Roy Thomas (Tom) LOVEDAY

LOVEDAY, Roy Thomas

Service Number: SX6866
Enlisted: 29 June 1940, Wayville, SA
Last Rank: Warrant Officer Class 2
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Chehurford, England, 7 August 1904
Home Town: Renmark, Renmark Paringa, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Fruit Block worker
Died: 7 August 1987, aged 83 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Barmera (Upper Murray) Garden of Memory Cemetery
Memorials: Renmark District Roll of Honour WW2
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World War 2 Service

29 Jun 1940: Involvement Warrant Officer Class 2, SX6866
29 Jun 1940: Enlisted Wayville, SA
29 Jun 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Warrant Officer Class 2, SX6866, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
2 May 1946: Discharged
2 May 1946: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Warrant Officer Class 2, SX6866, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement

‘An Englishman by Birth’

Born in Chelmsford, England to Frank Arthur and Alice Esther Loveday on the 7th August 1904, (according to his enlistment record), Roy Thomas became popularly known as Tom. He and his older brother, Ronald Revers came to South Australia, with Roy settling in the Riverland region of Renmark in 1928 and Ronald eventually moving to live in Whyalla. Ron had previously run a successful motor carrying business with much of his work involving carrying road metal for the upgrade of roads including that to Clare.
Roy, known as Tom, was a reliable and highly respected fruit block worker who also particularly enjoyed playing golf for Chaffey where he was a competent player.
Tom met Eileen Lushington Morant whose family owned ‘Bangalore’ a fruit property to the west of Renmark. The property was renowned for its avenue of orange trees, English country style garden, tennis court and flourishing fruit trees including apricots and pears. The couple married on June 10th 1940 at St. Augustine's Church in Renmark. Eileen’s sister Beryl coordinated the floral decorations, and her grandmother provided the Lorraine Lee roses for the altar. Eileen’s married sister, Margery was maid of honour. Tom chose his brother, Ronald as his bridegroom. The young couple were able to have a brief honeymoon before Tom went into camp with the Infantry. He had officially enlisted to serve in WWII on the 29th June 1940, claiming his birthday as being 1904 and therefore 36 years old. Other records, including his memorial plaque at Renmark suggest he was born in 1906, but neither date would have precluded him from enlisting.
Tom was one of a close group of Renmark young men who all enlisted on the same day. They included 27-year-old Harry Roy SX6876 and Henry (Dick) Boothey SX6839 with Tom being SX6866. A young Harry Lock also enlisted that day as SX6846. All were allocated to the newly formed 2/48th Battalion. They initially trained at Wayville, now the Adelaide Showgrounds before marching to Woodside for more training. In August Eileen travelled to Adelaide to visit Tom whist he was in camp.
The new soldiers from the region returned to Renmark on pre-embarkation leave visiting friends and relatives in September. Many of the 17 young men were in his 2/48th Battalion, including SX8176 Dick Smith, SX8039 Donald F. Priester, SX8184 Walter Smith, SX6876 Harold A. J. Roy, SX6866 Roy T. Loveday. SX8179 Howard J. Trenwith, SX6846 Harry Lock, SX6839 Henry Boothey, SX7996 Colin Roger R. Jacka and SX8274 Andrew Kelly.
The young men were feted at the Renmark Institute in October when presentations were made to those who had enlisted. Over 500 people attended to hear speeches and watch the presentations of propelling pencils and cigarettes made to the 20 local men, including Tom. The Mayor said that “he felt the huge crowd present was more expressive than anything he could say of the regard in which they were held. He felt that the lads they had met to honour were brimful of the true British spirit. Right through history, England had fought for tolerance, freedom, and honour. So was it any wonder that the men of Australia had answered the call as they had.”
Following their brief leave the new soldiers returned to the 2/48th with their contingent then embarking on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940, arriving on the 19th December 1940. There the recruits completing a few months training in Cyrenaica. Tom’s leadership skills were recognised with his promotion to Corporal in January ’41. He was soon detached for duty with the 26th Australian Trig Battalion before returning to the 2/48th at the end of the year. The battalion was soon on its way to serve in Tobruk, Syria and Egypt. By the start of April 1941, the 2/48th were in Tobruk where the dust, flies, heat, minimal water supplies and constant bombardment were quite a challenge to new enlistees. They were to become the famed Rats of Tobruk.
Whilst Tom was in the Middle East, he received news that his first child, a son was born in June ‘41 in the Renmark Hospital. At that time, Tom’s older brother, Ron who had moved to live in Whyalla was secretary of the Central War Effort Committee was active in his support of the war effort, coordinating 30 collectors in ’41 to visit houses. This proved to be a successful action, providing much needed funds to support those who were serving.
Further promotion followed for Tom as Acting Sergeant in June ‘42. One of his fellow soldiers, Driver Doug Malcolm was interviewed by the Murray Pioneer in December that year. He described how “He was in Tobruk for five months and then, full of desert sand, had to go to hospital for some months. He contacted a number of Renmark soldiers including Roger Jacka and Tom Loveday, both pals of his. In the retirement from Bardia, Malcolm was one of a lone Brigade who held the fort at Tobruk against great Nazi odds. They fought alone until reinforcements arrived. They were bombed by day and night from every point of the perimeter roughly formed by these, Australians.
"We were called the Tobruk Rats, and the name was a correct one. I remember Harold Roy, A. Gregory, A. Aldridge being there at the time. We had many killed and wounded including some Renmark boys. We were continually bombed and then the Germans attacked. At the time of the great German thrust against us we had only one brigade in Tobruk with our battalion. It was on Good Friday that the attack came, suddenly. Seventy-two German tanks broke through our defences. They swarmed in on us. "We fixed bayonets and with the help of some British Artillery we tackled them. We fought hard for a long time and drove them out inflicting heavy losses on them. Thirty-five tanks were mopped up. We fought for about two hours.
In his recent book, Derrick VC In His Own Words, Mark Johnston quotes from Diver Derrick’s diary of Tom’s service. “15th July ’42 “The section remained on the alert and nearing daybreak we found ourselves once more surrounded by Jerries, who did not know of our positions or our presence. A convoy of 11 vehicles approached 7 PL and were nicely delt (sic) with by Sgt Loveday and Platoon.“
Soon after, Tom was wounded with a gunshot wound to his chest causing him to be evacuated to hospital and placed on the seriously ill list. The news quickly arrived back in Renmark where the Murray Pioneer stated in August ’42 that ‘CpI. R. T. Loveday, of Renmark, has been reported "wounded in action, placed on seriously ill list"- word to this effect having been received by his wife, who was formerly Miss Eileen Morant. Joining the A I.F. in June 1940, Cpl. Loveday left for overseas in November the same year. Taking part in the rear-guard action when the British forces withdrew from Benghazi on the first occasion, the soldier was in the fighting around Derna. Reaching Tobruk, he was in that famous siege for seven and a half months. He has since been in Syria for some time and was engaged as an instructor in training work. He recently moved with his unit back into Egypt, and it was in the recent action there that he was wounded. Cpl. Loveday, who is an Englishman by birth, came to Renmark 14 years ago, and prior to joining up had lived with and worked for Mr. A. B. Coombes on his fruit block at Chaffey for eight years. The soldier is well and favourably known at Chaffey and was a foundation member and keen player in the Chaffey Golf Club. A brother, Mr. Ron Loveday. who was formerly at Renmark, now lives at Whyalla.’ Later that month, Tom was reported as being ‘removed from all lists’, so had survived his injuries.
Tom was injured in the Fierce fighting of October ’42. In the lead up to El Alamein in October John Glenn in Tobruk to Tarakan wrote “This was indeed it! To the men who listened, the significance of the recent hard training exercise and the adoption of new methods must have been firmly drive home.
“All were original members of the battalion, and all had been tried in the Siege of Tobruk; they had earned in battle the respect and confidence of those who served under them. The troops looked on them as a crackerjack bunch, from the C.O. down. Five of them were now about to fight their last battle with the battalion.” He later added “We thought of ourselves as few enough then. But surely even the bravest among us would have shuddered if they could have known to what a weary handful we would be reduced by morning..”
In the chilling re-telling of the time Glenn continued, explaining that the casualties continued to mount with a significant number of deaths. In a poignant comment which typified the legend that was to accompany the 2/48th Battalion, Glenn summarised the day. ‘The men had fought with determination in hard and bitter hand-to-hand fighting, always endeavouring to go forward, and all the time taking a heavy toll of the enemy, only to reach the final objective with a strength so reduced as to make further progress impossible. A small band of forty-one men, some of whom were wounded, was all that remained. Truly it can be said of these men, “They fought themselves and their enemy to a standstill until flesh and blood could stand no more, then they went on fighting.”
‘All day long the already tired men were forced to crouch in their shallow trenches listening to the whine and crunch of shells, and to calls for stretcher bearers. No call went unanswered, not even when it meant bearers having to race across the open ground into a terrible fire to bring aid to the wounded and dying.” This was a measure of the 2/48th Battalion.
By December ’42 Tom was promoted to Sergeant. John Glenn added another glimpse of army life for Tom. ‘A rest period of a couple of days was allowed as a prelude to our third Christmas in Palestine., to be followed by company training and inoculations and vaccinations, until New Year’s Day, when a donkey race was held. At that ‘Donkey Derby Race Meeting’ Sergeant Loveday acted as a steward.’
Following their service in the Middle East, the men returned home to Australia and thence to Renmark with a huge contingent being welcomed by family and friends. Tom’s compatriots included Messrs. Walter Coombe SX7412, Bryan Nuske SX5237, Dick, F. Priester SX8039, W. Smith, R. T. Loveday SX6866. H. J. Trenwith SX8179, Harry Lock SX6846, D. French, R. Porter, Bryan, Lunday, R. Smith, R. Jacka and A. Kelly.
The local Murray Pioneer noted the men’s return with record crowds massed at the railway station. A hugely patriotic article appeared. ‘Behind the official announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) this week that a further contingent of troops had arrived in Australia from the Middle East lies a story of great excitement and enthusiasm in the River districts. The joy which came to human hearts as trains conveying the troops drew into the various stations could only be appreciated by those who witnessed the unforgettable scenes on the crowded platforms It recalled to the mind happenings of 12 months earlier when the first troops from overseas returned to Australia.
‘Many of these heroes of Rommel's El Alamein debacle—their most recent triumph—had been away from home for three years and were among the "Rats of Tobruk". From the time some days earlier, that news leaked through that the men had arrived at "An Australian port," relatives had lived in an air of joyous expectancy, which broke loose aa the various men reached their home stations on three weeks' leave. Practically without exception the men looked 100 per cent fit, though some carried the unmistakable traces of hard campaigning under difficult conditions.’
‘At Renmark the station yard was crowded on the several occasions when special coaches were attached to the passenger train to brins the men to their home stations. The largest attendance was on the Saturday afternoon that the first of the Diggers arrived home. All parking room in the station yard and approaches having been taken, cars were parked for some hundred yards down the road outside, and there must have been 500 people present. The height of community enthusiasm, however, was not reached until the welcome home social on the Thursday evening, when the record attendance of 1,000 thronged the Institute to honour these heroes of many campaigns.
‘It was Indeed a "meeting of the clans", including people from other districts as well as local residents. The hall's capacity proved unequal to the occasion. Renmark was determined to welcome those who had fought and suffered. A number of wounded men were present. Mothers, wives and sweethearts were noted in the crowd. Seats were provided on the stage as well as all round the hall—sometimes double-banked—but even then there was scarcely "standing room" for the mighty throng.’
In a eulogistic speech the RSL President commented that “in greeting these fine young men, that a mere 35 years ago they were peace loving lads in a peaceful country, but by virtue of their earnest training and their high ideals they were today fighting soldiers second to none in the world. He reiterated that nobody in Australia was more proud of them than members of the original AIF. Old soldiers had watched their exploits with the keenest interest. Many of them were sons of men who had served twenty-five years earlier.
"It must be a matter of pride that of the eleven Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians in this war three of these greatest awards have been made to members of one battalion." The men who bad assisted in these great exploits stood before them. They still had a job to do and he knew from conversation with the gallant men themselves that they desired to complete the task before them. This was not the "welcome" to which they looked forward, but a greeting in passing. He wished them all God speed and a final happy return to Renmark. On behalf of ex-servicemen, he congratulated them on what had been accomplished and expressed confidence in their determination to carry on their valorous campaign to victory.’
Training in Queensland followed this brief leave before Tom’s battalion headed to New Guinea where they faced a totally different enemy in very different, tropical conditions. These severely affected Tom as he contracted bouts of malaria, dermatitis, tinea and kidney stones causing on-going ill health for him over the following years with several bouts of hospitalisation. However, he continued to be promoted to become a Warrant Officer in September ’43. In Diver Derrick’s diary, he recorded that ‘28 sept ’43 coy went for a routine march I stayed in camp, am acting CSM, S.M. Loveday evacuated sick.’ Derrick also recorded Tom’s return ‘3 nov ’43 lieut McKinnon, S/Maj Loveday & Cpl Mackay returned this arvo, and very pleasing our strength now: 3 &70’.
Tom was finally able to return home to recuperate in the Kapara Convalescent Home at Glenelg, South Australia (also known as Kapara Red Cross Home). He was finally discharged in March ’46.
Tom and Eileen welcomed their second child, a daughter in July ’45. Twins then arrived in March ’48.
Aged 80, Tom died on his birthday in 1987. He was buried in the Enfield Memorial Park, with his cremated remains returned to family. A plaque commemorating his service was placed in the Barmera Garden of Memory Cemetery. Eileen, who lived to be 94 is also remembered there.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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