Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Trove Tuesday – Life in the WW2 Camps

I’ve been writing this month about my grandfather’s experience of WW2. 

This is the 5th in ‘the series’ about him – Sergeant Keith Leo Grenfell.

I found a couple of general articles in Trove about life in the camps and the requirements of the men. 

Things I wouldn’t normally have thought about, or thought to look for.

One of my previous posts contained a fabulous video clip of the Bonegilla march.
I found an article highlighting the problems encountered during that march with the knitted socks sent to the men by ‘well-intentioned’ knitters.

Another article talks about the huge logistics involved in getting them all home for Christmas in 1940.

…and another, about the need for handkerchiefs pyjamas, sandshoes and musical instruments!

Shows accommodation huts, several men sitting on grass nearby.
The donor's father Douglas West (1896-1980) was a carpenter who worked on the construction of the camp buildings in 1941. The buildings were later used as a hostel for European immigrants.
Douglas West collection of Bonegilla photographs. State Library of Victoria

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sepia Saturday – Grandfather’s Dangerous WWII Training

c1940 anti-aircraft training at Bonegilla
This post continues on with a study of my grandfather, Sergeant Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944).

I’m linking the Sepia Saturday photo prompt (related to dangerous activities) to his training at two WWII camps – Bonegilla (near Albury) and Darley (near Bacchus Marsh).

I’ve already written about some of his military service, and the 150 mile Bonegilla march (with the fabulous old film clip - sepia and crackly).

Here are some photos I found on Trove from the two training camps that I consider to be ‘dangerous training’. 

It was certainly dangerous training for my grandfather as he was wounded during one training and never really recovered. 
But that is a story for another day.

Here are some fabulous photos from the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

c1940 training with a medium machine gun at Bonegilla

We don’t have many photos of my grandfather, so imagine my excitement when I was flicking through the photos and came across one among the Physical Training group.

What do you think – is the fifth from the back my grandfather?

I’ve included a photo from our own collection taken just a few years earlier for comparison.

c1940 training with a medium machine gun at Bonegilla
c1939 Learning the correct way to throw hand grenades at Darley
c1939 Climbing over and through barbed wire fences at Darley
c1940 Learning how to disarm a soldier at Bonegilla
2nd AIF  NCOs training, at Darley. Is it Keith, 5th from the back?
Keith with his son (my Dad) 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday - The Bonegilla March

Continuing on with my last two blog posts about my grandfather Sergeant Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944) who lived and worked in Yallourn and his WWII experience

I found this YouTube clip of his battalion, the 2/21st on the Bonegilla march in September 1940.

There is no sound unfortunately, but exciting nonetheless to know that he was in amongst these soldiers.

The text that is included with the YouTube clip is:

The only video of the 2/21st Btn marching from Trawool to Bonegilla. September 1940. In December 1941 they were sent to defend the Island of Ambon, most were taken prisoners by the Japanese after an estimated 20,000 marines invaded the Island in 1942. By the end of 1945 after 3.5 years in captivity only few survived. 

The death rate of the Australian force was over 75%.

I’ve also included another clipping about the Bonegilla camp, 
and a photo of troops marching at Bonegilla, from the Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Trove Tuesday – Sergeant Keith Leo Grenfell – Part I

It seems appropriate to start ‘ANZAC’ month with the Anzac closest to me but who sadly I never met.

When researching my Yallourn post for Sepia Saturday, I came across a couple of other articles linked to my grandfather, Keith Leo GRENFELL (1911-1944). 

There are photos of my grandfather on that post.

Keith was a boilermaker / fitter / engineer at the Yallourn Power Station. 
I found this article from 1937 (when he was there) on the vast undertaking at Yallourn, attributed to Engineers.

I found another where the Yallourn SEC engineers went out on strike and wondered whether he would have gone on strike too. 
If he was at all like his wife and son, I can't imagine he would have gone willingly.

After reading through his military file, I searched and found a couple of articles about the amazing march from Trawool (near Seymour) to Bonnegilla (near Albury) his training battalion undertook in 1940.

And another praising the value of the Militia men in training the soldiers of the AIF.

In 1929, Keith enlisted in the 52nd Battalion of the Citizen Militia Forces (CMF) at the age of 18, in Caulfield. He was promoted to Corporal by mid 1930, then to Sergeant in October 1933.

In January 1937, Sergeant KL Grenfell transferred to Yallourn and was promoted to Company Sergeant Major (CSM) a year later.

After less than a year as CSM, he “Reverted to Sergeant at own request” and transferred to the 37th Battalion from the 52nd. I can’t see anything in his record to indicate why he would request a ‘demotion’.

On 26 June 1940, he enlisted in the 2/21st Battalion AIF. 
This was just before his 29th birthday, although he claimed to be 30 years old. 
At this time he was married to my grandmother and they had a son, my father.

He was promoted to sergeant within days of enlisting, probably because of his previous rank and 10 years service with the CMF.

He joined the assembly of the 2/21st Battalion at Trawool in Central Victoria. 
They trained in Trawool until 23 September 1940 when they were moved to the Bonegilla camp near Wodonga. 
The battalion made the 235km journey ON FOOT!, arriving on 4 October. 
This was the longest military manoeuvre ever undertaken in Australia. 
This battalion was sent to Darwin in March 1941 – without my grandfather.

I'll continue his story in a day or so.