Bryan James (Axo) HEMMINGS


HEMMINGS, Bryan James

Service Number: SX8979
Enlisted: 15 July 1940
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
Born: Penola, South Australia, 6 April 1918
Home Town: Kalangadoo, Wattle Range, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Died of wounds, Egypt, 5 November 1942, aged 24 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
El Alamein War Cemetery, El Alamein, Marsa Matruh, Egypt
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kalangadoo War Memorial Park Gates, Penola War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

15 Jul 1940: Involvement Captain, SN SX8979, 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
15 Jul 1940: Enlisted Mount Gambier, SA
15 Jul 1940: Enlisted SN SX8979, 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
5 Nov 1942: Involvement Captain, SN SX8979, 2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion, El Alamein

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney


Bryan was born on 6th April 1918 at Penola hospital, growing up on a property called Kensal Green, attending school in Kalangadoo and finally Roseworthy Agricultural College. The family had been living in the South East for generations and had established themselves as successful graziers with broad property interests and attendant community leadership responsibilities.
Bryan joined the Third Light Horse at Mt Gambier in February 1939. He was 22 years old and was seconded to the AIF 2/43rd Battalion on 19th July 1940.
He married to Molly Kealy from Millicent on 4 November 1940. He was given eight days recreational leave. From that leave, the blessing of a child, Christina. A Daughter he would never meet.
Hemmings quickly accepted new responsibilities and commanded “Don” company in 1942, leading a series of aggressive fighting patrols in the desperate fight to stop Rommel.
On the night of 31st October 1942, the 2/43rd relieved the 2/48th battalion under cover of darkness. The 2/48th had suffered heavy casualties and could muster no more than forty riflemen to cover it’s front, with many dead bodies still lying unburied around the positions. The defining feature was called Barrel Hill.

At sunrise the next day, the 2/43rd came under combined Tank, Artillery, Air and Infantry assault that lasted all day. After heavy enemy action in the preceding days, an Orders Group for the
Battalion Officers was arranged at “The Blockhouse”, a building near the railway on the 4th of November 1942. At 16:57 hours, a German shell landed on the assembled group, causing twelve casualties, killing five instantly including the Intelligence Officer, Medical Officer and Pioneer Officer, severely wounding seven including Bryan, a Company Commander. Given eyewitness
reports, it is assumed that the weapon was an 88mm gun in a ground role.
Byran was evacuated by medical services and died of his wounds on 5th November 1942.

Mr Mowbray related family memories.
“It was the little things in his letters that were interesting, particularly his purchase of a canvas 6x4 bath. He had to save his water quota to have the occasional bath with his knees up to his chest. It wasn’t long after all the jeering sarcastic remarks that others started saving their water quota and were borrowing his bath. The sand was a constant irritant.”

As he wrote in a letter “I bought a new cap the other day and I have the latest snap of you and Christina tucked under the celluloid inside. When I am travelling I just take my cap off and place it on my knees and there Molly and Christina are looking up at me.”
His Daughter, Mrs Cristina Mowbray said “The thing I hated was laying a wreath at the War Memorial every Anzac Day and told to keep a “stiff upper lip and don’t cry”. Courtesy of Family