Hedley John (Jack) GREGORY

GREGORY, Hedley John

Service Numbers: SX22235, S59955
Enlisted: 16 August 1942, Cronulla, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 4th Army Transport Company
Born: Hawker, South Australia, 20 January 1923
Home Town: Hawker, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grazier
Died: Natural causes, Marion, South Australia, 10 November 2016, aged 93 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Hawker District WW2 Roll of Honour, Hawker War Memorial Park
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World War 2 Service

16 Aug 1942: Enlisted Private, SX22235, Cronulla, New South Wales
16 Aug 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX22235
17 Aug 1942: Involvement S59955
17 Aug 1942: Involvement Private, SX22235
16 May 1946: Discharged Sapper, SX22235, 4th Army Transport Company
16 May 1946: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX22235
Date unknown: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Jane Gregory

Below is an excerpt of a discussion that Jack, when in his 80s, had with his daughter Jane …

Dad was called up for duty during WWII.  He joined the Army on 5th February 1942, just a couple of weeks after his 19th birthday.  His basic training was undertaken at Victoria Park in Adelaide.

When the Japanese submarines were found in Sydney Harbour Dad was posted to the 18th Garrison whose job was to defend Sydney.  He was based in a guest house in Cronulla but took pains to point out that it housed military personnel only and that there was nobody cooking or cleaning for them.

As part of the AIF (Second Australian Imperial Force), Dad then spent the next two years in the 2nd Army Tank Battalion, based in both Greta and Singleton in the Hunter Valley.  Dad contracted diphtheria and had his tonsils removed by an Army surgeon at Greta under a local anaesthetic.  Dad recalled being held down during the operation and remembered the surgeon getting showered with his blood during the procedure.  On a happier note, Dad celebrated his 21st birthday by getting drunk at the Caledonian Hotel in Singleton.  With so many military personnel in the area it wasn’t uncommon for the hotels to run out of beer which meant the soldiers would then move on to the spirits.  One night, after the beer had run out, Dad started on the rum.  The result was an almighty hangover and Jack never drank rum again.

The Army finally decided there wasn’t much call for tanks in the islands, so after two years of tank manoeuvres and much frustration at being stuck in Australia, the unit was disbanded.

Dad then joined the 4th Army Troops Company, Royal Australian Engineers, 9th Division.   As part of the RAE’s 9th Division, Dad was sent to the Engineers’ training establishment in Kapooka.  He was then moved to Queensland to complete his training before being shipped to Morotai near the end of 1944.

In April 1945 the 4th Army Troops Company was moved from Morotai and was a part of what Dad called the “Landing at Labuan”.  In August 1945 the Company was preparing to move from Labuan to Malaysia but the war ended and the soldiers were slowly brought back to Australia.  Those men with families were shipped out first, then those that had been with the 9th Division the longest went next.  Dad didn’t fall into either category and spent the next few months extending the 112th AGH (Australian General Hospital) for the POWs who were flown in from Japan to recuperate, returning to Australia as soon as they were strong enough to do so.  [It was really hard for Dad to talk about this – I think the memory of the men who were “nothing more than skin and bone” never left him.]

When the remaining men weren’t working on the hospital they used to go fishing.  They had a boat at their disposal and, as luck would have it, left over grenades, so the art of fishing was reduced to throwing a grenade over the side, waiting for the fish to float to the surface and scooping them into the boat by hand.

They flew out of Labuan on a DC3 (cargo plane) just before Christmas in 1945.  Dad recalled sitting on their packs on the floor and being tossed about everywhere because of really rough weather.  They landed in Morotai and had absolutely nothing to do except play Bridge.  In March 1946 Dad finally got to go home, sailing on the HMAS Kanimbla from Morotai to Sydney and then on the train to Adelaide.

Dad said that of the 120 men he served with in both Morotai and Labuan, they lost only three.