Archibald Lawrence (Archie) BOYES

BOYES, Archibald Lawrence

Service Number: SX8509
Enlisted: 10 July 1940, Adelaide, SA
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: Base Ordnance Depots
Born: Cape Northumberland, south Australia, 30 November 1907
Home Town: Port Adelaide, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Lefevre Peninsula School. South Australia
Occupation: Worked on wharves at Port Adelaide and surrounds
Died: 8 June 1968, aged 60 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Cheltenham Cemetery, South Australia
Section U, Drive D, Path 26, Site Number 91N
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World War 2 Service

10 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX8509, Army Training Units, Adelaide, SA
10 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX8509
10 Apr 1941: Involvement Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX8509, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Siege of Tobruk
22 May 1944: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX8509, Base Ordnance Depots
22 May 1944: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX8509

Service Finally Acknowledged

Archibald Lawrence Boyes SX8509
Archie, born in November 1907 was one of four children Alice Laurel, John, Archibald (Snow) and Mary Alice. Their parents were John Boyes and Frances Mary (nee Hater). John was a lighthouse keeper at a number of sites also the coast line from Port Adelaide southwards. With lighthouse keepers being rotated every 12 months, where possible, the children would row a boat into shore and thence travel to school. Besides Neptune Island, Penguin Island near Beachport, Cape du Couedic, Port McDonnel, Port Riley, Kingston and Moonta were all islands which required permanent light House Keepers. One such site where the family lived was in the cement and rubble constructed lighthouse keepers’ cottage on South Neptune Island at the base of Cape Spencer. The windswept island lacked both vegetation and a natural water supply and the soil was unsuitable for growing vegetables. The rainwater tank provided drinking water but, unknown at the time, the attached lead pipes inevitably contributed to lead poisoning of the family in later years. There were wild goats and mutton birds but the family grew up of necessity, being good fishermen. Food and water supplies were brought in from Adelaide on the ‘Musgrave’, but during WWI most seaworthy ships were requisitioned for the conflict, so frequently services and therefore supplies were not delivered. (Historically, keepers continued to man the island until the mid-1990’s.)
Life on an island was challenging and the changing mood of the sea also influenced the family being able to row into the mainland if provisions were required. In 1916 the family were living in the lighthouse at Penguin Island, off Millicent in the South East of SA. In April head keeper John(snr) rowed ashore with 12-year-old John for their provisions but on the return journey a huge wave swamped their boat, throwing both into the sea. The Advertiser reported that: ‘Mr. Boyes and his son were thrown half a chain away, and the younger man was attacked by cramp. His father had to swim ashore with him, and the undertaking was exceedingly difficult in the rough sea.’ The family were fortunate that their boat was rescued by strong swimmer a Mr Brett, who ‘was charging to the boat, and, being a good seaman, he managed to keep it from going out to sea. It was full of water, and would not ride the waves, one of which, when it broke on the shore, was nearly 18 ft. high. Within half an hour he managed to beach the boat.’
By May of 1916 English born John (snr) aged 36, had enlisted to serve, citing Francis Mary as his next of kin and recording that he had five children. His service was ‘colourful’ with several bouts of being drunk, disorderly, creating a disturbance, stealing a uniform, contracting VD as well as bronchitis.
Just three months after enlisting, on the 24th August 1916 tragedy struck the family when the youngest daughter, five-year-old Alice Laurel died at the Isolation Block in the Adelaide Hospital. Her father, then Private John Boyes placed a notice in the paper. In succeeding years Archie, Lottie and his cousin placed an In Memorium notice in The Advertiser 1917: ‘God knew best, He eased her pain, And gave her rest. Similarly their grandmother, Alice and Mary inserted ‘There’s a home for little children; above the bright blue sky.’ Her parents, Francis and John added: ‘In loving memory of dear little Alice youngest child of Frances and John: Boyes died August 24, 1926. Oh for the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still. Ever remembered, by her mother, father (on active service), sister, brothers, and grandfather.
In 1918 ‘In loving memory of our dear little niece, Alice, who died at the Isolation Hospital, August 24th. 1916. The flowers upon her grave scarce breathe, so sweet a flower lies hid beneath, As if they feared their growth might stir the sleepy earth that covers her. Inserted by grandma, aunties Alice and Mary, Glanville. BOYES. — In loving memory of Alice Laurel, youngest child of Frances and John Boyes, who died August 24th. 1916, at Adelaide. The sweetest flower is first to fall. The fairest first to fade; The Nearest, sweetest, best of all. Are first laid in the grave. -Ever remembered by her fond mother, father (on active service, France), sister, and brothers, Birkenhead.
The youngest girl, Mary Alice then carried the name of her older deceased sister. The children’s father believed fear was a great motivator for them to master the skill of swimming. Both boys did quickly master these skills. Unfortunately, when young Mary Alice had the rope tied around her and was thrown into the sea in the usual ‘sink or swim’ philosophy a shark was cruising. Her sheer terror caused her to have ongoing fear of the sea, water and swimming.
As a typical active young boy, Archie had his share of ‘scrapes’, his first published one was as an eight-year-old, heading home from school when he was quite forcefully pushed into a puddle at the rear of the Lefevre Peninsula School. In intense pain he returned home, to then be taken to the Port Adelaide Casualty Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured left collarbone. At this stage, his father John was still serving as a Private in WWI where he had a record for numerous infringements before he was finally discharged in 1918
Living in Port Adelaide between the wars John Snr continued to tangle with the law regarding his drunkenness, use of ‘indecent language’ which could be heard by passers-by. Despite fines, John Snr felt he was being victimised by the police. It appears family life was quite destructive between the boys and their father. In 1927, having had no contact with his sons for two years, John Snr entered their house, aggressively demanding to see his daughter, ostensibly to give her money to buy the mother a dress. The two boys protectively acted together to remove their father from the house. John Snr then took his sons, John and Archibald (19) to court over threats of violence with Archie being given a 12-month good behaviour bond. Archie’s next recorded misadventure occurred a decade later when, with a group of friends he stowed away in the ship Dumosa from Newcastle in an attempt to return to Port Adelaide where a job was waiting for him. The stow-aways were found hiding amongst the ship’s stores. He was fined 5 pounds with 15 shillings costs, in default seven days' imprisonment. He told the magistrate that he had not had time to get his money from the chief steward of the Iron Knob, which was due in Melbourne that week, so was given 4 days to pay the fine.
Archibald willing turned his hand to a range of work, including as a salt scraper at Munston on Kangaroo Island but unfortunately a verbal agreement for payment of 4/- (40c) a ton was invalid and the group were paid a mere 1/9 (20c) per ton. Despite taking the case to court, the representative who offered the verbal amount was not authorised to do so. Unfortunately, Archibald and another labourer were admitted to hospital suffering from some sort of poisoning caused by the salt, as well as being well out of pocket for their hard work. Given the background of their childhood, it was almost inevitable that John and his brother Archie became alcoholics.
Archies’ brother John was the first to enlist. As an older man (aged 32), Archibald, a marine steward enlisted and became part of the S.A. based 2/48th Battalion. In a letter to his uncle Mr H. Hater and shared in the News in October 1941, titled ‘Diggers Sure About Tobruk’ Archie proudly claims that “Germany and Italy will need more than dive-bombers to get the diggers out of Tobruk.. The boys have no doubt at all about holding this place..They want everyone to know that the Fighting Forces Comforts Fund is doing a splendid job. We are getting plenty of tobacco, cigarettes, and other comforts, for which we are grateful. Things are just the same here plenty of fleas, flies, and dust, also Jerry planes hanging round all day, but not doing much damage. We have been in the desert six months today, so are quite used to the conditions.” He added an incentive to those who had not, at that time, enlisted that he hoped "some of those Saturday afternoon sports can see their way clear to come over and take their places. I suppose they know that anyone can join in the game here."
Archie’s war record showed he certainly ‘pushed the boundaries’ with frequent documentation of drunkenness, disorder to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, being absent without leave, stealing, receiving stolen goods and disobeying routine orders. Perhaps his most infamous was the legend of “the episode of the donkey” which is recorded in detail in both Darren Paech’s ‘Adelaide to Alamein’ and John H. Glenn’s book, ‘Tobruk to Tarakan’, outlining two soldiers in detention escaping their barbed wire enclosure with some ingenuity to head into the nearby village ‘to make up for their period of forced abstinence’ with native brew. This was the evening when the C.O’s met, to be wined, dined and entertained with ‘pomp and ceremony’. “Late in the evening there was a dramatic interruption. The door of the mess was pushed open and in through it came one of the men leading a donkey, on which the other was unsteadily seated, while behind, his baggy britches twitching in anxiety, came a huge wog. The party came to a halt, and the rider, having announced “I wanna report to Major Tucker”, fell off.” Inevitably, the donkey and Arab were sent back to the village and the men again under close arrest, fined and given 28 days detention. “And the story of the night lived on in the legends of the 2/48th.”
Distressingly, while Archie and his brother were away fighting, their young 13-year-old niece, Violet Emily Stephens died of meningitis on October 22nd 1942. That grief was compounded by the earlier loss of their sister Alice in 1916.
Behind the façade of a tough combatant, was a soldier who quietly protected those who had enlisted by putting up their age. One such was 16-year-old, ‘Bill’ McEvoy (Laurence Henry) who also joined the 2/48th Archie unobtrusively shielded the young lad as much as possible from ‘centre front’ positions when operations were at their most dangerous. This earned Archie the respect and life-long friendship of Bill who was to become such a staunch supporter in the post war campaign to rightfully award medals for veterans who were denied this right. In fact, Bill gave his Polish Medal, presented by a grateful government on the 9th October, 1996, to Archibald’s nephew, Ken Stephens as a gesture of deep appreciation for Archie’s support, with the comment that Archie was a real dynamo and the “best soldier ever seen.”
Charged with desertion, Archie faced a court martial. As did most soldiers in the Middle East, when not under fire, Archie would head to the sea to wash and do their laundry in the brine, grabbing time out from the dust, heat, noise and flies. The contrasting evidence presented showed him as a loyal, good soldier but as he commented; “When I start to drink, I do not remember much of what goes on as most of the rest of the battalion knows.” Those in command who knew him well, like Sgt Stubberfield described Archie as “one man in the platoon that I could trust to carry out any task allotted.” He was also described as Loyal to his comrades in the 2/48th, a First-class soldier in every way and that when in the fight he always showed courage and did what he was told, including keeping the Section area tidy and always being a willing worker. While opportunities to desert were possible, when not fighting Archie went to beach but always returned. Fortunately, the desertion charge was dismissed. However, his record meant that the decision to award Archie the medals he had justifiably earned, the 1939/45 Star, African Star, Defence Medal, and War Medal A.S.M were denied, as they were for his brother, John.
With his war over, as Archie returned to South Australia, ‘administratively discharged’ in 1944, in typical high spirits he jumped off at Port Adelaide and swam ashore to have a much-anticipated beer in his hand as his compatriots disembarked.
Post War, the effects of alcohol continued to plague Archibald. In 1946 He had been drinking with two American seamen and two women at a Port Adelaide Hotel, then at a private residential party with more alcohol they had purchased. They were subsequently asked to leave when Archibald was charged with attacking, without warning one of the Americans with glass, causing him to have to seek medical help from the Royal Adelaide hospital. Archibald pleaded guilty and was fined £10 with £ 1 costs for having assaulted the American, saying he could not explain how the American had been cut by glass.
In 1951 the Adelaide News reported that Archibald was also instrumental in saving a waterside worker, William Graham, who fell off his out of control wharf tow motor into the 30-foot-deep Port River, striking his face on the freighter Corinda. When he did not resurface, Archie dived in and supported William, until a rope was thrown from the wharf to pull them back. Following treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, William was diagnosed with a probable fractured nose and bruised chest and shoulder.
Archie’s brother John Boyse applied for, but was refused his earned medals in 1950. Archibald Lawrence died 1971 aged 65 without recognition of his service to Australia.
The two men’s sister Mrs Mary Stephens again applied in 1973, but again this was refused. Then her son and the men’s nephew, Kenneth Stephens, himself a Vietnam War Veteran ran a constant campaign. He argued that the medals were rightfully earned in WWII overseas campaigns, to be awarded, arguing that they were both victims of injustice. Both the soldiers had been administratively discharged in 1944 for a range of infractions, including being absent without leave, insubordinate language and using threatening language to an officer. This prompted what became known as The Boyes Inquiry, headed by Brigadier Gary Bornholt (ret), who recommended an inquiry to determine "the extent to which Imperial and Australian awards or entitlements have been improperly forfeited or withheld, since 1939" in the navy, army and air force. While the two brothers definitely pushed the boundaries, their loyalty and duty to their country and fellow soldiers in their Divisions was unquestionable. Former Chief of Army, Professor Peter Leahy strongly supported the righting of this injustice, commenting that “I don't believe people's medals should be taken off them for being naughty. They have earned them." Finally, in 2013 a ruling was made to posthumously award both men their medal entitlements and the medals be issued. This then resulted in the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal investigating how many other servicemen may have been refused honours since 1939. Disturbingly, at least 120 files were examined and anomalies have been found in half of them.
Ken Stephens was finally able to pay tribute to the bravery and service of both his uncles by marching with his two granddaughters and the Rats of Tobruk on Anzac Day wearing his uncles' medals.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133 2/48th Battalion. With sincere thanks to Ken Stephens who so generously provided family photos and back-stories.

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