|Mr Mick Moran at left, Mr Bill Rudd (centre) and family, and myself at right. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
It was a pleasure to attend the national commemorative service at the Australian Ex-POW's Memorial in Ballarat on Sunday, 7th February.
The Memorial lists all Australian Ex-POW's from the Boer War onwards. It includes recognition of those POW's captured during the battle of Greece and Crete in 1941.
The service was well attended, with many surviving ex-POW's present, senior representatives of all services and local dignitaries. Below are some photographs from the service.
|Photo Jim Claven 2016|
|The many wreaths laid. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
|The Australian Ex-POW Memorial. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
|Ms Wright delivering her address. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
|Mr David Manning addresses the crowd. Photo Jim Claven 2016|
Two of the highlights were the address by Ms Paddy Wright (author of Ray Parkin's Odyssey and The Men of the Line) and the recitation by David Manning, a survivor of the sinking of the HMAS Perth and an Ex-POW.
Many wreaths were laid, including by Mr Steve Kyritsis, on behalf of the RSL Hellenic Sub-Branch, who organised a bus-load of attendees for this important event.
|Commemorative Booklet. Image Jim Claven 2016|
It was also a pleasure to meet up with Mr Bill Rudd, a veteran of El Alamein and Ex-POW, his family and Mr Mick Moran, son of Corporal Henry Moran, a digger who served with the 2/8th AIF Battalion in Greece and Crete in 1941 and was mentioned in dispatches for his service in the Middle East, Greece and Crete, including at the battle of Vevi.
Mr Rudd played a major role in the establishment of the Memorial and continues to assist in verifying the list of POW's honoured at the Memorial. It was announced at the commemorative service that more names had been added and an appeal was made to anyone who had evidence or information supporting the inclusion of other Ex-POW's.
Over lunch, Mr Moran recounted some of his father's memories of the war, including Greece and Crete. Fortunately Henry Moran was recorded on video prior to his passing. Ballarat is the home town of the 2/8th Battalion, the Battalion flag is also on display at the Ballarat Town Hall.
|John William Probert's WW2 enlistment photograph. AWM|
An Ex-POW of Two World Wars - Elsternwick's John William Probert
Ms Paddy Wright's address included the moving story of John William Probert - an Australia who was unfortunate to have been a prisoner of war in both the First and Second World War.
For those who were unable to attend, the following details I have assembled from Ms Wrights address and the biography of John Probert by Jolyon Horner at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
John had been born in Elsternwick in Victoria in 1893. He traveled to England, where he enlisted in the Rifle Brigade, arriving in northern France on 23 August 1914. He was wounded and captured at the bloody battle of La Cateau in 1914 - where my own grandfather Private John Dunnion fought with the King's Own Scottish Borderers and was also captured. Held in a POW camp near Berlin, he escaped in 1917 after receiving news that his father was ill. He successfully made his way to england, where he enisted in the Royal Air Force. For his escape, John earned the Military Medal. By war's end, John was commissioned as an officer pilot in the Royal Air Force.
He returned to Australia in 1919 and took up a soldier settlement plot near Rankins Springs in NSW - which as Paddy said lacked water, despite its name! Conditions were very harsh and establishing the farm would be difficult. The stress of the situation led to divorce. Re-married, John finally left the farm in 1938.
A member of the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve in February 1939, John tried to enlist when the Second World War broke out. After various attempts and false starts due to his advanced age (including being temporarily accepted when he under-stated his age!), he was finally accepted under the adopted name of Moule-Probert in April; 1941. A Driver with the 2/15th Field Regiment, John served in Malaya and was sadly captured and eventually shipped to Sandakan. Suffering overwork, starvation, beatings and denied medical supplies, John was one of the more than 2,400 British and Australian POW's who died at Sandakan - only 6 surviving.
In researching John's story, Ms Wright referred to his glamorous looks, captured in the photograph of John as a RAF pilot in WW1, comparing him to Cary Grant!
For more information on the story of John William Probert, see the book Prisoner in Two World Wars - An Australian soldier's story by Sherrif and John Probert.
Lest we forget.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee