Edward John (Jack or John) DIXON

DIXON, Edward John

Service Number: SX6717
Enlisted: 25 June 1940, Wayville, SA
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Mount Gambier, South Australia, 13 March 1903
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Compton Downs School, South Australia
Occupation: Labourer, book shop owner
Memorials: Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Compton WW2 Honour Board
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World War 2 Service

25 Jun 1940: Involvement Private, SX6717
25 Jun 1940: Enlisted Wayville, SA
25 Jun 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX6717
21 Nov 1945: Discharged
21 Nov 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX6717, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion

‘The South-East, Best District in the World.’

Born in Mount Gambier on the 11th March 1898, Edward John was the third son of Thomas and Annie Dixon. In later years, wanting to enlist to serve in WWII, he then deducted five years from his age, changing to a ‘new’ birth date of 13th March, 1903. Affectionally known as Jack, he attended the Compton Downs School after which he worked as a farmer.
With the Great War underway, Jack wanted to do his duty, enlisting on the 10th August, 1918, and gave his correct birth date. He was 20 years old, and his parents were contacted asking if they had objections to him serving. However, in the meantime hostilities had ceased and Jack was formally discharged on the 24th December the same year. Soon after, Jack began working in local service and petrol stations where he was a popular, well-known local figure.
Jack married Emma Louise Cram in February ‘23 in the Glencoe Methodist Church with the ‘largest and happiest’ reception ever held in the Kongorong Hall for 200 guests. He chose his brother Stan Dixon as best man. The young couple then made their home in Kongorong. Jack and Emma (often called Louise) had two young children, Percy Roy born in March ’24 and Delphine Muriel.
From serving petrol, Jack then turned his hand to running the exchange library, near the Capitol Theatre, selling it in May ’37.
Just after his 42nd birthday, (but 37th according to his enlistment record) Jack enlisted to again serve, this time in WWII, on the 25th June 1940 being given the number SX6717 and allocated to the 2/48th Battalion. By October a farewell was organised for Jack and Victor Earle SX6996 (initially also with the 2/48th Battalion), at the Compton Downs School as both men were past students. Jack was unfortunately unable to attend but was later presented with a fountain pen and envelope of monetary notes. He also visited the school to speak to the current students who all wished him good luck and a safe return. A further farewell was also organised at a social evening in the Soldiers’ Centre where Jack was one of nine soldiers, and one RAAF pilot who were guests of honour. Several speeches were made in praise of the men, all volunteers, in the knowledge that courage and determination would be needed in the future. As several of the young men were also following in their fathers’ footsteps, the belief was that they would not let those men down and that they would finish the coming war better than WWI. Again, presentations were made, followed by the singing of Auld Lang Syne.
Jack’s early army days were spent at Wayville, now part of the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds before the battalion headed to Woodside in the Adelaide Hills for preliminary training. Following pre-embarkation leave, Jack and his fellow members of the 2/48th Battalion then embarked on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940, arriving on the 19th December 1940 where the Battalion completed a few months training in Cyrenaica. Jack’s initial days were with the 2/48th Battalion before he was allocated to the Australian H.Q. Infantry battalion soon after arriving in the Middle East on the 17th December 40. He then embarked for Greece. He had only been there for a matter of months before being reported as missing on the 7th June ’41 in Athens with Emma being officially notified a few days later. It was later recorded that he became a POW on April 28th at ‘T’ Beach whist he was awaiting evacuation with his battalion.
Soon after, a photo of Jack celebrating his 43rd birthday in Athens was published in the local Border Watch with a full summary of his work life and previous involvement in WWI.

By the end of June, formal confirmation was received that Jack had been taken Prisoner of War. Initially he was held in Greece in the Corinthia Camp. By September, Emma received a handwritten post card via the South Australian branch of the Red Cross International, that Jack was then at Stalag, Germany. Jack assured Emma that he was “quite well and being well treated.” Rather than his proudly borne 2/48th number, SX6717, Jack was allocated a new number: Prisoner 3557.
Back home, in June ’42 a flurry of 26 letters arrived from Jack, mostly for Emma but three for his eleven-year-old daughter Delphine. In a message that would continue to be repeated, Jack heaped praise on the Red Cross, including one for Christmas dinner and ‘saving our lives’. The unconventional Christmas dinner was sago soup, mashed potatoes, meat and-gravy. The interned men had four days off from working on road construction for Christmas and enjoyed concerts and snow fights. Equally important was the new tunic, trousers and boots for Christmas from the Red Cross. It appeared that letters to Jack also arrived in bulk and were much appreciated as were the photos Emma had sent.
Jack’s letters contained information about the cold, frosts and snow and seeing sledges, skis and toboggans, all quite foreign to life back home in Mount Gambier. As winter passed, Jack wrote of the emerging wild flowers and jewellery he had for Delphine (a bangle and brooch) and Emma (a brooch). He finished one letter with nostalgia for home. "We are far apart at present, but my thoughts are always for that lovely land, Australia where the cattle graze all winter and birds sing and the sun always shines. I would love to be near a red gum with a jackass laughing and bunnies feeding. Well sweetheart, you have a wonderful country.” Somehow, Jack was able to send a photo of himself and the other POW’s, which, again the Border Watch published in June ‘42.

By the end of August ’42 Jack’s only son Percy, who had previously been working for a jeweller, was accepted by the RAAF as 4459.

The Red Cross continued to support Emma with news of Jack. A repatriated POW had seen Jack in Stalag 18A in August ’44 when he was reported to be in good health. However, the best news arrived in May ’45 when Jack sent a telegram stating that he had arrived at Bari, Italy, and hoped to be home soon. He had been a POW for four years, having been involved in action in the Middle East, at Tobruk, and Bardia before his capture in Greece. Still the Red Cross worked tirelessly to repatriate all those who were still overseas.
Post war, Jack described how he was taken prisoner in Greece. A hundred of them were taken to Malnaitze, in Austria, and were employed on roadmaking. Later he went to Nickolsdorfe, where he worked on the railways, and to Perzantze, from where he was liberated by the British 8th Army. They got up at 3 a.m. on five days a week and travelled by train to work, which they started at 7 a.m. Their day finished at 6 p.m. and the prisoners returned to Perzantze, unless an air raid had come in the meantime, when they would not return until midnight. But they still had to rise at 3 a.m. next day. The prisoners worked five days a week and if the Allies had bombed the area they would have to clear it. Jack later explained that "Allied bombing was frequent, One day they shot up 25 railway engines. We were allowed to take cover until the raids were over."
He added that "During the first two or three years when the Germans were winning the guards would take us out to play football and cricket, but that was cut out when the Allies gained the upper hand. Some of the boys used to go skating on the ground, which was covered with nine inches of ice," he continued. The local people were not allowed to speak to prisoners or to sit next to them in the train. Gestapo men would get on the train at any station and search it.”
Jack later shared that whist a prisoner he had ‘a secret way of getting news by wireless every day.’

Jack later described how "Prisoners always knew when Hitler went by in his armoured train" Pte. Dixon said. "The camp commandant would be informed to shut all prisoners inside until the train had passed. The last time I saw Hitler's train, it was in Dellak station yard in Austria after Hitler was supposed to have died."
By June ’45 news arrived that Jack had arrived safely in England from Italy and was flown by a Liberator from Bari to Oxford in England. Since his liberation by the 8th Army, Jack’s health has greatly improved. Jack shared that "The English people were marvellous to the Australians''. This despite their own privations because of the war. Food was very scarce and people queued up to buy grapes at £1 per lb., peaches 3/6 each, tomatoes 1/2 a half lb., and plums at 8d. a lb. There were some very small locally grown apples. Meat was extremely scarce, and a tin of salmon would take all the ration points for a month.
Speaking of the housing shortage in England Pte. Dixon said two families often lived in one flat. Community baths were a feature of many London suburbs where the houses did not possess bathrooms. There were also many prefabricated houses which were not particularly popular with the people.
From England, announcements came regularly. The Advertiser in September carried a list of names, including Jack’s of ‘Reported Repatriated’. Jack wired from Freemantle in Western Australia where he had arrived on the ‘Toranto’, of his pending arrival back in South Australia, overland to Adelaide. Waiting for him were Emma, Delphine and Percy (in the RAAF), who was in hospital. Percy was unrecognisable to Jack as over the five years he had grown from a boy to a serving officer. Similarly, ten-year-old Delphine was now a teenager and quite changed. For Emma, seeing Jack was the greatest moment of her life.
Mount Gambier celebrated Jack’s homecoming in style. He and the family returned to Mount Gambier on the evening train to be welcomed by The Citizens' Band playing popular tunes to add ‘an air of gaiety and rejoicing’ to the thousand strong crowd which had assembled. Included in the crowd were Jack’s parents, Thomas and Annie who then lived at Port MacDonald at ‘Havearest’. As Jack and his family alighted from the train, the band played "Home, Sweet Home" and Jack was swamped with hugs and kisses. The Mayor and President of the RSL gave an official welcome from the steps of the signal cabin. Emma later shared that "The welcome was a wonderful gesture by the people of Mt. Gambier and totally unexpected. They had been discussing welcomes home with other servicemen in the train and Pte. Dixon said he would get out up the line if he thought the town would welcome him."
Later, Jack repeated his heartfelt thanks to the Red Cross. He and fellow POWs Privates Archibald Buckingham SX6116 and Thomas Brown SX8362 of the 2/48th Battalion, declared that ''Had it not been for the Red Cross and the money you people gave it, we would not have been here tonight." Jack described how the POWs used to pair up and share rations to make them last a week. The parcels came regularly until the last few months, when the fighting in Italy interrupted transport to Austria. Their prison rations consisted of dried bread and black coffee for breakfast, potatoes and crout (which was a kind of pickled cabbage) provided one meal, and dinner was obtained from Red Cross parcels. Bread became scarcer and scarcer until a two-kilogram loaf had to be divided between 10 men.
Jack also described how a specially cured pork and bread formed the main diet of the German civilians. The Germans took little girls and men from the occupied countries and forced them to work on farms. If they refused work the Germans would not allow their parents any ration cards, so there was no alternative but to work for them. Grownups were forced to work in factories. Towards the end the roads were choked with people carrying their belongings and walking home. It was a pitiful sight.
In a later interview, Jack also shared that the Wolseley to Mt. Gambier railway was the worst he had seen, with none in Europe or Australia, to compare with it and that it was an absolute disgrace. He added however, that the South-East was the best district in the World. He was home.
Mr Hunt from the RSL wisely advised "We know, many will be sick and it is the sympathy and kindness of the population of Australia that will help them recover their health. They will not want to be fussed over; no soldier ever did. I feel the people of Australia will help them to help themselves."
Jack obviously had over four years to think about what he would do when back home a free man. Prior to heading overseas at the commencement of his service, a reputable poultry raiser in Adelaide had promised Jack that he could have any fowls he wished when he returned. Jack remembered. The day after his return he visited Mr. Bertelsmeier, who recalled his promise, so at 6.30 a.m Jack immediately began constructing a house for the six fine fowls, but also juggling this with being overwhelmed with visitors whilst waiting for the evening train with its precious cargo of hens.
Early in October ‘45 the president of the Mount Gambier branch of the R.S.L. opened a new War Memorial at the Mil Lei War Memorial Park Incorporated. It was believed to be the first War Memorial in South Australia to commemorate World War II. A further Honor Roll was unveiled at the clubrooms of the Mount Gambier Sub-Branch to the 13 POWs who automatically received life membership of the Legion. The branch praised the way the men had conducted themselves in the face of terrific ordeals had been an inspiration, to both the members of the fighting forces and the whole nation. Their names and deeds would continue to be honoured. They included Messrs. T. R. Brown, R. Chant, L. Chapman, R. Dew, E. J. Dixon, F. Douglas, J. J. Fenwick, H. R, Hawkins, J. R. Hopgood, H H. Lannam, Medhurst, L. G-. Norman, A. Watson.
Jack was officially discharged from the HQ Guard Division in November ’45 but continued to identify with his 2/48th Battalion.
Jack’s interest in quality breeds of chooks resulted in him becoming an expert breeder and the winner of a number of different categories, including heavy breeds Pullets, Hens, Cockerill, Rhode Island Reds, Orphington, Gold Lace and Minorca cocks. Emma also became renown in dog shows for the quality of her Pekinese entries.
For Jack and Emma, a special celebration occurred when Delphine and Raymond Lockwood married in July ‘50 and the arrival of their first grandchild, Cheryl Christine in September ’51. Having witnessed Jack’s safe return and the arrival of their great grand-daughter, Jack’s father, 85 year old Thomas died in February ’53 and his mother, Annie died in April ‘54 aged 85. Both were buried in the Mount Gambier Lake Terrace Cemetery. Aged 76, Emma died in August ’74 and was buried in the local Carinya Gardens.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133 2/48th Battalion.

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