Both my grandfathers served in World War II and I'm going to start piecing together their experiences. This letter by my paternal grandfather is of immeasureable help, and I collated some other information a year ago that I'll subsequently post. Together with his unit history, a few photos, other records and some recollections of his stories I should be able to put together a summary of his movements.
This letter was response to the following advert, sent by a wartime friend who lived in Perth:
Transcript: Information is sought from ex-servicemen who were camped in the Moora shire area during World War II. Details of their names, addresses, unit name and the area or property on which they were camped are sought for a planned commemorative plaque as part of the Moora centenary celebrations to be held in 1995. Contact: Mrs E. Lefroy, Box 85, Moora 6510.
My grandfather wrote a letter in reply:
"12 Burns Street,
CROYDON NSW 2132
Mrs. E. Lefroy,
MOORA, W.A. 6510
Dear Mrs. Lefroy,
A friend of mine in Perth recently sent me a cutting from a paper containing a request from you for information regarding ex-servicemen who were camped in the Moora Shire area during World War II.
My army details were – NX.142224, Private John Hall, 30th Infantry Battalion, 8th Brigade, 2nd Division, A.I.F. This Battalion was a Sydney-based standing Unit, even in peace-time, and was known as the N.S.W. Scottish Regiment, being officially affiliated with the famous Black Watch Regiment of Scotland.
The other infantry battalions attached to the Brigade were the 4th and 25th plus an armoured unit and whilst they must have always been located in reasonably close proximity, my battalion had very little contact with them.
Following the Japanese midget submarine attack in Sydney Harbour, were were shipped to Fremantle and then sent to Chidlow Junction by train to settle in. This must have been about mid-year 1942 for the weather was freezing. We were subsequently moved about in the vicinity of Gin Gin, Minginew (?) and Dongarn, etc. and finally camped about 12 miles out from Moora on the coastal side, I think. The troops were then spread out in small batches of men along the coast-line.
The camp was out fro Moora, along a gravel road (probably made by the Engineers) and was situated in what seemed to be the virgin bush… sand, trees, blackboys, kangaroo paws etc. with absolutely no sign of civilization – no fences, farms or anything.
I worked in Transport and one of my regular trips was to take rations, especially water, to a small group of infantrymen located at Jurien Bay. There were no roads – just sand and scrub until one reached the limestone coastal strip at the Bay (this journey was in four-wheel drive vehicles and took most of the day). The only signs of civilization were two homesteads, one of which served as a “marker” in the distance for me to turn to the coast (I never visited it) and the other a housestead located on a coastal hill-side, right on Jurian Bay itself, the owners of which were very kind to the troops. No other signs of life existed.
While the troops were not as a rule allowed to visit and so “swamp” smaller towns on leave, I recall on one Sunday night being allowed in to Moora and going to a dance in the Catholic Church Hall. The hostess was a young lady who, I understand, went to University in Perth during the week and returned home to Moora on weekends. I am inclined to think she lived with an uncle and aunt rather than with parents. However, her name was Stella Maserai and the house was on the southern outskirts of Moora. I think she became a school teacher. The name might mean something to somebody.
My Battalion subsequently moved on to Collie and Geraldton and thence back to Sydney before going on to New Guinea where casualties were very very heavy.
All this was over 50 years ago. Many of my Army colleagues are deceased or moved elsewhere so I am not able to be of much assistance in this regard. (Subsequently I transferred to the R.A.A.F. and this distanced me further from my Army colleagues.)
However, about two years ago I met up with a member of the 30 Battalion who was an N.C.O. and later an officer. In post-war years we made quite a career of the Army, especially the 30th Battalion and wrote and published a book on that Unit. No doubt it would include some reference to the W.A. activities and would be able to make some contribution if approached. According to the Sydney telephone directory his details are: Major T. (Tom) F. Wade-Ferrell, 301 Galston Road, Galston, NSW, 2159. (Being an officer he would have been privy to details of location etc. which were never passed down to the men).
While the above information is piecemeal and fragmented, perhaps it will help in leading to further inquiries with a view to providing a greater overall picture.
Although my home State is NSW I have on quite a few occasions over the years visited Perth with my wife and have passed through Moora on the way north. I still regard it as my half-way home.
I hope this letter may be of some assistance to you in planning your Moora centenary celebrations and that this even proves to be a great success. When firm dates are set I would be pleased if you would advise me; my wife and I might be able to attend.
10 October 1993"