Ernest Sydney John (Mick) SCHUBERT

Poppy

SCHUBERT, Ernest Sydney John

Service Numbers: SX7695 , SX7695
Enlisted: 3 July 1940, Wayville, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Mount Gambier, South Australia, 29 August 1919
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Mount Gambier School, South Australia
Occupation: Saw Mill hand
Died: Killed In Action, Egypt, 31 October 1942, aged 23 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
Plot XVI. A. 26
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Mount Gambier Branch No 2 Memorial, Mount Gambier War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

3 Jul 1940: Enlisted Private, SN SX7695 , Wayville, South Australia
4 Jul 1940: Involvement Private, SN SX7695
31 Oct 1942: Involvement Private, SN SX7695, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, El Alamein
Date unknown: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Kaye Lee

‘Thy Will Be Done’

Ernest Sydney John Schubert (‘Mick’) was born to Ernest Edward and Kathleen Alice Schubert on the 29th August 1919 in Mount Gambier, home of the Blue Lake on the Limestone Coast of South Australia.  His father, Ernest Edward was 19 years old when he enlisted to become Driver 8961 in WWI who contracted what was colloquially called severe ‘Trench Feet’ which finally resulted in his being returned to Australia after two years of service, marrying in February in London before being discharged back in Australia in November 1919, just two months after Mick’s birth. His father earned the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory medal of which he and his children were justifiably proud. Ernest’s brother, Harold Hubert, had also served in WWI but had been killed in action on the Belgian Front in September 1917. Following Mick’s birth, four daughters followed, Shirley, Hilda, Margaret and Eileen, followed by two sons, Harold and David.

The children attended the local Mount Gambier School, where eight-year-old Mick gained full marks in the mid-year school competition. His Lutheran family were also active in their attendance at Sunday School, which produced an annual Concert to rase funds. In a very varied programme, Mick was one of five young teenage boys to act out an ‘Upside Down Drill’ of gymnastics, which received acclaim. That same year Mick was also part of a boys’ marching display at the end of year concert. He also gained a Grade I Woodwork Certificate for his skills in this field.

In a tragic drowning at the local Valley Lake in January ‘35, Mick’s father was instrumental in the search for two of his 14-year-old friends whose tin boat had overturned. The lake was dragged, but the snags, depth of water and unevenness of the bottom of the lake made this exercise difficult. It took five days to find the bodies. Mick’s father, Ernest and Jack Robinson recovered the body of the second lad.

Post school, seventeen-year-old Mick initially worked as a grocer’s assistant. In this role he was called upon to give evidence of stealing by a local man who had a string of other convictions including larceny, drunkenness, indecent language, and unlawfully carrying away liquor. Not unexpectedly the perpetrator was fined and given a good behaviour bond. Two years later, Mick was working locally as a Saw Mill attendant when he was again called as a witness in a case where an interstate man attempted to sell Mick a stolen hat, ostensibly given to the ‘seller’ at a station. Mick’s response was that he did not wear hats, so obviously did not need one. He was also able to clearly identify both the men trying to on-sell stolen property. Resultantly both men were jailed. Also at that time, Mick was also serving in the local Militia which he joined in March 1938 as number 307573, serving for two and a half years.

Just prior to his 20th birthday, Ernest (Mick) enlisted on the on the 3rd July 1940. He was allocated the number SX7698 in the newly formed 2/48th Battalion. Initial days were spent in the cold of the Pavilions, now part of the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, before the new enlistees headed to Woodside for their preliminary training.

Following pre-embarkation leave he was part of the large contingent of 2/48th enlistees embarked on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940, arriving on the 19th December 1940. Not unsurprisingly, for someone who had spent all of their life in and around Mount Gambier, Mick went ‘sightseeing’ in March the following year, missing a parade and paying the price of a three-day penalty.

Their 2/48th Battalion completed a few months training in Cyrenaica before going to Tobruk at the start of April 1941 where the dust, flies, heat, minimal water supplies and constant bombardment were quite a challenge to these fresh new enlistees. In August Mick spent two days in hospital with abrasions to his shins. Having lived a healthy country life in the Mount, Mick became jaundiced and acquired painful kidney stones, necessitating treatment in first the Australian then the Scottish hospitals just prior to Christmas ’41. He was finally able to re-join his Battalion at the end of March ’42. By September the same year he attended Signal School with the 9th Division, a course at which he excelled. On the 15th October Mick returned to his battalion to have precious 16 days with his close mates.

On the 31st October 1942, 22-year-old Mick was killed in one of the most devastating encounters for the 2/48th Battalion. Definitive news slowly drifted back about that horrific battle where the Battalion lost 199 men killed or wounded of their 292 involved in that night’s conflict – over 68 percent of their men. John Glenn in his book, Tobruk to Tarakan describes the conditions: ‘Battalion headquarters, continuing to move forward, passed through the gap between B and C Companies, only to find themselves four hundred yards in advance of the leading companies and meeting heavy enemy resistance close to the final objective. Casualties were mounting among the headquarter personnel. Corporal Bill Cashen and Private Murray Nicholson of the orderly room staff, Sergeant Lindsay Goode and Corporal Tas Scutt of the signals, and Private Vin McGahan had all been killed.’ He continued:

‘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."

Mick was initially buried in the field where he had been killed. Detailed coordinates were kept of where his fellow soldiers lay him to rest.

Back home the devastating news was given to his parents and publicised in the Border Watch on Saturday 28th November ’42; ‘ANOTHER LOCAL CASUALTY Pte, Ernest Schubert Killed Mr. and Mrs. E. E. Schubert, of William Street, have received advice that their eldest son, Private Ernest ("Mick") Schubert, A.I.F., was killed in action in Egypt on October 31. Private Schubert was aged 22 years. Before enlisting in July1940 he was employed at South Australian Worsted Mills, Mount Gambier. He left for overseas in November of the same year. His father is a returned soldier. He was one of the "Rats of Tobruk" being in the Siege from April to October, 1941.’

In a much appreciated letter from Mick’s Commanding Officer, his parents shared the contents with the Border watch. ‘"This is to offer you my sympathy, and that of his many friends in the Battalion, in the loss of your son, Pte. E. S. J. Schubert. "As I expect you know, Pte Schubert had recently joined the Signal Platoon. During the Battle of El Alamein he was attached, in the normal course of his duties, to his old Company D. in which he had many friends. "Throughout the week's very heavy fighting, from October 23rd on, he carried out his duties unfalteringly and earned the admiration of everyone.

"On the night of 30/31 October he was with his Company Commander throughout a courageous attack on very strong enemy positions. He was killed when very close to the Company's final objective, by enemy machine gun fire from close range. "In offering you the sympathy of all of us who knew him, in your great loss, I would like to affirm that it was entirely due to the gallant determination and courage of men like Pte. Schubert that the Battle of Alamein was won and the way opened for the great victory in North Africa "He is sadly missed by us all."

 

 

Mick was reburied in the El Alamein War cemetery in Egypt, Plot XVI. A. 26 in March ’43. He now rests with Privates Douglas Whyte SX7987, Arthur Wilson SX8491 and Arthur Noak SX9399 all from the 2/48th who died with Mick. His parents chose the inscription ‘Thy Will Be Done’ for his headstone.

Post war in February 1950, his family received the medals earned by Mick; the 1939/45 Star, the Africa Star and with 8th clasp, The Defence Medal, War Medal and Australian Service Medal.

The survivors from the 2/48th, devastated by the deaths, continued to remember their compatriots as did family and friends.

Border Watch Saturday 30 October 1943, SCHUBERT. -In memory of our dear son and brother, Pte. "Mick" Schubert, who was killed in action at El Alamein, October 31, 1941. Whatever else we fail to do, We never fail to think of you. -Inserted by his loving father, mother, sisters and brothers. SCHUBERT, E. S. J. (Mick). -Killed in action, El Alamein, 31st October, 1942. A great pal. -Sadly missed by Jack and Geoff. SCHUBERT. -In loving memory of Mick, killed in action 31st October, 1942. Duty nobly done. -Inserted by Mr. and Mrs. Byrne, sons and daughters.

Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), Thursday 28 October 1943, page 8 In memory ol our pals, who paid the supreme sacrifice at El Alamein, Oct, 1942. Lindsay Goode. Tas Scutt, Jack Curtis, Les King, Bill Jarmyn, Arthur Noack, Lionel Schubert. Harold Pearce. — Ever remembered by pals, signal Platoon. A token of remembrance to my pals and comrades of the 2/48tn Btn. who fell at El Alamein in Oct, 1942. Lest we forget. —inserted by Jack Todd and Fred Wooldridge.

 

His father lived to be 75, died in January 1971 and was buried in the Carinya Gardens at Mount Gambier where Kathleen joined him in April ’83. Both parents remembered Mick on their plaques.

Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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