Keith William GRATTON

Poppy

GRATTON, Keith William

Service Number: SX11445
Enlisted: 25 February 1941, Wayville, SA Served in 10 Heavy Battery PMF Assigned to Rabaul Heavy Battery
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: Lark Force
Born: Malvern, South Australia, 1 April 1919
Home Town: Seacliff, Holdfast Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Soldier
Died: Died at sea (Montevideo Maru), South China Sea, 1 July 1942, aged 23 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Rabaul Memorial, Rabaul, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Rabaul Memorial
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World War 2 Service

25 Feb 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX11445, Fortress / Coastal Artillery & Supporting Elements , Wayville, SA Served in 10 Heavy Battery PMF Assigned to Rabaul Heavy Battery
25 Feb 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX11445
7 Dec 1941: Involvement Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX11445, Lark Force, Australia's Northern Periphery
25 Jan 1942: Involvement Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN SX11445, Lark Force, Prisoners of War

Help us honour Keith William Gratton's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Baker

A boy from the Seacliff Life Saving Club

Keith William Gratton was a young (21 years), strong and active member of the Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club. He gained his Bronze Medallion Reel Line & Belt during the 1936/37 season.


On a February day in 1941 Keith hugged his mum Amy for the last time, took his last look over the beach where he had made so many friends and walked out of Marine Parade, Seacliff to head to war.


Keith was posted to Special Coast Defence force and was sent to the Australian Territory of Rabaul to await the Japanese. On the 4th of January 1942 The Japanese launched a decisive air attack destroying the coastal battery. Between the 4th January and the 23rd January the Australians defended the territory but overwhelmed by a much superior force and without an evacuation plan the order “every man for himself” was given and the battle for the territory was over.

On the 25th of January Keith was reported missing and then soon after a prisoner of war of the Japanese.


On the 22 June 1942 Keith was embarked from Rabaul's port on the Japanese ship the Montevideo Maru. The ship was unmarked as a prisoner of war ship and she was ordered to proceed to the Chinese island of Hainan. On the 30thof June the ship was spotted by an allied submarine unaware of who was on board the submarine attacked and on the 1st of July before dawn the ship was torpedoed. Keith along with over 1,000 other Australian’s died in the attack.


A Japanese eyewitness recalled “there were POWs in the water. The POWs were holding pieces of wood and using bigger pieces as rafts. They were in groups of 20 to 30 people, probably 100 people in all. They began singing Auld Lang Syne as a tribute to their dead colleagues. Watching that, I learnt that Australians have big hearts”.

Keith Gratton is listed on our Roll of Honour of the Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club along with three other members who lost their lives during the Second World War.


Courtesy G Gray, Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club.

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