Mervyn HALL DCM

HALL, Mervyn

Service Number: WX14757
Enlisted: 2 July 1941
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion
Born: Perth, Western Australia, Australia, 15 May 1919
Home Town: Cannington, Canning, Western Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer and Electric Welder
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

2 Jul 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX14757, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion
7 Nov 1941: Embarked Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX14757, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion, from Fremantle
6 Aug 1942: Embarked Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SN WX14757, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion, from Brisbane
21 Jul 1943: Promoted Australian Army (Post WW2), Lance Corporal, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion
26 Dec 1943: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion
27 Dec 1943: Wounded Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, SN WX14757, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion, New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns, Hospitalised due to head injuries sustained at Shaggy Ridge. 2nd/4th Australian General Hospital, transferred to 102 Australian General Hospital, transferred 8 Camp Hospital, transferred 2nd/2nd Australian General Hospital, transferred 2nd/2nd casualty Clearing Station, transferred Australian Corps Recreation Camp. Discharged 12/03/45
18 Sep 1945: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns
18 Sep 1945: Promoted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion
27 Aug 1946: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN WX14757, 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Ned Young

Mervyn Hall was born 15 May 1919 in Perth, Western Australia, to parents William Thomas Hall and Patience Hall.[i] He grew up in East Cannington in the southeastern suburbs of Perth. Mervyn was 22 when he enlisted as a general reinforcement at the Claremont Showgrounds on 2 July 1941.[ii] He began training in Northam with the General Reinforcements, before being transferred to the 2nd/16th Infantry Battalion on 5 October 1941.[iii]

A brief period of leave was granted before Mervyn boarded a troopship in Fremantle on 7 November 1941, bound for the Middle East.[iv] Mervyn spent less than two months training with the 2nd/16th reinforcements in Egypt before he was on a troopship once more, this time headed to Brisbane. He spent a further six months in Australia before being shipped to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, abord the SS Cleveland Abbe, arriving on 13 April 1942.[v]

Mervyn and the 2nd/16th Battalion fought gallantly in the Battle of Buna-Gona during November and December. The battalion suffered heavy casualties, so much so that the remaining fit troops were amalgamated with those of the 2nd/14th at the beginning of December.[vi] By the time the 2nd/16th left Gona on 7 January 1943, they were just 56 men strong.[vii] Mervyn did not last as long as January, being admitted to the 2nd/9th Australian General Hospital with malaria on 30 November 1942. He was shipped back to Cairns on 12 January 1943 to recuperate,[viii] his fifth sea voyage in 14 months. While in Cairns, he was promoted to Lance Corporal on 21 January 1943.[ix]

Mervyn returned to Port Moresby on 5 August 1943,[x] having made a full recovery from malaria. On 26 December 1943, his promotion to Corporal was confirmed. At this time, the 2nd/16th Battalion were located at Shaggy Ridge, upon which the Japanese had established various strongholds, blocking the Australian advance toward the coast where they were aiming to secure Bogadjim and Madang. ‘The Pimple’ was a rocky outcrop along Shaggy Ridge controlled by the Japanese. Capture of The Pimple was necessary to give the Australians a strategic observation point over the entirety of Shaggy Ridge and beyond to the coast. The 2nd/16th were tasked with this capture, which began on 27 December 1943 with an air assault at 8006 hours.[xi] Soon after, while the enemy was still dazed from the shelling, ‘B’ and ‘D’ Companies began scaling the sheer cliffs with bamboo ladders, all the while dodging fire from enemy pillboxes. ‘B’ Company began consolidating themselves at the summit around 0946 hours. Despite the work of the Australians, the strength of the Japanese position meant the companies could not advance much further without exposing themselves to significant enemy fire.

Sergeant William Thomas McMahon managed to crawl within an inch of an enemy pillbox before he was detected by the Japanese. Seeing his mate was in trouble, Mervyn left the safety of his position and, “in the face of a hail of grenades and machine gun fire”, recached the entrance to the pillbox, “killing one occupant with a burst from his Owen Gun”.[xii] He was quickly set upon by another occupant wielding a knife, who he dispatched with the butt of his gun. The three remaining enemy were silence by one of his grenades.[xiii] Not only had Mervyn singled-handedly saved Sergeant Thomas, he had also destroyed an entire enemy pillbox, allowing the company to push further along the ridge. Blinded by grenade wounds to the face, Mervyn lead the section along the razor back of the mountain, attacking another post 100 yards away with “undiminishing dash and lack of regard for his safety”.[xiv] The leadership and courage that Mervyn Hall displayed that day may have been the difference in turning the tides of battle for the Australians. By 28 December, the Japanese had been driven completely from The Pimple, leaving it under Australian control. Only three Australians were killed during the assault. The Japanese lost 28 men, at least five of which at the hands of Mervyn Hall.[xv]

On 4 April 1944, Mervyn was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his efforts at Shaggy Ridge. Sergeant McMahon described his actions as “one of the most inspiring sights [he] ever saw in New Guinea”,[xvi] while observers from the British Army likened it to “a movie scene…too unreal to be true”.[xvii]

Mervyn spent a lot of time in hospital recovering from the wounds he sustained at Shaggy Ridge. He served in Balikpapan with the 2nd/16th Battalion who, aside from a tumultuous landing on 1 July 1945, mainly engaged in patrol operations until the end of the war on 15 August.[xviii] Mervyn’s service continued after the cessation of hostilities, serving a year on Morotai Island, then part of the Netherlands East Indies.[xix] His final promotion to Sergeant came on 18 September 1945.[xx] By 17 February 1946 he was back in Western Australia, where he was finally discharged on 27 August 1946, after over 5 years spent in the Army.[xxi]

Refrences:

[i] National Archives Australia, Service Record B883, p. 1 and 9.
[ii] Ibid, p. 1.
[iii] Ibid, p. 5.
[iv] Ibid, p. 6.
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Australian War Memorial 2022, ‘2/16 Australian Infantry Battalion’, Australian War Memorial, viewed 21 April 2022, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U56059>.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Service Record, p. 6.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Keogh, E 1965, South West Pacific 1941—45, Grayflower, Melbourne, p. 349.
[xii] Service Record, p. 15.
[xiii] Ibid.
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] 2nd/16th Unit Diary, December 1943, viewed 21 April 2022, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/RCDIG1021194?image=25>.
[xvi] Western Mail 1944, ‘One Man Front’, Western Mail, 30 March, viewed 21 April 2022, <https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/38549613/3599204>.
[xvii] Ibid.
[xviii] Australian War Memorial 2022, ‘2/16 Australian Infantry Battalion’, Australian War Memorial, viewed 21 April 2022, <https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U56059>.
[xix] Service Record, p.8.
[xx] Ibid.
[xxi] Ibid.

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