Service Number: SX9488
Enlisted: 22 July 1940, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Mclaren Vale, South Australia, 1 February 1919
Home Town: Wirrulla, Streaky Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Streaky Bay School, South Australia
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Killed in Action, Egypt, 31 October 1942, aged 23 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
re-buried in the El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt XIV. C. 22. ,
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Streaky Bay and District Roll of Honour WW2
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World War 2 Service

22 Jul 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX9488, Adelaide, South Australia
22 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Corporal, SN SX9488, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
1 Mar 1941: Involvement Private, SN SX9488, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Libya/North Africa
10 Apr 1941: Involvement SN SX9488
10 Apr 1941: Involvement SN SX9488
10 Apr 1941: Involvement Private, SN SX9488, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Siege of Tobruk
31 Oct 1942: Involvement Corporal, SN SX9488, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, El Alamein
Date unknown: Involvement

‘Faithful Unto Death’

Eric Leonard was born on the 1st February 1919, one of seven children and the third son of Jessie Beatrice and William Spottiswoode Montgomerie. His siblings were Eric, Lois, Raymond, Alvine, Reuben and Merle all of whom attended school at Streaky Bay, a farming and fishing town on the coast of Eyre Peninsula, S.A. His family were actively involved in community events, including a strawberry fete in ’26 where his mother was on the supper stall, where the coordinators were dressed in Japanese attire. The children were also creative in their costumes, Merle as Red Riding Hood, Alvine as a sailor, Eric a pirate) and Rueben a scout. In later years the Wirrulla Memorial Hall hosted a children's fancy dress frolic where Eric dressed as a swaggie. His father, William, proved the "dark horse" with the dart throwing.
In February ’40 Eric celebrated his 21st birthday at the Wirrulla Hall. It included dancing and the traditional generous country supper before speeches in honour of Eric were made. Attention was drawn to Eric’s ability in a wide range of activities, his willingness to be involved in all activities, especially swimming, his popularity and his sterling character. This was followed by the presentation of a large key which bore signatures of those present. A very practical based gift reported by the West Coast Sentinel, was to present Eric with ‘the proceeds from the evening (expenses deducted), and expressed the hope that he would get a suitable article by which he would appreciate the esteem he was held in by his many friends.’
With the outbreak of WWII, active recruiting occurred in country areas, targeting the fit, active young men across the state. Cowell, Minnipa, Wudinna Streaky Bay and Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula were all initially targeted with older brother Alvine enlisting to depart for Adelaide at the end of June ’40. A month later, 20-year-old Eric enlisted on the 22nd July followed by older brother, Raymond Kenneth who enlisted the following year on the 14th April 1941, becoming gunner SX12203.
At Wayville both Eric and Alvine were assigned to the newly formed 2/48th Battalion, with Eric being allocated the number SX9488 and Alvine SX7967. Initial days were spent in the cold of the Pavilions, now part of the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds. From Wayville, the new enlistees moved to Woodside for their preliminary training.
When Private Alvine Montgomerie had pre-embarkation leave, he was farewelled at the Wirrulla Memorial Hall in October where the West Coast Sentinel reported a large crowd in attendance. Private Eric Montgomerie, was awarded special leave to also be at his brother’s farewell. The ‘boys’ were welcomed back to the district, where their fine bearing and evident good health was commented on. The three young men were escorted up the hall by members of the Wirrulla branch of the R.S.A., amid enthusiastic cheers from those present. The singing of the National Anthem and dancing followed, before speeches addressing the impending departure for overseas services and expressions of the district's pride and admiration in their enlistment step, were made. The newspaper added that ‘Mr. T. L. Lovegrove, on behalf of the R.S.A., also wished the boys well, and expressed the hope that the day would not be far distant when they would be welcomed back home and enrolled as members of the old R.S.A.’ Their parents were also praised for ‘the great sacrifice made by the parents of those boys who had answered their country's call’.
Within two months, Eric was also being farewelled with Keith and Neil Barns at the same Wirrulla Hall in the community’s third similar patriotic format, including gifts from the CWA of comforts and also from the Wirrulla Concert Party. The local paper reported that ‘On rising to respond each boy received a rousing reception. They thanked their many friends for the presentations, which, they said, were greatly appreciated and would be put to the best possible use. Each hoped to be back soon to reunite with their friends.’
Back home, definite, accurate news was difficult to ascertain. The Advertiser of August ‘42 listed five men from the 2/48th as missing, believed prisoner of war, including Corporal A.C. Montgomerie SX7967. Eventually, that fate was officially confirmed in February ‘43. All had become Prisoners of War. The Advertiser carried the summary ‘Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Montgomerte, of Edwardstown, have been notified that their son. Cpl. A. C. Montgomerie, has been reported missing, believed prisoner of war. He enlisted at Yeelanna in July 1940, sailed for overseas the following November, and served for several months in Tobruk. His younger brother. Pte. E. L. Montgomerie, who enlisted at the same time and went abroad in February, 1941, has been wounded in action in Egypt. Another brother. Gnr. R. K. Montgomerie, is also on active service in the Middle East.’
Their family’s anxious wait was to be tempered with tragedy as they received word that 23-year-old Eric, by then a Corporal, had been killed in action in Egypt on the 31st October 1942. In that fateful October battle, the 2/48th lost 199 men killed or wounded of their 292 involved in that night’s battle – over 68 percent of their men. John Glenn in his book, Tobruk to Tarakan describes the conditions: ‘Battalion headquarters was out of communication with D Company, the reason which was not then known, being that all members of D Company headquarters had been either killed or wounded. In fact, 16 of their men had been killed on the objective, leaving a company of six to carry on. Just as the company was nearing its objective, the men had approached two mounds with a saddle in between. Fifty yards from these they were met by a murderous fire from the mounds. D Company immediately went to ground, but the Germans swept the area where they lay in the open. Captain P Robbins, a very gallant soldier, was among the first to be hit by a Spandau bullet, which killed him instantly. “Chuck” Fowler who never left Robbins’ side, was next to fall. The remnants of the Company were being cut to pieces. Private Doug Whyte of the “I” Section, Arthur Wilson, Private E.S. Schubert, Sergeant P.M. Ide and Eric Montgomerie were all killed in this exposed position.”
The Official-War Correspondent, Kenneth Slessor in lengthy newspaper articles published in March ’43 described the conditions at the time, including how Private Percy Gratwick and Sergeant Bill Kibby won individual Victoria Crosses for their exceptional bravery.
‘Then came the night of October 30/31, "Our job was to cut west across Thompson's Post take the railway, straddle the coast road and then work back cleaning up enemy pockets and strong posts," said Martin. "We straddled the road all right and then started to work back east. D Company cleaning up between the road and the sea. It was easy at first, but then we ran into real opposition. We saw a couple of lights shoot up from a ridge—actually there were two humps, one on the left and one on the right, with a saddle be-tween. We got within 50 yards and then they opened fire-and how!
"Three Spandau's started shooting from the hump on the left and two more and a couple of three inch mortars from the right. At first it came waist-high, but when we went down like wet sacks they, sent the stuff skimming just over the top of the ground. We got most of our casualties there. Captain Robbins hadn't made a mistake to that stage, refusing to be bluffed. A burst from a Spandau killed him and another got his batman, "Chuck" Fowler, of Port Pirie. Another got Doug Whyte, from St. Peters. Arthur Wilson, of Glanville was killed, and Sergeant Rod Ide, of Lameroo, and Eric Montgomerie, from the West Coast. Ray Bloffwitch, of Bowden, was wounded and a piece of mortar bomb broke Norman Learney's leg. We were all over the show and badly cut up. Unless we could be got together to wipe those Jerries off the ridge they were certain to wipe us out. That's when Kibby got going, yelling orders and re-organising, and, in no time we were ready for a crack at that ridge. We split into two sections. There were a few from Company Headquarters with us and they were in section with myself and Len Steike, detailed to clean up the Jerries on the left. Kibby was with the others. Well, we cleaned up the Jerries on the left, but that didn't help. Kibby's section had been driven to earth scarcely 20 yards in front of a Spandau which was ripping them to pieces. We seemed to be in a worse position than before, being nearer and more exposed. Kibby saved the bunch of us. We saw him run forward with a grenade in his hand and throw it. Then he disappeared, but after that grenade exploded there wasn't any more firing from that quarter. We stayed quiet for a while, and then looked at the shambles around us There were dead and wounded everywhere. On the way east we had captured a German Regimental Aid Post and we set about getting our wounded back there. We collected a couple of Jerry prisoners, found an iron bedstead, put Norman, Learney aboard and told them to carry him. We were dogtired by daylight when we retired a couple of hundred, yards and dug in. It wasn't until two days, later that we had an opportunity to go out and look for our dead. When we got to the place they had disappeared. We guessed that Jerry had dropped them in a shallow trench and covered them over, so we started searching below every freshly turned patch of sand. We spent ten days searching before we found them. They were all lying together in one grave. We took them out and did the job properly, burying them in a row —Bill Kibby, Peter Robbins, Rod Ide, Doug Whyte, Chuck Fowler, with Eric Montgomerie just behind. We couldn't say much, but I guess we all knew, every man of us, that if it hadn't been for Bill Kibby we might have been lying there with them."’
Having received formal verification, Catherine and William shared the tragic news of Eric’s death in the Advertiser Friday 20 November 1942, MONTGOMERIE. —Killed in action, Egypt. Oct. 31. Eric, dearly loved youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Montgomerie, Edwardstown. loving brother of Lois, Ray (A.I.F.), Mervyn, Alvin (A.I.F. and P.O.W.), Reuben and Merle. The paper also carried a brief tribute to those killed at a similar time ‘Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Montgomerie, of Edwardstown, have been informed that their youngest son, Pte. Eric Montgomerie, was killed in action in Egypt on October 31. Pte. Montgomerie served at Tobruk and in Egypt, where he was slightly wounded on July 14. His oldest brother, Gnr. R. K. Montgomerie, is on active service in Egypt and another brother, Cpl. A. C. Montgomerie, is a prisoner of war.
Eric was killed on the 31st October, 1942, aged 23 years. He was re-buried in the El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt XIV. C. 22. On the 26th March 1943The inscription on his grave reads ‘Faithful unto Death’ He is buried alongside Sergeant R. M. Ide SX8344. Eric was one of nine men from the 2/48th Battalion killed on the 31st October, 1942. His fellow soldiers were Captain P Robbins SX10325, Sergeants W.H. Kibby V.C. SX7089 and R.M. Ide SX8344, Corporal J Pitcher SX11225, Privates E.S.J. Schubert, SX7695, A.K. Noak SX9399, E.W. Vivian SX8204, G.S.R. Fowler SX8385, D. Whyte SX7987, A.G. Wilson SX8941, and P.G. Johnson WX10331.
Eric’s family continued to remember their young son and brother.
Advertiser Friday 20 November 1942, MONTGOMERIE. —Killed in action, Egypt. Oct. 31. Eric, dearly loved youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Montgomerie, Edwardstown. loving brother of Lois, Ray (A.I.F.), Mervyn, Alvin (A.I.F. and P.O.W.), Reuben and Merle.
West Coast Sentinel 1942, MONTGOMERIE: In sad but loving memory of our loved youngest son and brother, Eric, 23 years, who made the supreme sacrifice on October 31 in Egypt. --"His duty nobly done."—Inserted by sorrowing parents, sisters, and brothers. MR. AND MRS. P. G. SHERIDAN AND FAMILY wish to sincerely thank all kind relatives and friends for letters, tele grams, cards, and personal expressions of sympathy in the sad loss of their brother and uncle, Pte. Eric Montgomerie. Will all please accept this as a personal ex pression of gratitude.
West Coast Sentinel Thursday 28 October 1943, MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of our dear brother and uncle, Eric, killed in action on the 31st October, 1942. Ever remembered by Merv, Jean and Ross.
Advertiser Monday 1 November 1943, MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of our dear son and brother Eric, who gave his life at El Alamein, Oct. 31, 1942. He sleeps in a soldier's grave, honored among Australia's brave. —inserted by father, mother, sisters, and brothers. MONTGOMERIE. —in loving memory of our dear nephew and cousin Eric, killed in action, El Alamein. Oct. 31. 1942. "We will always remember you. Inserted by auntie, uncle, and cousins. June, Clarice, Betty, Murray. MONTGOMERIE. —A tribute to the memory of my friend Eric, killed El Alamein. Oct. 31. 1942. He peacefully sleeps in a soldier's grave, his memory honored with Australia's brave. —Always remembered by Edna Bottomley.
Advertiser Tuesday 31 October 1944, MONTGOMERIE: —In proud and loving memory of our loved son and brother, Eric, who gave his life at El Alamein, October 31. 1942. Time drifts on, but memory stays —Inserted by father, mother and sister Merle. MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory or our dear nephew Eric, killed in action El Alamein. October 31. 1942. For-ever in our thoughts. —Aunty Mollie, uncle Tom, June, Bill, Clarice, Betty and Murray. MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of Eric killed in action. El Alamein. October 31, 1942. —Ever remembered by Reuben and Joyce. MONTGOMERIE. A.-Cpl. E. L. 2/48th. Batt. —In loving memory or our dear brother. Eric, killed in action at El Alamein, October 31. 1942.—Always remembered by Ray and Kitty. MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of my dear friend, Eric, killed at El Alamein, October 31. 1942. Somewhere in Egypt be is lying: he answered his country's call: he died an Australian hero, fighting to save us all—Always remembered by Edna.
West Coast Sentinel Wednesday 31 October 1945, MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of Eric, killed in action at El Alamein, October 31, 1942. Sadly missed. —Always remembered by his loving brother Merv and sister-in-law Jean,
Advertiser Friday 2 November 1945, MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of Eric killed at El Alamein, October 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by Vin and Elva.
Advertiser Thursday 31 October 1946, MONTGOMERIE. —In loving memory of Eric, killed in action. El Alamein. October 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by brother and sister-in-law. Reuben and Joyce.
Advertiser Saturday 30 October 1948, MONTGOMERIE. — In loving memory of Eric, killed in action. El Alamein. Oct. 31. 1942. Deep in our hearts a memory is kept of one we loved and will never forget. —Remembered by father, mother (dec). sisters and brothers.
Aged 62, Eric’s mother Jessie died in August ’48 in the Adelaide hospital and was buried in the North Brighton Cemetery. His father, William died in April 67, and was buried in Centennial Park.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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"...SX9488 Private Eric Leonard Montgomerie, 2/48 Battalion, from Wirrula, SA. Pte Montgomerie enlisted at Adelaide on 22nd July 1940, aged 21. Promoted Corporal, he was later killed in the Battle of El Alamein on 31 October 1942. The battalion lost 199 officers and men killed or wounded of the 292 engaged in the night attack." - SOURCE (