George Maxwell Jacob (Max) GERTAU

GERTAU, George Maxwell Jacob

Service Number: 152769
Enlisted: 9 August 1943, Meadows, South Australia
Last Rank: Leading Aircraftman
Last Unit: 30 Air Stores Park
Born: Clare, South Australia, 2 July 1925
Home Town: Clare, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, South Australia
Schooling: Stanley Flat Primary School
Occupation: Gardener (later Railway employee)
Died: Port Augusta, South Australia, 26 April 1976, aged 50 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Port Augusta Carlton Parade Cemetery
Tree Plaque: Not yet discovered
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World War 2 Service

9 Aug 1943: Enlisted Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Private, Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC), Meadows, South Australia
10 Aug 1943: Involvement Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Private
18 Apr 1944: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 152769, Adelaide, South Australia
19 Apr 1944: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2, SN 152769
22 Mar 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Leading Aircraftman, SN 152769, 30 Air Stores Park

George Maxwell (Max) Gertau

George Maxwell (Max) was the fifth of eight children born to Lilly Emma (17th February 1896 – 11th July, 1967) and John (Jack) Gertau (25th July 1889 – 28th July, 1950). The couple were married at Stanley Flat on the 21st February, 1917. Max was born on the 18th November, 1926 the second of four sons.

The family owned a modest fruit block at Stanley Flat in the Clare Valley, SA Their property was about 5 miles (8 km) from Clare on Benburnie Road. The house was built by Max’s father, and comprised of two bedrooms and a dining room with the kitchen and boy’s room under the galvanised iron verandah.
Four children slept in a double bed, in the second bedroom, learning not to be restless sleepers. It has now been demolished. The home had candle pines on the southern and western sides with Carob trees to the east and north.

Jack and Emma grew a wide variety of stone fruits and nuts including apricot, plum, peach and quinces as well as currants and wine grapes. In season, this produce was also sold to local farmers. Any unsold produce would be dried but in the main it was all used frugally for preserves, chutneys and jams. There was also an extensive vegetable patch which provided a year round supply of fresh, dried or preserved produce and similarly, surplus was sold.

Wheat crops, barley and Lucerne were grown to provide hay for the cows, horses, pigs and fowls. There were the inevitable cats around as people would come out to the adjoining creek to dump new litters of kittens. The family’s quite tame ‘house cow’ would come when called and the pig was predominantly kept to use up surplus milk; however any surplus cream, butter and eggs were sold to help balance the family budget. Max’s mother, Emma used to walk into Clare, where Jack would then collect her at the end of the day after she had completed the shopping.

Max and his siblings would cut across paddocks for the 1½ mile trip to school at Stanley Flat. The school itself was a typical country, one teacher, single-room construction. Mr Basham presided over this one room school. A fellow student, John Quirk, had been naughty and was called out to the front for a punishment. Instead, John took the cane and broke it over his knee. In a perverse act of justice, he then was ordered to go outside and select a good branch from a ‘tagging tree’ that would serve as a replacement, and so received his whipping after all!

Sultanas and currant grapes were regularly picked by the bucket load after school by the children, often hurrying as big black clouds rolled in, as any rain would split the skins.
The children would often climb the fence of the adjoining Pattullo property to ‘acquire’ a few bunches of their much more appealing, tasty table grapes, however much of the ‘spare time’ the children had was spent helping out in the garden. There were wooden racks for drying the currants. Draped down the front were a series of hessian bags sewn together that could quickly be pulled down as a curtain to protect the fruit from rain.

Being a small community, Stanley Flat held many family based events including dress up competitions for children with Max winning a competition for the best dressed Scarecrow! Interestingly, older brother Norm was the only sibling to attend High School in Clare, getting a push bike to ride these five miles in.

When Max and his siblings all had measles, their father moved out of the house and into the pine trees to escape their infection. Unfortunately he contracted black measles, a severe form of measles typified by dark eruptions caused by bleeding under the skin.

As with most large families, the older children were expected to look after the babies. Family holidays were spent at Fisherman’s Bay, where a ‘shack’ was rented from a Mr Cope. While the children played in the water, Emma would sit on the beach with her bare feet in the water and Jack would roll up the legs of his trousers to walk through the shallow water.
Max’s working life included helping in the family garden prior to enlisting aged 18 as did so many young men, including his brother Norm who was a year older.
Max featured in the Saturday Mail in 1945 with the article stating ‘The work done by Australian airmen in this area has been of the utmost value to the operations of the Allied nations. They drop mines, causing scared Japanese shipping to keep to harbor when it should have been about its business, strafe ships, bomb and strafe land installations, and by their unceasing vigilance restrict the activities of the Japs to a minimum. The Department of Air Photo was labelled as ‘The water with which L.A.C. Max Gertau, of Clare, is having his early morning wash lacks the frosty sting of the water of his home town on winter mornings, but it does the job just as well.’ MOROTAI, HALMAHERA ISLANDS, NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES. C. 1945-02. LEADING AIRCRAFTMAN MAX GERTAU OF CLARE, SA, HAS HIS EARLY MORNING WASH IN A CUT-DOWN KEROSENE TIN OUTSIDE HIS TENT AT AN ADVANCED RAAF OPERATIONAL BASE IN THE SOUTH-WEST PACIFIC AREA.
Despite the gloom of war, Max was able to celebrate his 21st birthday at home with the family and friends
At the conclusion of hostilities Max was unsettled, eventually joined the Railways at Pt Augusta. He married Ethel Whittaker (3rd June 1902 – 20th July 1966). Max died on the 26th April 1976 and is buried in the Pt Augusta cemetery.

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