Archibald Edward (Arch) HERON MM

HERON, Archibald Edward

Service Number: SX6723
Enlisted: 25 June 1940
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Croydon, South Australia, 23 May 1907
Home Town: Croydon Park, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Pottery worker
Died: Natural causes, South Australia, 18 December 1980, aged 73 years
Cemetery: Enfield Memorial Park, South Australia
Eastern Niche wall Number 1.
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World War 2 Service

25 Jun 1940: Enlisted Private, SX6723, Adelaide, South Australia
25 Jun 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SX6723
26 Jun 1940: Involvement Private, SX6723
26 Oct 1944: Honoured Military Medal, New Guinea - Huon Peninsula / Markham and Ramu Valley /Finisterre Ranges Campaigns, Personal bravery and devotion during New Guinea campaign
23 Jan 1945: Discharged Sergeant, SX6723, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion

Under fire, continually brought wounded men in.

Born in Croydon on the 23rd May 1907, to Ada and Andrew Heron, Archibald, known as Arch, was the youngest of five sons. His step-siblings included Alfred Bruce, Herbert Andrew (Bert) Ernest William and Stan and a sister, Bell. (Their mother, Marion had died aged 36 in December 1903 and was buried in the Hindmarsh Cemetery.)
When he was eight, Arch’s older brother, Herbert (Bert) enlisted as a 21-year-old in October 1916 to serve in WWI as 6102 in the 17/28th Battalion. Bert served in Belgium and France, sustaining a gunshot wound to his right leg in October ’17 but then returned to service. He was severely gassed, in July ’18 and died from the effects in the 49th Casualty Clearing Station, France, on the 24th July, 1918, aged 23.
The ‘Daily Herald’ carried a detailed tribute to him in August. ‘Private H. A. Heron, who died from the effects of gas in France, was the second son of Mr. Andrew Heron, Frederic street Weland (late of Croydon). He enlisted in September 1916, and sailed in November with reinforcements. He arrived in England in January and sailed for France in April. He was wounded on October 4, and rejoined his battalion in November. Except for leave in January he was in action until he died on July 24. He was 23 years old. At the time of enlisting, he was in the employ of Messers Balfour, Bricknell, & Co., and was held in high esteem by his employers and fellow employees. He was closely connected with the West Hindmarsh Methodist, Church, and took an interest in sport. He was of a cheerful disposition thoughtful, and kind, and will be sadly missed.’
As a 22-year-old, Arch was fortunate to escape serious injury whist on a motor bike with his friend Hugh Hogg, travelling to Victor Harbour, post-Christmas in ’29. The machine side-slipped, and both were thrown off. Arch sustained abrasions to his right wrist and forearm and was treated at the Adelaide Hospital.
Arch and Mona Hilda Phyllis Klar of Tweedvale became engaged on the 28th August, 1930, marrying later that year on the 8th Nov 1930. They had two sons, Monte Bruce, born on the 18th October ’31 followed by Desmond in ‘34. Arch was a pottery worker and also a volunteer in the Citizen Forces 43rd Battalion. Soon after the outbreak of WWII, Arch’s 75-year-old father, Andrew died at his home in Hindmarsh on the 9th March ’40 and was buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery. The following year, Arch and his mother placed a memorial to him in the Advertiser, ‘HERON.—In memory of Andrew who died on the 9th of March. 1940 When the day breaks and the shadows flee away. We shall meet out dear one again —Inserted by his faithful wife, Mona and Archie AIF abroad.’
Three months after the death of his father, Arch, then 33 decided to enlist to serve in WWII in June. He was given the number SX6723. Ironically his enlistment papers indicate he was temporarily unfit for service because of Vaso motor instability, possibly from either high blood pressure or diabetes. This certainly had no effect on his exceptional service in the armed forces over the coming years. Arch initially undertook a Chiropody course before being allocated to the 2/48th Battalion. Following leave, his battalion finally boarded the Stratheden for the Middle East, in November. He finally arrived on the 17th December then marched to a Staging Camp. During those early days, besides regular army duties was the need to quickly adapt to the locals.
Within months, the 2/48th Battalion was involved in intense conflicts where their reputation for being the most highly decorated but decimated battalion was earned. Arch was to become one of the respected and famed Rats of Tobruk. He was soon promoted Acting Corporal during the fierce fighting that ensued. Early on, Arch’s reputation as a calm, reliable stretcher bearer developed. In April ’41, Warrant Officer Stewart was wounded when the truck he and Harry Searle, SX8143, came under fire. As they fell, Stewart’s rifle was out of action and Harry out of ammunition. When Stewart, hiding behind a camel bush, threw his ammunition to Harry, the resultant fire causing Stewart to be injured. Fortunately, a tank arrived, rescuing both men. Stewart later commented that he ‘was taken back to the road, where Arch Heron dressed my wound.’ Arch was fortunate to survive the Middle East before returning to Australia via Melbourne in February ’43.
Training in Queensland followed as the battalion prepared to face a very different enemy in the tropical conditions of New Guinea. Arch arrived, via Milne Bay in August that year and within months was again promoted to Acting Sergeant in November. Unfortunately, the following month, his luck ran out. During the unrelenting fighting, he was wounded in action in December with gunshot wounds to his right arm, elbow and left buttock. He was transferred to a field ambulance initially before being taken to hospital.
Back home the December ’43 issue of the Advertiser recorded those killed and wounded in action. From Arch’s 2/48th Battalion these included Killed in Action SX7410 Sgt. Robert F. G. Ranford. M.D. Davington. Wounded In Action SX31615 Pte. Ernest H. Brett, Largs Bay. SX6723 Cpl. Archibald E. Heron, Croydon Park SX4814 Pte. Archibald R. Kelly, Adelaide. Wounded In Action. Remaining On Duty SX10909 Pte. William Southern, Prospect.
In John Glenn’s book, Tobruk to Tarakan, the importance of Arch’s role in New Guinea was again lauded. ‘Sergeant Heron had kept up the fine record of the stretcher bearers, moving amongst the wounded in the midst of battle, often well forward with the leading troops, carefully and methodically searching among the bamboo and kunai for any of our wounded. Sergeant Heron was to continue to do this throughout the coming attacks, until he himself was wounded and evacuated. The Military Medal with which he was presented was well earned.’
Murray Farquhar in Derrick VC and more recently Mark Johnston in Derrick VC In His Own Words both mention the fighting at Fougasse Corner, Satleberg Road, New Guinea. It was an area thickly covered with bamboo and difficult to traverse. This was where Arch was wounded. Derrick’s note of 20th November describes a major tragedy. ‘Fighting was hard and bitter with casualties mounting up – Sgt Snow Radford being killed while doing a glorious lone assault on Jap bunker positions. The end of a dashing, courageous and fearless soldier, easily the battalion’s best. This may be gathered from the ceremony which took place at his burial the next day. 50 per cent of his company attended to pay their last tribute to a great man.’ Mark Johnson also mentioned the effect of Japanese snipers hidden in the trees. The War Diary reports the 2/48th lost two killed and 15 wounded on this day, compared to 100 Japanese casualties.’
By February, Arch was promoted to Sergeant, later that month returning to Australia. Problems with his vision and his ongoing recovery from injuries contributed to Arch being discharged in January ’45, after such imposing service.
Arch was nominated for the Military Medal. The Citation began with ‘For personal bravery and devotion to duty since the formation of the Bn and in particular during the NEW GUINEA Campaign. An original member of the 2/48 Aust Inf Bn Sgt HERON carried out his duties as a stretcher bearer throughout TOBRUK and the Battles of TEL EL EISA, EL ALAMEIN, in the LAE campaign and lastly in the FINSCHHAFEN – SATELBERG operations, fearlessly and efficiently.
‘On 17 Nov 43, the first day of the attack, which ultimately concluded with the capture of Satelberg, the Bn attack failed and the leading Coy had to be withdrawn after suffering severe casualties. Despite the fact that he was continually fired upon, Sgt. Heron remained well forward of our leading troops for nearly three quarters of an hour, and carefully and methodically searched the battlefield until certain nothing more could be done. In the fighting on subsequent days, many of the Bn’s casualties were sustained at extremely close range and wounded men were continually being brought in under fire. Sgt Heron was always with the leading Coy and on numerous occasions crept forward and attended the wounded while under fire from enemy small arms and grenades, until he himself was wounded on 20 Nov 43. The knowledge that no matter what the risk any and every wounded man would be attended to with the minimum delay Sgt Herron and the stretcher bearers under his command, has been a big factor in raising and maintaining the morale of the battalion.’
In March ’45 the Advertiser proudly announced ‘SX6723 Sgt. A. E. Heron, of Hind- marsh had been awarded this prestigious medal.
With the war over, Arch was welcomed back home by his family, Mona, Monte, Heron and his mother, Ada. She had several years with him and the family before her death Archie placed a tribute in the Advertiser ‘HERON.—On November 26 at 7 Davenport Terrace, Wayville, Ada, widow of Andrew Heron (formerly of Hindmarsh) and loving mother of Archie. Aged 82 years.
Arch and Mona were particularly proud of their two sons, Monte and Heron. In his senior school year, ’46, Monte continued to excel academically with Adelaide High School awarding him both a Special Library Prize and also the prestigious Class Prize. Monte then chose a career studying medicine, perhaps inspired by the work of Arch during his war years. Horrifically, the evening before Monte was to sit his first medical exam, in September ’50 he died in tragic circumstances. Mona and Desmond heard the explosion from the kitchen. The News carried the distressing event. ‘Police investigating the death of a 19-year-old medical student, whose body was found with a bullet wound in the head at Broadview Gardens last night, have found that he was to have begun his first-year medical examinations on Friday. Victim was Monte Bruce Heron, of Sandville avenue, Broadview Gardens. He arrived home at 5.45 p.m. and at 6.30 was found dead in his bedroom. A .303 military rifle which had been issued to his 16-year-old brother, was nearby. Other members of the family were not aware that there was any ammunition for the rifle in the house. Sgt. Sutherland and Detectives Gollan and Calvesbert are preparing a report for the coroner.’ Following his funeral, Monte was buried in the West Terrace Cemetery where he now rests alongside his grandmother, Ada.
In the ensuing years the family attempted to understand, continuing to grieve the loss of their son and brother. Tributes were placed on the anniversary of his death.
Advertiser Wednesday 5 September 1951, HERON.—In loving memory of Monte, who passed away September 5, 1950. A little tribute, true and tender, To show, dear Monte, I still remember. —Inserted by Pauline, Alice Springs. HERON.—In loving memory of our beloved son and brother, Monte Bruce, who passed away September 5, 1950, in his 19th year. He is not dead whose memories live in hearts that know his worth. —Always remembered by mum, dad and beloved brother Desmond. HERON.—In loving remembrance of our dear nephew, Monte Bruce, died September 5, 1950. Resting where no shadows fall, In perfect peace he awaits us all. —Ever remembered by Aunty Dell and Uncle Vin Beresford.
Advertiser Friday 5 September 1952, HERON. — Loving memories of Monte Bruce, who passed away September 5. 1950. So young died he, but the Lord appointed his bounds which he could not pass. His presence sadly missed, his remembrance forever with his loving mother, father, and brother HERON. — In remembrance of dear Monte. Died (accidentally) September 5. 1950.— Ever remembered by Aunty Dell and Uncle Vin.
Advertiser Saturday 5 September 1953, HERON.— In loving memory of Monte, our dearly beloved son and brother, who died September 5 1950, in his 19th year. His memory for ever with us. He was so young and good to die, but who are we to judge the decision of the Lord our God.— Inserted by mum, dad and Des.
Advertiser Monday 6 September 1954, HERON. — In loving memory of our beloved son and brother. Monte, who died September 5 1950. He was always loving, good and kind. Dearly loved by all whom he left behind. — Ever remembered by his mother, father and brother Desmond.

Grief and loss contributed to the breakdown of Arch and Mona’s marriage. In ‘56 Arch married Roma Dawn Routley.
73-year-old Arch died on the 18th December, 1980 and he was buried in the Enfield Memorial Park Cemetery, Eastern Niche wall Number 1. Arch’s first wife, Mona died in November 1990 with her remains being placed in the Eastern Niche wall Number 2 of the same cemetery. Roma died aged 77 in January 2001 and was also buried in the Enfield Memorial Park in the same niche with Arch.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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