|25 March 1943, Wayville, SA
|2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
|St Peters, South Australia, 21 March 1924
|Curramulka, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
|Not yet discovered
|Not yet discovered
|Died of wounds, Tarakan, Tarakan, Borneo, 12 June 1945, aged 21 years
Labuan War Cemetery
Plot 29 Row A Grave 7. , Labuan War Cemetery, Labuan, Malaysia
|Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Curramulka District WW2 Honor Roll, Curramulka War Memorial, Minlaton District Council Honour Board
Curramulka’s fallen hero
Melross (Ross) was the son of Stanley James Melross and Matilda Winifred Thomas at St Peters, born on the 21st March 1924. He was one of two sons with a brother Jim who grew up in Curramulka on the Yorke Peninsula, a predominantly farming region. With the outbreak of WWII, 19-year-old Ross enlisted on the 25th March, 1943. He was one of 67 young men and women from the Curramulka town who heeded the call to enlist. He became SX19309 in the then highly regarded 2/48th Battalion and was soon shipped to New Guinea to face the advancing Japanese.
Having been away from home for 15 months, Private Ross returned to Curramulka to have unexpected time with his parents in March ’44. This was to be the last time they saw him. He returned to Tarakan which was to be one of the last places his battalion would be involved in.
There, an all-out attack was made on Fuku-Kaki with the 2/48th pushing against the Japanese defences. The battalion came against stiff opposition at Wally and Linda, frequently making contact with the Japanese and their distinctive manner of combat. In John Glenn’s book, Tobruk to Tarakan he reported that ‘During the first fortnight of June our patrols had killed fifty of the enemy and had moved on to Wally and Linda, and were heading northwards to Faith and Dutch.’ It was during this fierce fighting that 21-year-old Ross was wounded, dying of these on the 12th June ’45, little more than two years after he enlisted.
Back home, the Chronicle’s July edition carried the names of casualties. In Ross’ battalion, SX9637 L-Sgt. Forrest H. Banks. 2/48th from Robe was killed in action and both SX21753 Lt. Colin D. Simper. 2/48th from Blackwood and SX19309 Pte. M. Thomas, 2/48th Curramulka died of their wounds.
With some men returning home on leave in July, the local Pioneer reported of a gathering at the Curramulka Institute Hall where ‘References to the loss of Melrose Thomas was made by the Chairman, and those present reverently stood in silence, in honor of those who had fallen in the service of their King and Country.’ Later that month the annual meeting of the Curramulka Soldiers' Welfare Committee was held and again a minute of condolence was passed in the death of Melross Thomas, AIF, on active service.
By August the family publicly expressed their thanks to the community which had supported them. ‘MR. and MRS. S. J. THOMAS and Son sincerely THANK all kind friends for Expressions of sympathy in the sad loss of their son and brother Ross, 2/48 Btn., A.I.F., at Tarakan.’
In Ross’ honour, the Curramulka community were generous in donating to the construction of a memorial which was unveiled on the 26th October ’47. It was fittingly named the Melross Thomas Memorial. The Pioneer reported that ‘A very large gathering assembled, including many visitors from surrounding districts. The Returned Servicemen formed a guard of honor through which Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and Jim, accompanied by the Hon. Mr C.S. Hincks, M P., and Mr. H. Bennett, walked to the Memorial Gates.’ The President of the Memorial Committee expressed appreciation to all assembled to honour the memory of a fallen comrade while Mr. Bennett expressed sympathy and comfort to the bereaved parents. In the ensuing speeches the sacrifice Ross had made was praised for his contribution to helping create a better world. Mr. Hincks then added that ‘the district was indeed fortunate that only one name appeared on the Memorial out of a total of 67 men and women who had left the district for service in the various forces. The address by Mr Hincks was most inspiring and impressive. The President then asked Mrs. Thomas to unveil the Memorial, which was coveted with flags.’
A posy was then presented to Matilda Thomas before the Last Post was sounded and ‘Mr. Germein and his committee for having erected such an appropriate memorial, and the district people for so generously subscribing to it. An impressive and inspiring ceremony was brought to a close by the dismissal of the guard.
Ross now rests in the Labuan War Cemetery, Malaysia in Plot 29 Row A Grave 7. His parents chose the inscription ‘Beautiful memories of a dear son, brother and comrade’ for his headstone. 27-year-old Forrest Banks, SX9637 from Robe rests near him, a proud member of the 2/48th Battalion. Others from the 2/4th, 2/23rd 2/24th and three soldiers ‘Known only to God’ rest nearby.
In ensuing years, at Anzac day services, Ross’ father Stan placed a wreath at the Curramulka soldiers’ Memorial in honour of Ross. The family also paid tribute to him in the following years.
Advertiser Wednesday 12 June 1946, THOMAS.— loving memories of dear Ross, who died of wounds June 12. 1945. at Tarakan.—Ever remembered by Auntie Stella, Uncle Art and family THOMAS —A tribute of love and honor to our dear son and brother, Ross. SX19309 who died of wounds at Tarakan June 12 1945. His life he gave to his country, his love was ours, courage was his own.—Memories always with father, mother .and Jim. THOMAS—In remembrance of Ross, who died of wounds. Tarakan. June 12. 1945 He gave his life that others may live- inserted by his cousins. Lorraine. John and Brett. THOMAS.—In loving memory of my dear cousin Ross, who died of wounds, in Tarakan. June 12. 1945. A thought for today, A memory for ever. Always remembered by Cousin Bonnie.
Advertiser Thursday 12 June 1947, THOMAS.—In loving memory of my cousin Ross, who died of wounds in Tarakan. June 12. 1945. Sadly missed — Ever remembered by Cousin Bonnie.
Written and researched by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.
Submitted 14 May 2022 by Kaye Lee