Jack Eunson CHAMPION

CHAMPION, Jack Eunson

Service Number: SX7613
Enlisted: 2 July 1940, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Echunga, South Australia, 18 August 1909
Home Town: Bordertown, Tatiara, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Hairdresser
Died: Illness, South Australia, 1990
Cemetery: Bordertown Cemetery
Bronze Lawn J4
Memorials: Bordertown WW2 Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

2 Jul 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN SX7613, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, Adelaide, South Australia
3 Jul 1940: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN SX7613, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
22 Dec 1944: Discharged 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN SX7613, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement

Hard Working Larrikin

Jack Eunson Champion
Harry and Marion Champion lived on a farm at Jupiter Creek and also managed the Bark Mill there. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters. Jack, born in the Adelaide Hills at Echunga on 18th August 1909, was the fourth child and second son. Harry had served in both the in the Boer War in India as part of the 1st Light Horse Regiment and then the Royal Field Artillery at Anzac, Gallipoli where he sustained severe ill-health. It is unsurprising, then that post WWI, Jack’s family was actively involved in local fundraising, including Harry’s role as President of the Echunga Red Cross and Belgium Relief Funds and local Institute building funds. The family also enjoyed Old Time Masked Balls with competition for innovative costumes where the Champion sisters dressed as Lift boys, a Myer Lift girl and Italian Knight. Jack dressed as a Myer Lift boy, indicative of the times! This early country-based life continued when the family later moved to Murray Bridge. Post school, Jack had a variety of jobs, including working for his father on road building contracts and building the magnificent Bonython Hall in the mid 30's.
Jack then had a change of career. He packed his belongings into his Indian Motor Bike and side car and moved to Keith where he opened a Barber shop. After couple of years at Keith, Jack moved to Bordertown in 1938 where he purchased a well-established business which had been in the hands of the same person for 21 years.
Within two years, WWII had had changed the lifestyle of so many in Australia. Jack closed his business and enlisted on June 2nd 1940, with the Border Chronicle noting that he had ‘made satisfactory arrangements for the carrying on of his hairdressing business whilst he is absent overseas.’ Other local men continued to enlist and were similarly farewelled by the community. As part of the formalities, Jack’s involvement in local life was recalled in comments that he had been ‘one of the most popular members’ of the local V.S.D. and that they had ‘greatly appreciated Jack's association with them.’ In August 1941 while farewelling Leo Smith and Jack O’Donoghue, Mr Fairbrother from the local Tatiara RSL proudly shared that ‘the name of the Australian soldier stands high in the estimation of the rest of the world, and 'this is in considerable portion due to the heroic defence of the boys besieged at Tobruk. He mentioned that Jack Champion, one of the finest boys ever sent away from the district, had sent back a leaflet, dropped over the Australian lines by German planes, the burden of which was, "Aussies . . . surrender!" That was some two months ago, and our boys had not yet raised the white flag, though they had suffered something like a thousand air raids. He also mentioned that the Fuhrer and the Duce had commenced a fund for the building of ships, which they called the "sinking fund." This attitude was typical of those who became known as the Rats of Tobruk, of which Jack was by then a veteran.
As was typical in country towns, locals kept in close contact with those who were serving overseas and also developing romances! To herald the September 1941 Tatiara Show, a Miss Myrle Jarrett received an interesting collection of shell casings from Jack in Tobruk, with these being displayed in the Bordertown Hotel. The Border Chronicle reported in detail that ‘there are three shell-cases, of different sizes, of solid brass, the largest being 12 inches high and about 6 inches in diameter. The case itself weighs 11 lbs, and, fully loaded would weigh about 100 lbs. The collection also included five nosecaps of shells, which Pte Champion had made into a variety of ashtrays, with the aid of a hack-saw and rat-tail file, and polished them in the sand. These souvenirs were salvaged from a munition dump close to Tobruk on the Italian side. The shells had never been fired, but before dispatching them Pte Champion had '"demobilised" them.’ By October, Jack was onboard HMS Kingston, leaving Tobruk for Alexandria in Egypt and the iconic photo of Private Jack Curtis SX8281
Private Jack Champion and Cpl. Roy Darley SX6305 was taken -with Jack cheekily carrying his pet dog, Toby, in his backpack. (sadly, Jack Curtis later died of wounds in Egypt on the 23rd September 1942.)
By the end of 1941, now L/Cpl Jack Champion was writing home highly commending the work of the local Red Cross and Comforts Fund for those serving on the front line. Jack’s shell case art continued to be a feature of local events, including the 1942 first birthday of Bordertown War Savings Entertainment Group. A celebratory first birthday cake was surmounted by a ‘shellcase Jack Champion, one of the Rats of Tobruk had sent to Myrle’. The cake also held a patriotic large red white-and-blue candle.
Other local serving men continued to report on conditions in Egypt. Lieut Nichol McLellan, also at Tobruk with Jack wrote that "It has been a lot different from the Tobruk show. We had Jerry out in the open and got a fair crack at him, and it was a decent crack we gave him. It's the biggest shock he has had for a long time. Our lads are too good for him when they get anything like an even go. He tried out his tanks on us first, and lost most of them. Then he tried infantry—we cut them to pieces. He is very careful now what, he does on our front." He added that Jack Champion, after seven months with the Tobruk garrison, was "still going strong". McLellan also commented on the Australian’s propensity for misappropriation (or the politer term, souveniring) has earned them special recognition from Lord Haw Haw, Berlin’s mystery broadcaster, who refers to them as "Ali Baba Morshead and his 20,000 Thieves."
The community rejoiced when Cpl Jack returned home on leave in early March, 1943 and were delighted when his pending marriage to Myrle on March 6th was announced. In typical country tradition, a kitchen evening, including songs, performances and competitions were held for the young couple. At the conclusion the National Anthem and the verse "God bless our splendid men" were sung. Locals swung into action to decorate the Bordertown Church of Christ. Much care and detail was evident in the bride’s dress of silk net over taffeta, elbow length lace mittens and a three-strand pearl necklet. Jack’s gift to the bridesmaid and Matron of Honor was a three-strand pearl necklace. Two close compatriots, Pte Norm. Crocker (AIF returned) of Hindmarsh, and Pte. Geoff Wiese (AIF returned) Mundalla were best man and groomsman respectively. Despite ill-health, Jack’s father, Harry was able to attend the church ceremony.
Other soldiers were also home on leave that month, so the Bordertown Farewell and Welcome Home Committee organised a musical programme then the presentation of Membership badges to the Returned Servicemen Association to express admiration for their deeds, and thanks for their service to Australia.
With the war still raging, locals were innovative in their fundraising. In October 1943, the local Fighting Forces Comforts Fund undertook a huge photograph exhibition of 250 photos of Services personnel who had gone from the surrounding districts of Bordertown, Mundalla, Buckingham, Wirrega, Pine Hill, and Pooginagoric. Each group was sponsored with people encouraged to "back" their fancy in cash. Sig. Jack Champion was in the Bordertown No. 5 group with the final amount raised being an outstanding £463/8/8 (over $927.00).
Having served in New Guinea, Jack was able to return on leave in March of 1944 before finally the Border Chronicle in January of 1945 was able to pay tribute that ‘Jack Champion, one of the famous Rats of Tobruk, who has been listed B-class medical for some time past, has received his discharge from the AIF and this week recommenced civilian work on the transhipping at Wolseley railway station.’ Jack served for 1635 days, 1035 days outside Australia. He had survived. As had his sense of humour! As part of the revelry, the local paper gleefully reported that ‘Mr Bill Clark's old grey mare, with shaggy coat just in the moulting stages, was commandeered by Jack Champion and Jock Virgo, and later ushered into the bar of Mr Jack Fox's Bordertown hotel to "have a drink with the boys".
Post war, Jack did reopen his barber shop in Bordertown where he also built his own home. His son, Wayne was born in 1946. This event, on top of Jack’s safe return were joyous occasions for the new grandparents, Harry and Marion. Harry, who had been ill for some time, died in 1949. As with many returned soldiers, working indoors had no appeal for Jack who then took the opportunity to join the AMP land development scheme in 1950. After five years clearing and developing the land, in 1955 he was awarded a farm in the 100 of Willalooka between Keith and Naracoorte which he successfully farmed for nine years. Each year he attended the ANZAC Celebrations where he attended the 48th reunions to see his best mates. Each year some, including Sam Starling, Ron Smith and the Bradewood brothers would visit the farm and then go on to the Mt Gambier reunion. Their families stayed at the farm with the kids all sleeping in the wool shed.
With Wayne pursuing a career as a pilot, the farm was sold in 1965. Jack and Myrle then retired initially in Adelaide, then moved to Victoria then Queensland to be near their four grandchildren, who adored him. The retired couple returned to Bordertown in 1987 where fishing, gardening and building projects filled Jack’s time as he enjoyed good health until a sudden stroke in August 1990 contributed to his death on the 9th November, aged 83. A full and rewarding life.
Tribute researched and written by Kaye Lee (daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion) with information provided by Jack’s son, Wayne.

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Biography contributed by Kaye Lee

Hard Working Larrikin   

Jack Eunson Champion

Harry and Marion Champion lived on a farm at Jupiter Creek and also managed the Bark Mill there. They had eight children, four sons and four daughters. Jack, born in the Adelaide Hills at Echunga on 18th August 1909, was the fourth child and second son. Harry had served as a Sargent in the Boer War with the 4th Imperial Bushmen. It is unsurprising, then that post WWI, Jack’s family was actively involved in local fundraising, including Harry’s role as President of the Echunga Red Cross and Belgium Relief Funds and local Institute building funds. The family also enjoyed Old Time Masked Balls with competition for innovative costumes where the Champion sisters dressed as Lift boys, a Myer Lift girl and Italian Knight. Jack dressed as a Myer Lift boy, indicative of the times! This early country-based life continued when the family later moved to Murray Bridge. Post school, Jack had a variety of jobs, including working for his father on road building contracts and building the magnificent Bonython Hall in the mid 30's.

Jack then had a change of career. He packed his belongings into his Indian Motor Bike and side car and moved to Keith where he opened a Barber shop. After couple of years at Keith, Jack moved to Bordertown in 1938 where he purchased a well-established business which had been in the hands of the same person for 21 years.

Within two years, WWII had had changed the lifestyle of so many in Australia. Jack closed his business and enlisted on June 2nd 1940, with the Border Chronicle noting that he had ‘made satisfactory arrangements for the carrying on of his hairdressing business whilst he is absent overseas.’ Other local men continued to enlist and were similarly farewelled by the community. As part of the formalities, Jack’s involvement in local life was recalled in comments that he had been ‘one of the most popular members’ of the local V.S.D. and that they had ‘greatly appreciated Jack's association with them.’ In August 1941 while farewelling Leo Smith and Jack O’Donoghue, Mr Fairbrother from the local Tatiara RSL proudly shared that ‘the name of the Australian soldier stands high in the estimation of the rest of the world, and 'this is in considerable portion due to the heroic defence of the boys besieged at Tobruk. He mentioned that Jack Champion, one of the finest boys ever sent away from the district, had sent back a leaflet, dropped over the Australian lines by German planes, the burden of which was, "Aussies . . . surrender!" That was some two months ago, and our boys had not yet raised the white flag, though they had suffered something like a thousand air raids. He also mentioned that the Fuhrer and the Duce had commenced a fund for the building of ships, which they called the "sinking fund." This attitude was typical of those who became known as the Rats of Tobruk, of which Jack was by then a veteran.

As was typical in country towns, locals kept in close contact with those who were serving overseas and also developing romances! To herald the September 1941 Tatiara Show, a Miss Myrle Jarrett received an interesting collection of shell casings from Jack in Tobruk, with these being displayed in the Bordertown Hotel. The Border Chronicle reported in detail that ‘there are three shell-cases, of different sizes, of solid brass, the largest being 12 inches high and about 6 inches in diameter. The case itself weighs 11 lbs, and, fully loaded would weigh about 100 lbs. The collection also included five nosecaps of shells, which Pte Champion had made into a variety of ashtrays, with the aid of a hack-saw and rat-tail file, and polished them in the sand. These souvenirs were salvaged from a munition dump close to Tobruk on the Italian side. The shells had never been fired, but before dispatching them Pte Champion had '"demobilised" them.’ By October, Jack was onboard HMS Kingston, leaving Tobruk for Alexandria in Egypt and the iconic photo of Private Jack Curtis SX8281
Private Jack Champion and Cpl. Roy Darley SX6305 was taken -with Jack cheekily carrying his pet dog, Toby, in his backpack. (sadly, Jack Curtis later died of wounds in Egypt on the 23rd September 1942.)

By the end of 1941, now L/Cpl Jack Champion was writing home highly commending the work of the local Red Cross and Comforts Fund for those serving on the front line. Jack’s shell case art continued to be a feature of local events, including the 1942 first birthday of Bordertown War Savings Entertainment Group. A celebratory first birthday cake was surmounted by a ‘shellcase Jack Champion, one of the Rats of Tobruk had sent to Myrle’. The cake also held a patriotic large red white-and-blue candle.

Other local serving men continued to report on conditions in Egypt. Lieut Nichol McLellan, also at Tobruk with Jack wrote that "It has been a lot different from the Tobruk show. We had Jerry out in the open and got a fair crack at him, and it was a decent crack we gave him. It's the biggest shock he has had for a long time. Our lads are too good for him when they get anything like an even go. He tried out his tanks on us first, and lost most of them. Then he tried infantry—we cut them to pieces. He is very careful now what, he does on our front." He added that Jack Champion, after seven months with the Tobruk garrison, was "still going strong". McLellan also commented on the Australian’s propensity for misappropriation (or the politer term, souveniring) has earned them special recognition from Lord Haw Haw, Berlin’s mystery broadcaster, who refers to them as "Ali Baba Morshead and his 20,000 Thieves."

The community rejoiced when Cpl Jack returned home on leave in early March, 1943 and were delighted when his pending marriage to Myrle on March 6th was announced. In typical country tradition, a kitchen evening, including songs, performances and competitions were held for the young couple. At the conclusion the National Anthem and the verse "God bless our splendid men" were sung. Locals swung into action to decorate the Bordertown Church of Christ. Much care and detail was evident in the bride’s dress of silk net over taffeta, elbow length lace mittens and a three-strand pearl necklet. Jack’s gift to the bridesmaid and Matron of Honor was a three-strand pearl necklace. Two close compatriots, Pte Norm. Crocker (AIF returned) of Hindmarsh, and Pte. Geoff Wiese (AIF returned) Mundalla were best man and groomsman respectively. Despite ill-health, Jack’s father, Harry was able to attend the church ceremony.

Other soldiers were also home on leave that month, so the Bordertown Farewell and Welcome Home Committee organised a musical programme then the presentation of Membership badges to the Returned Servicemen Association to express admiration for their deeds, and thanks for their service to Australia.

With the war still raging, locals were innovative in their fundraising. In October 1943, the local Fighting Forces Comforts Fund undertook a huge photograph exhibition of 250 photos of Services personnel who had gone from the surrounding districts of Bordertown, Mundalla, Buckingham, Wirrega, Pine Hill, and Pooginagoric. Each group was sponsored with people encouraged to "back" their fancy in cash. Sig. Jack Champion was in the Bordertown No. 5 group with the final amount raised being an outstanding £463/8/8 (over $927.00).

Having served in New Guinea, Jack was able to return on leave in March of 1944 before finally the Border Chronicle in January of 1945 was able to pay tribute that ‘Jack Champion, one of the famous Rats of Tobruk, who has been listed B-class medical for some time past, has received his discharge from the AIF and this week recommenced civilian work on the transhipping at Wolseley railway station.’ Jack served for 1635 days, 1035 days outside Australia. He had survived. As had his sense of humour! As part of the revelry, the local paper gleefully reported that ‘Mr Bill Clark's old grey mare, with shaggy coat just in the moulting stages, was commandeered by Jack Champion and Jock Virgo, and later ushered into the bar of Mr Jack Fox's Bordertown hotel to "have a drink with the boys".

Post war, Jack did reopen his barber shop in Bordertown where he also built his own home. His son, Wayne was born in 1946. This event, on top of Jack’s safe return were joyous occasions for the new grandparents, Harry and Marion. Harry, who had been ill for some time, died in 1949. As with many returned soldiers, working indoors had no appeal for Jack who then took the opportunity to join the AMP land development scheme in 1950. After five years clearing and developing the land, in 1955 he was awarded a farm in the 100 of Willalooka between Keith and Naracoorte which he successfully farmed for nine years. Each year he attended the ANZAC Celebrations where he attended the 48th reunions to see his best mates. Each year some, including Sam Starling, Ron Smith and the Bradewood brothers would visit the farm and then go on to the Mt Gambier reunion. Their families stayed at the farm with the kids all sleeping in the wool shed.

With Wayne pursuing a career as a pilot, the farm was sold in 1965. Jack and Myrle then retired initially in Adelaide, then moved to Victoria then Queensland to be near their four grandchildren, who adored him. The retired couple returned to Bordertown in 1987 where fishing, gardening and building projects filled Jack’s time as he enjoyed good health until a sudden stroke in August 1990 contributed to his death on the 9th November, aged 81. A full and rewarding life.

Tribute researched and written by Kaye Lee (daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion) with information provided by Jack’s son, Wayne.

Read more...