Rex William GURR

GURR, Rex William

Service Number: SX7862
Enlisted: 5 July 1940, Wayville, SA
Last Rank: Staff Sergeant
Last Unit: Not yet discovered
Born: St Peters, South Australia, 12 August 1911
Home Town: Brighton, Holdfast Bay, South Australia
Schooling: Balaklava School, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Teller, Savings Bank of S.A.
Died: 14 January 1984, aged 72 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Memorials: Adelaide Savings Bank of South Australia Honour Roll WW2
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World War 2 Service

5 Jul 1940: Involvement SX7862
5 Jul 1940: Enlisted Wayville, SA
5 Jul 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (WW2) , Staff Sergeant, SX7862
6 Sep 1945: Discharged
6 Sep 1945: Discharged Australian Military Forces (WW2) , Staff Sergeant, SX7862

‘Efficient and Courteous’

Rex was born in the Adelaide suburb of St Peters on the 12th August 1911 to William Herbert and Violet Marion Gurr. He was one of six children with siblings Frank Herbert, Lillian Florence (Flo), Lucy Newbery, Eric and Betty.
In the early years, Rex’s father, William was known as the obliging and courteous officer in his role as the Post and Telegraph master at Balaklava, having moved there from Port Pirie and previously, Adelaide. Over his time at Balaklava, the introduction of phones in the area increased from 80 to over 200 in just two years. While living in the town, Rex attended the local Balaclava school, where he was a very competent student, gaining 80% in his first year at the High School.
Rex was also active and successful in a range of sports including table tennis, cricket and football. In the latter sport, he represented Crystal Brook in ’22. He was also active in many of the social events including Halloween Celebrations run by the local Caledonian Society and those who claim kinship with ‘the land of brown heath and shaggy wood.’ As a 13-year-old, Rex gained some notoriety with his win in the ‘dooking for apples’ competition where the participants were required to kneel in front of apples floating in tubs, with hands folded behind their backs and a fork handle in their mouths, having to coordinate spearing the apples and come upright with the apples on the prongs.
With his father’s retirement in July ’26 (to take a well-earned rest, moving to Brighton) Rex joined the new Glenelg football team as secretary that year and soon became a regular at the various fund-raising dances held throughout the ‘20’s, including for the Brighton Queen Competition, the blue and white dance for St Joseph’s school, the Seacliff Tennis Club’s annual dance and the Brighton Boy Scout dance.
Rex was 20 when his 42-year-old father died in July ’32. William was buried in the North Brighton Cemetery. By that time Rex was working for the Savings Bank at Kadina where he became a highly respected member of the community. He regularly played a good standard of golf, electric-light cricket for Inkslingers and cricket for the Ramblers cricket team plus Tennis for Kadina. He was also a partner for the May’40 Kadina Debutant Ball which helped raise funds for the Anglican Church. Rex was, however fortunate to escape with just damage to his car when involved in an accident near the mill corner at Kadina when another car drove across the Frances Terrace Road, causing a collision and damage to both cars involved. Fortunately, all passengers escaped without serious injury.
Just months later, with the outbreak of WWII 28-year-old Rex signed up at Kadina before formally enlisting at Wayville on the 5th July ’40 to become SX7862. Fellow bank employee and cricketer at Kadina Ian Larwood, SX7893 enlisted on the same day and both were allocated to the 2/48th Battalion. These two young men were entertained at the Kadina Council Chambers, where they were wished every success by Council representatives and the local Savings, National, Union and Commercial Banks, cricket club and the R.S.A. all of whom spoke highly of the guests as efficient and courteous bank officials, good sportsmen and athletes, and worthy representatives of Australia. Rex and Ian were presented with parcels from the R.S.A. and Fighting Forces Comforts fund. In response, Rex said “the honor was totally unexpected, and he thanked all for coming and doing as they had done. He was grateful to the many whom he had met in Kadina and who had so warmly given their friendship to him and made his stay enjoyable. They would not say farewell, but rather au revoir.” The two promised they would be hard to get rid of, and they would come back again alright. The singing of Auld Lang Syne concluded the farewells.
Rex and Ian were also amongst 18 young men who were farewelled by 400 Barmera people at the Bonney Theatre in October ’40. Many of these young men had also been allocated to the 2/48th, including SX8060 Archibald McFarlaine and SX7028 Murray McFarlaine, SX8031 Grant Thorpe, SX8035 Harold Short, SX6884 R.A. Altschwager, SX5466 Jack Stoddart, SX7284 Stanley Gordon, SX6935 George T. Brown (who was later killed in action on May 1st ’41) , SX7189 Lewis Semmens (who died of wounds in New Guinea on the 22nd November, ’43), SX8055 Victor Semmens and SX7969 Donald Wing.
Part of the farewell speech from the R.S.A. representative included the prediction that ‘History would repeat itself in that what had been dared by the old Diggers would be done again by the young Diggers. The mothers, sisters and sweethearts, he urged to be of good cheer and courage. The Prime Minister had given the answer that the boys would have the finest of fighting equipment. That, combined with intense training in Egypt, should make them fit enough for anything. On behalf of the local R.S.A. Sub branch, he conveyed to the men congratulations and best wishes, and gave them the assurance that they would not be let down by those left behind.’ Colonel Dean added that ‘he spoke with mixed feelings. Those feelings were of disgust and disappointment and pride. The first two because the men of the old A.I.F. were not permitted to finish the job they went away to do; the last because the men of the Second A.I.F. were going to carry on the fight and finish it, with victory. By going forth to fight the men today were giving the country their greatest service. in this they had the support of the whole of Australia, backed up with the most modern of fighting weapons. He felt confident that they would give a good account of themselves and prove second to none. He wished them good luck and God speed.’
Each of the young men were then given a gift of a pound note before personally responding to the well-wishers. With formalities over, supper and dancing followed.
The large contingent from the 2/48th Battalion, including those from Kadina, embarked on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940. arriving on the 17th December 1940. Once in the Middle East, the recruits completing a few months training in Cyrenaica. Rex acquired skills as a Signaller during these early months but unfortunately in the less than hygienic conditions, contracted an infected leg which required several days’ hospitalisation before he was able to re-join his 2/48th Battalion.
By April ’42 there was much excitement as troops returned from overseas with the Barmera community organising a welcome social. Rex rose through the ranks to eventually become Sergeant in January ’43 while still in the Middle East.
Isabel Jean McDonald (Jean), was originally a bank clerk at the Ballarat National Bank prior to the outbreak of WWII. She enlisted in March ’42 with the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service where she received rapid promotions to become a Sergeant, a role she relinquished after her whirlwind engagement and marriage, choosing to revert to Private. Jean and Rex chose to become engaged and married whilst Rex was back in Australia on leave in December ’43 with a notice appearing in the engagement section of several publications. ‘McDONALD — GURR.— Sergt. Isabel Jean (A.A.M.W.S.) daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. McDonald. Ballarat to Sergt. Rex William A.I.F. returned, son of Mrs. and the late Mr. W. B. Gurr. Cedar Way, Brighton, South Australia.’ They chose St Andrew’s church at Ballarat for the ceremony.
She was finally discharged in March ’44. Rex’s 66-year-old mother, Violet died the previous month. and was buried with William in the North Brighton Cemetery. (In July ’86, their oldest daughter, Florence was also interred with her parents.)
Following five years of service, Staff Sergeant Rex was discharged in September ’45. He returned to a huge welcome afforded to sixty-seven local personnel in the Kadina Town Hall with a huge ‘Welcome’ banner displayed in the front while in the evening this was brilliantly illuminated with colored lights. The local band played outside while the interior was described by the local paper as ‘nicely arranged with Allied flags displayed around the hall, and on the stage, pot plants in bloom, with hydrangeas and begonias interwoven with fern, made a delightful scene, and with the happy feelings, a cheerful atmosphere prevailed the whole evening. The seating accommodated about 500 people in the hall, which still left a large area for dancing, while the dress circle was taxed to its capacity, and the only standing room available was soon taken up. At 8 o'clock Girl Guides and Boy Scouts formed a guard of honor from the hall entrance to the stage and the guests moved slowly through headed by two diggers of World War I.’ Allied flags were displayed around the hall, and the stage featured colourful, flowering pot plants, with hydrangeas and begonias interwoven with fern. The National Anthem was enthusiastically sung before the returned men and women were introduced and ‘welcomed them back to Kadina, all receiving the gratitude of the audience with applause. A summary of the role of the local men included ‘we fought on, our men never yielding or giving away until they had to. Then Tobruk and the Middle East and at last, a glimmer of hope when word came through "We stopped them,"' and the turning point was reached in Europe. The Jap treachery at Pearl Harbour, North of Australia, and then their menace to Australia when so many of our noble boys gave their best and all, to save us, and now we are a free country and people for which we thank them. We are here to pay a tribute to the boys who came home and to those who gave their lives that we live in freedom." The assemblage then stood in silence for those who paid the supreme sacrifice’ The evening concluded with all present singing "For they are jolly good fellows."
Rex and Jean celebrated the early arrival of their son, Alan, born in Ballarat in September ’45 and a daughter in April ’52 at Penola.
Jean, a talented musician, established the music club in ‘50 which often met in her home. She contributed such works as the Beethoven sonatas and Chopin nocturnes but also was active in the tennis club and Mothers and Babies Association.
Post war, Rex worked at Penola, where he was an active member in the Coonawarra-Penola Sub-Branch RSL where he held the roles of treasurer, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the CWA when they held a masquerade Ball and was also treasurer of that Association and auditor of the Hospital Auxiliary. He was similarly passionate about his golf, with the highlight being his winning the Scoble Trophy in ’50. Lawn bowls also became a regular feature with Rex representing Penola in ’52 until he was posted to Maitland in ’54. Rex and Jean received several farewells, both personal at friends’ home where Jean was presented with a shoulder spray and Rex a buttonhole and both with a small gift from the community. The RSL also held a farewell social where the Gurrs were presented with a Ranleigh Tray.
Aged 73 Rex died on the 14th January ’84 and was buried at Centennial Park.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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