Robert Sabey (Bob) COLBEY

COLBEY, Robert Sabey

Service Number: PA1900
Enlisted: 21 October 1940, Port Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Able Seaman
Last Unit: HMAS Sydney (II) - D48 WW2
Born: Blanchetown, South Australia, 18 November 1916
Home Town: Gumeracha, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Schooling: Hamley Bridge, Gawler High, South Australia
Occupation: Amateur jockey, pastoral worker
Died: Killed in Action, Indian Ocean, 20 November 1941, aged 25 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Birkenhead HMAS Sydney (II) D48 Memorial, Blanchetown District of Blanchetown WW2 Roll of Honour, Carnarvon HMAS Sydney II Memorial, Carnarvon Walk of Remembrance, Geraldton HMAS Sydney II Memorial, Gumeracha District WW2 Roll of Honour, Gumeracha Methodist Church Memorial Stained Glass Window, Gumeracha Our Fallen Heroes WW2 Honour Board, Jervois Memorial Gates, Murray Bridge War Memorial WW2, Plymouth Naval Memorial to the Missing / Lost at Sea
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World War 2 Service

21 Oct 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, PA1900
21 Oct 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, PA1900, HMAS Torrens (Depot) / HMAS Encounter (Shore), Port Adelaide, South Australia
17 Nov 1940: Transferred Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, HMAS Cerberus (Shore)
25 Jun 1941: Transferred Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, HMAS Kuttabul (Shore)
28 Aug 1941: Transferred Royal Australian Navy, Ordinary Seaman, HMAS Sydney (II) - D48 WW2
21 Oct 1941: Promoted Royal Australian Navy, Able Seaman, HMAS Sydney (II) - D48 WW2
Date unknown: Involvement

One of six brothers

THE MAIL 80 YEARS AGO - 23 August 1941

Reginald John George COLBEY 7 August 1882 – 25 September 1958
Agnes Mary (SABEY) COLBEY 16 February 1881 – 15 April 1943

Reginald John George and Agnes Mary COLBEY were the parents of 8 sons, 7 of whom survived to adulthood. When the call went out to enlist in Wold War 2, all 7 surviving sons applied to the armed services but only 6 were accepted as the oldest was in a reserved occupation with the Commonwealth Railways at Tarcoola.
Used undoubtedly as a recruiting enticement, the six COLBEY brothers were featured in ‘The Mail’ on Saturday, 23 August 1941 with their photographs and personal details.

The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954)Saturday 23 August 1941 - Page 6
Six Brothers In Family Enlist
Six of the seven sons of Police-Sgt. R. J. G. Colbey and Mrs. Colbey, of Gumeracha, have enlisted in the fighting forces. The seventh son is in a reserved occupation, and has made repeated unsuccessful applications to be released from his job to enlist.
The sons in the services, taking them by ages, are: —
Pte. Alan Colbey, 33, who enlisted in the A.I.F. in May, 1940. He left for overseas in October, 1940, and when last heard of was in Syria.

Mr. Stair Colbey, 31, who applied for enlistment in the A.I.F. in October, 1939 — on the first day on which enlistments were called for in South Australia. He was discharged from the A.I.F. in December, 1939, as medically unfit for service not occasioned by his own default. He was a corporal at the time. He then served at army headquarters, Keswick, until May, 1941.

Pte. Geoffrey Colbey, 30. Enlisted A.I.F. November, 1939. Left for over seas May, 1940. Went to England, then to Near East, now in Tobruk.

Pte. Keith Colbey, 27. Enlisted A.I.F January, 1941. Has not gone over seas yet. SX12405

Able-Seaman Robert Colbey, 25 Enlisted R.A.N.R. August, 1940. Now on a minesweeper.

Robert Sabey COLBEY was named after his maternal grandfather, Robert SABEY. He was born at Blanchetown, 18 November, 1916 and by the time he was old enough to attend school, the family had been transferred to Port Wakefield. Robert attended, Port Wakefield, Eudunda, and Gawler High schools.
A talented sportsman, Robert was runner up for the Junior Boys Cup at Gawler High School in 1930 as well as playing cricket and football for the school.
A brilliant horseman, Robert rode for many thoroughbred owners who entered Picnic Race Meetings and Amateur Point to Point and Hunt meetings not only in South Australian, but also outback New South Wales when he was working as a station hand before the war. His greatest triumph was the win on Dr. A. C. Savage’s ‘Prince Dignity’ in the prestigious SA. Hunters' Steeplechase at Gawler on Saturday, 24th September, 1938.
Although short and slight, Robert was a talented footballer playing for Jervois when he was living and working at Tailem Bend with his Sabey family. He was made a life member of the Jervois Football Club after the war.
His mother was concerned for all her sons who enlisted to serve in the war, but least so for Robert, the only son to join the navy through the contacts of Dr. A. C. Savage, the local Gumeracha doctor. Robert served mostly on small ships around the Western Australian coast but when the HMAS Sydney II came into port at Fremantle 15 May, 1941, there was a small change over of crew and Robert was thrilled to be given the chance to serve on Australia’s greatest war ship.
The HMAS Sydney II was sunk in the Indian Ocean, 19 November 1941, 1 day after Robert’s 25th birthday, with the loss of all 645 hands.

Pte. Warwick Colbey, 22. Enlisted A.I.F. May, 1940. Went overseas October, 1940. Now in Syria.

Apart from the above 6 brothers, there were 2 more sons, Reginald Robert Colbey 1907-1962 who was ‘the seventh son …in a reserved occupation, and [who] has made repeated unsuccessful applications to be released from his job to enlist’. He was employed by the Commonwealth Railways at Tarcoola during the war and later transferred to Alice Springs until his death. The ninth child, another son Dick was born at Eudunda in 1924 but only survived for a few hours.
The only daughter was Jean Warwick (COLBEY) HACK, 1911-1992.

The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954)Saturday 23 August 1941 - Page 6

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"...PA1900 Able Seaman Robert Sabey Colbey, HMAS Sydney, of Gumeracha, SA. AB Colbey was one of 645 crew members who lost their lives following the engagement between HMAS Sydney and the German cruiser Kormoran off the coast of Western Australia on 20 November 1941. AB Colbey was 25 years of age." - SOURCE (

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Son of Reginald John George and Agnes Mary Colbey, of Naracoorte, South Australia.

Ord.-Seaman Robert Sabey Colbey, 25, sixth son of Sgt. and Mrs. R. J. G. Colbey. of Gumeracha, was one of five brothers in the fighting services.  He was working in Queensland when he enlisted. Well known as an amateur turf rider, footballer, and cricketer, he once rode a double at  Murray Bridge.