Norman Henry (Norm) GERTAU

GERTAU, Norman Henry

Service Numbers: SX39007, S110298
Enlisted: 19 July 1943, In the field, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 26th Infantry Battalion (AMF)
Born: Blyth, South Australia, 1 February 1924
Home Town: Clare (SA), Clare and Gilbert Valleys, South Australia
Schooling: Stanley Flat State adchool and Clare High School
Occupation: Boundary rider (Carrawilloo station)
Died: Natural causes, Kadina, South Australia, 24 January 2016, aged 91 years
Cemetery: Crystal Brook Cemetery, South Australia
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World War 2 Service

19 Jul 1943: Enlisted Private, SN SX39007, In the field, Queensland
20 Jul 1943: Involvement Private, SN SX39007
20 Jul 1943: Involvement SN S110298
24 Jan 1946: Discharged Private, SN SX39007, 26th Infantry Battalion (AMF)

Norman Henry Gertau

Norman (Norm) was born at Blyth in the Clare Valley, South Australia. He was the third of seven children. The family owned a modest fruit block at Stanley Flat which was in two, four acre sections with the house being on one section and the other being for growing hay for the horses. Vines and a variety of fruit trees including apricot, plum, peach and quinces grew. There was also an extensive vegetable patch which provided a year round supply of fresh, dried or preserved produce. 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 of the fruits. Some of the excess fruit was sold but in the main it was all used frugally for preserves, chutneys and jams.
Much of the ‘spare time’ Norm had as a child 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.
Norm’s childhood was typical of the time, however when he was five he contracted a severe case of diphtheria and was not expected to live, resulting in him being hospitalised initially at Clare and then at the Children’s Hospital for 18 weeks. He finally returned home from the Children’s Hospital on a Birdseye bus on his sixth birthday.
At home he helped out in the family garden. These tasks included cutting apricots to sun dry, picking plums and currant grapes. Apricots and plums were dipped and dried in the open on up to 40 trays which were 4 – 6 foot long. There was no trouble with ants getting on to the drying fruits but flies would sometimes get into the apricots. Currants were dried on wire netting with the drying sheds having racks of netting. Other daily tasks included milking the cows and collecting kindling wood to start the fire in the stove, but at peak times help with the preparation of fruit was vital, and continued after school hours.
School was at Stanley Flat which was a mile and a half away (2.4 Kilometres). During winter or when it was raining, some protection was provided by wheat bags being held around the shoulders. Norm’s Dad bought him a pushbike when Norm turned 13 as he was attending Clare High school for a year and still too young to leave school.
Norm also learnt to play the accordion, being taught by his father, Jack who was particularly musical in being also able to play a violin and organ as well. Norman played unaccompanied at a dance in the Stanley Flat Hall but subsequent work meant this was not repeated, although he continued to enjoy dancing.
After finishing school, Norm initially helped his Dad with work and the constant daily tasks including pruning, ploughing, cultivating and the myriad of other essential tasks which occurred. This continued until Norm turned 16 when he went to Adelaide and gained employment with an apiarist at Cheltenham for a few months. He then went out west of Pt Augusta on a sheep station at Carrawilloo where he helped with boundary riding and killing stock for the family’s meat supply. Despite this work, Norm continued to return home to help at fruit picking time. He bought an old, single seater car to get around with, including going to dances of a Saturday night.
In 1942 Norm went into the army. He trained as a 17 year old at Wayville where he was issued with his equipment and began his initial training in the AIF. From there he was moved to Sandy Creek in the Barossa before trains carried the men to Queensland via Melbourne where they were camped on the main oval in the city. During this time efforts were made to teach Norm to swim but the coldness of the waters meant that even to this day he cannot swim! He is registered as Enlisting in the Field in Queensland he trained with the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion. He did his jungle training at Korunga where part of the requirements were that he carried a Bren gun through areas infested with the lantana plant. This kept getting caught up around the gun to the point where Norm felt like throwing the Bren away as it was so difficult to move through the jungle. Many of the initial recruits came from Italian-Australian families from north Queensland but as the battalion grew, reinforcements from other Australian states arrived during 1942 and early 1943. Norm’s number was SX39007.
After Japan's surrender, in August, the 26th was transferred to Rabual at the top of New Guinea, to help guard the captured Japanese. There the Japanese had underground tunnels everywhere with most being filled with equipment. The battalion remained there until March 1946, before finally returning to Australia where he was discharged, returning home to work in the family garden.
After being home for a while, Norm bought a Bedford 30 hundred weight truck intending to start a fruit and vegetable run around to the farms in the area. Unfortunately this venture did not pay so he turned his hand to delivering wood. A variety of other employment opportunities ensued before Norm joined the PMG (Post Master General) working on telephone lines. He married Louisa Darley in 1949. Eventually he became a Line Foreman in Darwin where they stayed for four years before returning to Adelaide where he retired in 1973. In 1986 they moved to Kadina where Louisa died.
A shared interest in gardening and dancing introduced him to Valma, with the couple marrying in 1991. Later, Val was diagnosed with breast cancer requiring six weeks of radiation therapy for five days a week. While she was recovering, Norm taught himself to do tapestry work. Similarly he taught himself wood carving and later taught others this craft.
Norm celebrated his 90th birthday and almost reached his 25th wedding anniversary with Val. A return of on-going back and neck problems contributed to his death on January 24th 2016.

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