Arthur Albert HILL

HILL, Arthur Albert

Service Number: SX30567
Enlisted: 6 November 1942
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: Works / Labour / Employment / 'Alien' Company/ies
Born: Quorn, South Australia, 6 August 1923
Home Town: Quorn, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Schooling: Quorn Primary School, South Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: 30 April 1988, aged 64 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Kyancutta Cemetery
Memorials: Waddikee Rock Honor Roll
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World War 2 Service

6 Nov 1942: Enlisted Private, SX30567, Dubbo, New South Wales
6 Nov 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX30567, Works / Labour / Employment / 'Alien' Company/ies
7 Nov 1942: Involvement Private, SX30567
10 Oct 1945: Discharged Private, SX30567, Works / Labour / Employment / 'Alien' Company/ies
10 Oct 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX30567, Works / Labour / Employment / 'Alien' Company/ies

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Art Hill, born at Quorn in South Australia, was one of Samuel and Rowena Hill’s ten children. He attended Quorn Primary School, and when he was 13 he went to live with his brother Samuel on 800 acres on Section 5 of Mamblin. They were friendly with the Hier family and this friendship continued during the war years. Art worked with Samuel, as well as performing laboring tasks such as stump picking, clearing scrub and cutting mallee shoots for other farmers. His brother sold the farm in 1938 but Art remained in contact with Koongawa people. He indicated to Henry Hier, when he met up with him in Rundle Street one night in  May 1941, that although he was working in Adelaide he was keen to get work again on the West Coast.

His aim of working back in the Koongawa area was prevented when he was conscripted at the end of 1941. Art signed up for the CMF at Keswick, giving his occupation as labourer, his religion as Methodist and his next of kin as his father. After quite brief basic training he was assigned to a Militia Unit, the 18th Garrison Battalion. The battalion troops were mainly responsible for coastal defence in South Australia.

In February, Art attended a Driving and Maintenance Course at the Morphetville Racecourse. On completion of the course he had home leave. In April, Art like many of the other soldiers of the time, was up on a charge. What he did to break army rules is unknown as his offence is simply described as Conduct to the Prejudice to Good Order and Military Discipline. He was fined 30 shillings.

In June 1942 he travelled to Dubbo in New South Wales to the 32nd Infantry Training Battalion.  Interestingly the Western Plains Zoo now occupies the old army Camp site at Dubbo. At the beginning of 1943 Art enlisted in the AIF, was given a new service number (SX30576), and posted to the 34th Australian Army Employment Company. He was 19 and gave his occupation this time as tractor driver and farm labourer.

The Employment Companies, also known as Works or Labour Companies, were established by the Army to have a ready supply of workers to carry out heavy, and often unpleasant, laboring tasks. There were 39 Companies, and 11 were made up of ‘aliens’ who were non-British citizens. Some members, like Art and Chris Chapman, had volunteered to join the AIF. They performed unskilled, non-combative tasks essential to the war effort such as loading and unloading ships, driving trucks, constructing roads and bridges, and felling trees. It was hard work and certainly not what many of the recruits would have signed up for.

It is quite noticeable reading the War Diaries of the 34th Employment Company that there were more court martial proceedings recorded than in the Unit War Diaries of many other units. A great number of these punishments were as a result of long periods of Absence without Leave or Gross Insubordination. Art’s Army record while in the Employment Company is unblemished with no charges listed.  

It is also noteworthy that the War Diaries for this unit do not contain the same detail as often found in other unit diaries. These were not the ‘glamour’ units of the AIF. It is not hard to imagine that many of the troops would have rather been somewhere else serving their country. The Lieutenant or Captain who laboriously wrote up the War Diary each day also may have wished he was in another unit.   

The 34th Australian Army Employment Company was formed at Dubbo in January 1943 which means Art was one of the original serving members. The Company moved to Randwick in Sydney where they worked on the wharves loading and unloading cargo. In April all South Australian personnel were granted leave before going by train to Brisbane. Once in Queensland the Company carried out road works and also worked on the wharves loading and unloading ships’ cargo. On 4 July 1943 Art boarded the US troop ship Benjamin Bonneville, and sailed for Milne Bay on the southern tip of New Guinea, arriving there 11 days later. While stationed there the 39th Employment Company worked mainly on the wharves.

After the Japanese were defeated at Milne Bay in September 1942 this southern area of New Guinea   became an important base for both Australia and American troops. The air bases there were constructed in mid 1942 and were home to several RAAF Squadrons, including 100 Squadron in which Alf Moxon was serving.

Since the employment companies were set up to provide manual labour we can assume that Art was not involved in any armed conflict whilst stationed there. The Company was involved in stevedoring work, road making, construction of bulk oil tanks and cutting and hauling timber. They frequently worked alongside native labourers.

Art was in New Guinea until March 1944 when he was granted two months leave. He sailed to Townsville on the MV Aroona, then travelled to South Australia. While on leave he married Anne Nelson (of Peterhead) at the Exeter Methodist Church in the first week of April.

He was back in New Guinea in late May 1944. Art and his fellow soldiers were again carrying out wharf and construction work. The Company was renamed the 34th Works Company at this time and left New Guinea on the SS Canberra in July 1944.

After further leave, the Company was back in Queensland based in Brisbane, and then at Toorbul Point near Bribie Island. Once at Toorbul Point they undertook basic infantry training, tropical disease precautions, bayonet training and classes on the people of Japan. Art may well have thought the Company was to be deployed overseas in a combat role given the nature of the training. However this was not the case.

In late December 1944 there was leave for Christmas shopping and many of the troops were invited to private homes in the Brisbane area for Christmas. Art moved back to Chermside in early 1945 and worked around the Brisbane area, again mainly on the wharves. On 15 August, Victory in the Pacific Day, the unit was given a day’s leave in Brisbane.

He was transferred to South Australia at the end of September 1945 for discharge. He was officially discharged at Wayville on 19 October 1945, having served 1466 days in the Army, 330 of which were in New Guinea.

In 1945 Art and Ann were allocated Section 55 of Cootra, and they eventually also purchased Section 32 of Cootra in 1952. They had seven children. Art was an active member of the Kyancutta sub-branch of the RSL and the sub-branch Secretary for some years. He attended the opening of the new Koongawa War Memorial Hall in 1960. It was at that time, it is believed, that his name was added to the Honor Roll.

In spite of his RSL involvement Art did not talk about his experiences in the war to his family. They do believe, however, that there was a Japanese bombing raid around Christmas 1943 where many of his comrades were killed. His family understands that he was part of a burial party which was assisted by the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’, the name given to the native Papuans by the Australian troops. There is no mention of any attack in the War Diaries or Art’s service record he may have been attached to another unit at that time.

Art’s family still have his service medals. His daughter Evelyn remembers that her father brought a grass skirt back from New Guinea and as a child she used to wear it to fancy dress balls.

Art died in April 1988, aged 64. He is buried in the Kyancutta Cemetery.

Courtesy of Judith Long