Thomas Edward EXCELL


EXCELL, Thomas Edward

Service Number: SX17668
Enlisted: 25 February 1942, Wayville, SA
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Tumby Bay, SA, 27 April 1911
Home Town: Mundulla, Tatiara, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in action, New Guinea, 4 November 1943, aged 32 years
Cemetery: Lae War Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, District Council of Port Broughton Honour Roll WW2, Mundulla Soldiers Memorial Honour Roll, Mundulla War Memorial, Port Broughton War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

25 Feb 1942: Involvement Corporal, SN SX17668, 27th Infantry Battalion
25 Feb 1942: Enlisted Wayville, SA
Date unknown: Involvement

Shaggy Ridge

The Brown and Blue Diamond
The story of the 2/27th Battalion A.I.F.
By John Burns, M.M.

Page 191:

“On the 4th November, Lieutenant Peter Langsford and 10 men of 14 Platoon pushed forward to ascertain whether the enemy were still in his forward positions. Here is the report made at the time:

“Patrol moved out north along razor-back under cover of mortar and artillery fire. Reached a listening post below the rock face that commands the ridge and remained for 15 minutes. Noise could be heard from above and two machine-gun bursts were fired, but not at us. The patrol here split into two parties; four men under Corporal Excell moved round right side of rock face, the remainder moved to the left side. The left flank party found it impossible to proceed owing to shale caused by artillery – heard sounds that indicated there was strip feed M.M.G. round corner. Corporal Excell and party moved along steep slope on the right side through timber badly shattered by artillery fire. Suddenly they came upon a small clear patch and were greatly surprised to be looking at two small tents and several weapon pits and a M.M.G. slightly above them and a little forward to the left. Corporal Excell and Private Smith manoeuvred their way behind the Japanese positions and from the top of the ridge were seen to throw five grenades and fire several long bursts of Owen gun into the enemy’s positions. Series of M.M.G., L.M.G. and rifle shots followed. The two men left on the lower slope were fired on but safely slid down into dead ground and waited for the return of the two forward men. After waiting half an hour, these two men made their way back to 14 Platoon forward post. Lieutenant Langsford was immediately recalled. Corporal Excell and Private Smith were both reported missing.”

Only those that saw this terrible country, and in particular this position of the Shaggy Ridge razor-back, can visualise the great courage, determination and physical energies that enabled Corporal Excell and Private Smith to gain their temporary foothold. When their bodies were found some time later, three empty Owen gun magazines were beside Corporal Excell’s body and the fourth half empty on his gun, while Private Smith had thrown three grenades and still had the ring of the fourth on his finger. Surrounding them was a pile of dead Japanese – a mute testimony to the indomitable spirit of the two gallant men who attempted the impossible and almost made it.”

Page 198:

“The 2/16th’s attack was delayed by 24 hours and commenced on 27th December. The attack was initiated by the air forces and artillery striking the ridge (Shaggy Ridge) with great fury. Concurrent with this barrage the artillery laid a barrage on the enemy positions forward of the mainstream, so that the troops of “D” Company had some cover as they moved in on their supporting role of creating a diversion on the left flank, to inflict the maximum casualties on the enemy and to report enemy strength and dispositions. At 1115 hours, Lieutenant Cottrill, in command of the fighting patrol, reported by wireless to the commanding officer that “after moving along a very narrow and heavily wooded with thick undergrowth razorback, the patrol had come upon an enemy wired position. When the forward scouts saw the wire, they halted and moved off the track to cover. No. 2 Section moved forward about fifteen paces, when they came under very heavy machine gun fire, which had pinned them down. The Bren group, with 1 and 3 Sections, were engaging the enemy in an effort to get 2 Section out. Lieut-Colonel Picken instructed Cottrill to continue to keep the Japs occupied a little longer and, when he had ascertained the enemy strength and dispositions, to extricate the section and withdraw. These instructions were successfully carried out with the platoon suffering only two casualties – one a stretcher case and the other able to walk. The patrol, which moved out at 0800 hours, reported back to its company area towards 1600 hours feeling very satisfied with its effort and reporting the definite killing of 5 enemy and probably 6.

The 2/16th Battalion’s attack was extremely successful and by nightfall had captured and consolidated sufficient ground to enable them to command Shaggy Ridge. This unit cleared the enemy from the positions that Corporal Excell and Private Smith had so courageously stormed, and Padre Norman was able, on the following morning (28th December), to climb the ridge into the very front lines, and bury Corporal Excell, Private Smith and Private Beames.

During the 2/16th Battalion’s attack, Major-General George Vasey visited the battalion area and spent the whole day gaining at first hand a picture of the terrific and terrible county his troops had been fighting in.”

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