howard and Evelyn Stanger of Beecroft. The family lived in a beautiful house in Hannah Street. The house was later occupied by the well known actor, Ruth Cracknell. Stanger was part of a group of energetic young men who played tennis on the family court every weekend. Many of these men lost their lives in the war. He joined 252 Squadron the RAF. Records show the Squadron was based in Mersa Matruh West in Egypt. Flying Beaufighters in February 1944. Stanger was listed as killed in battle on the 9th of February, 1944. 252 Squadron record books show that on the 9th of February, 1944 4 Beaufighters went out in the Eastern Aegean on an “Offensive Shipping search.” Off Cape Zulufi the aircraft spotted and enemy convoy. The pilot of one of the aircraft called “Turn to port” on the radio and at the same time another pilot sighted 3 Messerschmitt 109s 2000 yards away and slightly above the Beaufighters. One Beaufighter was observed diving into the sea in flames pursued by a Messerschmitt. The same enemy plane then attacked another Beaufighter which weaved into the clouds. The last sighting of Stanger’s aircraft was it being chased by two Messerschmitt 109s. Stanger’s plane failed to return to base. His other crewman was Flight Sergeant James Reynolds of London
HENRY GILLON McALLISTER 21660
Flight Sergeant McAllister was born in Scotland, the son of James and Margaret. He married another Margaret who came from Beecroft. He was a Tram Conductor before joining the RAAF and was later attached to the RAF. He joined the famous 460 Squadron as a wireless operator and flew 10 missions in Lancasters. He was listed as killed in a Flying Battle on the 28th of April, 1944. He is buried at Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, Pas de Calais, France. There was a report of his being missing posted in The Advocate in June, 1944. Squadron records show that Mc Allister’s plane, ND364, AR-F’ off from Binbrook for operations to Friedrichshafen at 21.33 hours and was seen to explode in the air and fell at Luxluin near Rupt-sur-Moselle (Vosges). All on board were killed. Apart from McAllister were two Englishmen, Sergeant Thomas Jones and Sergeant Roy Pountney and four Australians: Warrant Officer Joseph Leary of Claremont W.A., Warrant Officer Allan Farrar of Haberfield NSW and Flight Sergeant Arthur Patterson of Hurstville, NSW and Flying Officer Brown.
REX HATHERLEIGH WALKER NX156781
Lance Corporal Walker was the son of William and Lillian, and the husband of Marjorie who lived in Welham Street, Beecroft. He was a dairyman before joining the 35 Australian Infantry Battalion. He died of illness in New Guinea on the 21st of May, 1944. Walker is also commemorated in St Alban’s Anglican Church in Epping.
KEITH EDWARD KERRIDGE 421226
The Kerridge family of Cheltenham were well known in the area. Four brothers joined up: John and Noel to the Army and Keith and Alan to the RAAF. Keith was original called up to the militia for 3 months before joining the Air Force. He trained at Cootamundra and Sale then sailed on the Queen Elizabeth to more training in Canada. Keith was known as a very friendly chap. said Peter. Overseas, people would often ask the likeable young man to their homes.Keith underwent the intensive training course as a navigator in Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme then joined 38 Squadron of the RAF, flying Wellingtons out of North Africa. On Thursday, 3rd of August, 1944 he was part of a mission to attack the German held Greek mainland in preparation for the allied invasion. Keith’s plane was shot down by enemy aircraft and crash landed near the island of Kios, landing in only 10 feet of water, said Peter. Despite the relatively intact landing the Wellington was notorious for being difficult to get out of and only one member of the crew of three Australians and three Englishmen escaped. Two other Australians died in the crash: Pilot Officer Keen of Temora and Warrant Officer Jordan of Paddington. The postmaster came to the door as he did for everyone who was killed. Keith was the son of Walter and Eileen. He was a journalist before joining up, and died aged 23.
FLIGHT SERGEANT GEORGE JOHN HOWARD 420883.
Official records show that Flight Sergeant Howard was a clerk before enlisting. He was the son of George and Jennie Howard of Copeland Road, Beecroft. He joined the RAAF and was attached to the RAF, joining 181 squadron flying Typhoon aircraft. He was listed as presumed killed on D Day, the 6th of June, 1944 in France. He is buried at Bayeaux Cemetery.181 Squadron was based in Hurn, Hampshire. 181 Squadron was commanded by Squadron Leader C.D. North-Lewis DFC and was part of No. 124 Wing of No.85 Group 2nd Tactical Airforce. At the time 124 Wing were commanded by a Norwegian, Wing Commander Erik Haabjorn. The squadron was operating in a ground attack role on D Day, supporting the Allied invasion of Normandy. The famous German 21st Panzer Division was being held in reserve around Caen – they were billeted throughout the south of the city. When the allied invasion occurred the Panzer tanks counter-attacked towards the beaches. 181 Squadron fulfilled a vital role in intercepting this counter-attack. The typhoons carried rockets or bombs and attacked the columns of tanks directly – diving down steeply to release their bombs at around two thousand feet. It was dangerous work as the aircraft came close to heavily armed German units but the aircraft attacks were successful. Flight Sergeant Howard was lost in one of these missions and was reported to have been shot down by German Flak, or ground fire in the afternoon. Howard was flying a Hawker Typhoon Mk.1b and carried the letters EL-W.
FLIGHT SERGEANT EDWARD PHILLIP AUSTIN 429105
Flight Sergeant Austin (known as Phillip) was the son of Edward and Alice of Cheltenham and married to Patricia. He and Patricia moved there with his family when they were married, staying with them in Lyons Road from about 1943 onwards. They attended the Church of England in Cheltenham under the Rector, Canon Johnson.Phillip joined the army early in the war and was sent to Western Australia. He transferred to the RAAF in 1942 and for a time was based at Evans Head on the New South Wales Coast training as a Wireless operator. He would travel home on leave by train, arriving at the most “ungodly times” due to the busy lines. He went overseas in September 1943. He went on the Queen Mary across the Pacific then train across America to New York, where he stayed for about five days, then to southern England. He did a lot of training in wireless operation.He joined 462 Squadron as a Wireless Operator, flying in a Halifax out of Driffield said his widow Patricia. Most of the crew were Australians. Most of Phillip’s letters home dealt with the daily life of the Station. He was a “marvelous pianist”. As such he was in great demand for Mess parties, and he wrote about how much he enjoyed these evening gatherings around the piano. Mostly he played popular music and “he was great on Fats Waller.”Phillip had around 7 operational sorties in the Welllington. On the 23rd of October, 1944, as the battle for Normandy raged Phillip’s plane was shot down. Once again the post master made the trip to a family, this time to tell Phillip’s mother.
VICTOR WINSTON PARTRIDGE 443265.
Pilot Officer Partridge (RAAF) was the son of Victor and Olive Partridge of Beecroft. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that he died on the 8th of November, 1944, aged 22. The Roll of Honour states that he was a member of No 5 Operational Training Group based at Williamtown, and that his death was accidental.
While 1945 was the last year of the war, no one knew that at the time. Prisoners of War under the Japanese would suffer their worst time of incarceration in places such as Sandakan and local men would die within a few months of the end of hostilities. The risk of accidental death was still great as indicated by a number of the deaths in this year.
STANLEY JAMES MINETT 423814
Warrant Officer Minett, RAAF, was the son of John and May, and the husband of Valentina. Commonwealth War Graves record that he died on the 14th of January, 1945, aged 27. He is buried in Cambridge City Cemetery in the United Kingdom. The Roll of Honour states that he was a member of the 462 Squadron and that his death was accidental.
AUSTIN GEORGE FENTON MBE NX484.
Lieutenant Colonel Fenton as the son of Alfred and Constance, and husband of Dorothy of Beecroft. He was a journalist in civilian life and was the Chief Sub Editor on the Newcastle Morning Herald when the War broke out in September, 1939. He joined the Army reserve serving in the Intelligence section and was promoted to Captain in December 1939, soon after he joined the AIF. He went with the 7th Division to the Middle East and Crete and served as Chief Censor – working closely with the War Correspondents. In the confused time of the evacuation of Greece and Crete he was reported missinG a number of times. By 1940 the family had moved to Malton Road in Beecroft.His son Tim (Adrian) remembers him:“I was six when Dad went to war. He came home occasionally. I remember him coming up to Beecroft Public School once to find out how I was going. He was a very jovial fellow – ‘hail fellow well met’ – that sort of bloke. He was fairly tall, fond of golf – had been keen on shooting when he was in the Army Reserve. One Christmas, it may have been 1940 or 1941 there was a program where you heard messages from soldiers overseas. They were all allowed a minute or so. We sat there waiting and heard this man, this man, this man then ‘There’s Dad!’ Then it was over.” There is a photo of Major Fenton taken on the 1st of November, 1942 at the Four Mile Base during the Allied campaign in the Owen Stanley Ranges and Kokoda. He is recorded as being the Army DR (Director of Public Relations) and he is surrounded by the best of Australian and American War correspondents including George Johnson, Chester Wilmot and George Silk. Fenton was friendly to them all. Information in the War Memorials Honours and Awards database state that Fenton received a Mention in Dispatches on the 23rd of December, 1943, and was posthumously made a Member of the Order of the British Empire on the 19th of July, 1945 The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate of the 24th of January 1945 reported him being missing since January 22nd. It wrote that in 1944 “because of his wide knowledge of the campaigns in which Australians had fought he was loaned by the Directorate of Public Relations to the Military History section. His duties entailed considerable air travel so that he could interview units now serving in widely scattered war theatres.” At the time he was working with Gavin Long preparing the important Official History of Australia in the War. On the 22nd of January he was on one of two planes which flew from Port Moresby towards Lae. “The last anyone saw of them was flying over the mountains from Port Moresby” said Tim Fenton. The Argus of the Lieutenant Colonel Fenton was reported missing, presumed killed on the 28th of January. The wreckage of the plane containing his remains was not discovered until 1961. A full account of Lieutenant Colonel Fenton’s life has been written and is attached as a separate draft.
ALBERT CHARLES MOORE NX39905.
Private Moore was the son of Albert and Lillian and the husband of Gladys (nee Allum) of West Pennant Hills. The family had moved to the district early in the century and built landmark houses in Beecroft and on Pennant Hills Road. Albert was always known as Charlie. He attended Beecroft Public School. He bought a fruit farm on Aiken Road in West Pennant Hills. His next door neighbour was Frank Gibson. He remembered Charlie Moore very well:
“I was the same age as his son, Edwin. I was always over there. I used to play with Edwin in the bush and Charlie would whistle out to us to come in. Charlie saved my life when I was about 10. I was on a buggy in Taylor Street and the horse bolted. Charlie lifted me off before I was hurt. He was a terrific bloke. He owned an old Pontiac and used to take us to the beach. He also had a trotter and sulky. He could go to Dee Why and back in one day in it.The orchard was quite big a successful. Charlie’s father had been a fruit trader under the name “Moore and Lloy” in the city markets. There was a piggery on the property and a big packing shed for the apples. Charlie grew dahlias and each year there was a beautiful display. He liked cooking sponge cakes. He and his wife always slept out on the verandah of their house, despite the coldest weather. It was a time when people never locked their doors.
Albert joined the army with his friend Ron Shields in July, 1941 Frank Gibson recalls him coming around to say goodbye: “He was a fine looking bloke in uniform. I can still see him standing on the step.”
Moore and Shields joined the 2/18th Battalion. This Battalion also endured the trials of the Malayan Campaign in 1941 to 1942 and surrendered at Singapore. One of their most famous battles was at the bridge, and Charlie Moore was a part of it. Moore first went into Changi Prisoner of War camp with the unit. Australian War Memorial records state that on the 23rd of March, 1943 Albert was transferred from Changi as part of ‘E Force’. ‘E Force’ was a group of 1000 British and Australian POWs who sailed on the S.S. DeKlerk from Berhala Island, adjacent to Sandakan in North Borneo, arriving on the 15th of April. They stayed there until the 5th of June then they were taken by barge to Sandakan. The next day they were taken to the 8 mile Camp. The Sandakan camps were among the worst that the Japanese conducted. Albert survived until the 10th of April, 1945, when it is recorded that he died of malaria, but in common with all the casualties in Sandakan it was the starvation and brutal treatment by the Japanese guards which contributed most to his death. He was 43 years old when he died and his family did not learn of his death until after the war.
Frank Gibson remembers the anticipation the family felt at his return: “When the war in the Pacific ended I ran up to the house and spoke to Charlie’s wife. I said “Mr Moore will be home soon won’t he.” We had no idea he was dead.”
A few days later the death notice was delivered to Mrs Moore by the daughter of the local postmaster. As she often did, the young girl stayed with the distraught relative throughout the day and returned regularly to help in any way she could.
Many others from the district also died at Sandakan. From Hornsby there was Walter Beer, Roy Phelps, Daniel Mongan and George Plunkett who died in late 1944 or 1945; there was Cecil Pogson of Thornleigh as well as Ernest Short, Johannes Brinkmann; Jack Orr and John Glennie of Epping.
AUBREY CHARLES HEATH
Private Heath was the son of Charles and Alice. He joined the 2/20th Battalion and must have gone into captivity with them after the fall of Singapore. He endured over three years of hardship as a Prisoner of War and is recorded as having died on the 20th of September, 1945, over a month after the war in the Pacific ended and after he had been recovered from captivity. He was 37 years old, and is buried in Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.
DAVID LOGAN MUNRO
It is not clear if the D Munro on the Memorial is the same David Logan Munro whose next of kin lived in Marrickville, but this is the only D Munro listed as killed in the War Memorial database. David was listed as a Flight Sergeant in No 14 Advanced Flying Unit and he was accidentally killed in Scotland.
OTHER SERVICEMEN FROM THE DISTRICT
Obviously many more men and women than those listed on the War Memorial served in the War. Other sources of information supply a number of names and details.
PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH HONOUR BOARD .
The Honour Board for the Beecroft Presbyterian Church lists the names of some people from the district who served. Their names are:
A.S. Mac William
L. H. Pople
Some of these men have have been mentioned so far but there is much still to be found out. If anyone has any information about these men and women then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org