PEARCE, Harold

Service Number: SX2139
Enlisted: 26 March 1940, Watervale, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Watervale, South Australia, 23 January 1920
Home Town: Watervale, South Australia
Schooling: Watervale School, South Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, Egypt, 26 October 1942, aged 22 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
Plot XXII. Row A. Grave 3. His name is located at panel 63 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Auburn RSL Community Centre, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Watervale Court Bushmans Home WW2 Honour Roll, Watervale Public School Roll of Honour WW2, Watervale War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

26 Mar 1940: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX2139, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
26 Mar 1940: Enlisted Watervale, South Australia
26 Mar 1940: Involvement Private, SX2139, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
24 Jun 1940: Embarked SS Strathmore
24 Jun 1940: Involvement Private, SX2139, 2nd/10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW2
24 Jul 1941: Involvement Private, SX2139, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
26 Oct 1942: Involvement Private, SX2139, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, El Alamein
Date unknown: Involvement

Second Pearce Son, Killed in Action

Harold was born on the 23rd January 1920, in his hometown of Watervale in the Clare Valley of SA, now one of the prime wine growing areas of the state. His parents, Albert James and Balbina Pearce had seven children, older siblings Philip, Irene and George and younger brothers Edward, John David and Richard Thomas. Of these, five were to also serve, Philip also in the 2/48th and George in the sister Battalion, the 2/43rd. Both brothers were to lose their lives in the fierce fighting. The two younger brothers, Edward and John David were to survive the war.
Harold was nine when his father, Albert died in 1929 and was buried in the nearby Sevenhill Cemetery. (Mother Balbina lived until 1975 and was buried with her husband.) It meant that all children had to contribute to the family. Harold and his siblings attended the local Watervale School with Harold then taking on work as a labourer.
With the outbreak of WWII, a very strong recruiting campaign was conducted for the A.I.F. in a huge drive to recruit fit young country men. Consequently, just after his 20th birthday, Harold was the first of his brothers to enlist to serve on the 26th March 1940 being allocated the number SX2139. Three months later and just prior to his 28th birthday, Philip also enlisted on the 23rd June 1940, becoming SX7239. Both Harold and Phillip were to serve in the newly formed 2/48th Battalion. George was next to enlist on the 27th July and was allocated the number SX9706 with the 2/14th Field Regiment but by February was with the 2/43rd Battalion. The Northern Argus regularly published a list of the ‘successful’ candidates with three of the Pearce boys being named. WATERVALE. — Henry V. W. Stopp, C. A. N. Glassenbury (rejected), William. E. Grace, Harold Pearce, L. S. Moyle, R. A. Ward, W. D. Dallisson, Phillip Pearce, George Pearce, M. Baillie.
Harold was initially in the 2/10th Battalion but was to eventually join his older brother, Phillip in the 2/48th. In typical country fashion, the Auburn District Council members organised a Soldiers' Farewell Committee to coordinate an evening in the Watervale Foresters Hall, to bid 'Au Revoir' to Private Harold Pearce. A number of speeches were made in praising this young man. The Northern Argus also reported that wishes were extended to “Private Pearce good luck in his duty overseas, and a safe return home.” In a generous gesture Harold was presented with a wallet generously filled with donations. Patriotic singing followed then dancing and vocal items.
In June 1940, Harold had pre-embarkation leave before boarding the Strathmore for England where he chose to do some ‘sightseeing’ at different times over the coming months but was caught being absent without leave on several occasions and lost precious pay. This behaviour continued in the Middle East where he arrived in March ’41. Within three months he was wounded in the chest but, receiving hospital treatment, was able to return to serve with the 2/48th Battalion. This news was relayed to the community back home via the Northern Argus ‘Harold Pearce was wounded some time ago, spent a period in hospital in Egypt, and has now re-joined his unit.’ Harold probably learnt that his brother, George had arrived in the Middle East on the 14th May, which quite probably contributed to him going AWOL on the 19th to ‘catch up’.
Harold soon learned of George’s death from wounds he received in action, on the 16th August ’41 in Libya. The local newspaper back home reported the tragedy that month: ‘Mrs. Robert Pearce, of Watervale, who is a widow, has had three of her four sons on active service, and the sad news was received last week that George Pearce, aged about 22 years, had been killed in action.’ They added: ‘A, brother — Harold Pearce was wounded some time ago, spent a period in hospital in Egypt, and has now re-joined his unit, while the third son, Phillip Pearce, is also on service in the Near or Middle East campaign. The thoughts of every citizen throughout the Watervale and surrounding districts go out to Mrs. Pearce in her sad loss, and her country has been honored in the giving of three fine sons of eligible military age to battle for us in the cause of freedom.’
Harold joined Signals School for two months, achieving well in the course before again returning to his Battalion. Distressingly, just a fortnight later, aged 22, he was killed in action on the 26th October, 1942.
Conditions at the time were ever-changing and the fighting continuous. Montgomery had ordered the 9th Battalion to attack northward in what was to be relentless fighting in in a massive assault to ambitiously take the strategic position of Trig 29.
John Glenn describes the carnage.
‘The attack continued, however, without pause…it was only after hard fighting, with heavy casualties on both sides, that they were able to consolidate on their objective. The troops had never been more tired.. The 2/48th had stirred up a real hornets’ nest; from first light until nine o’clock the enemy turned all their fury on the Trig area, with particularly heavy fire on 29 itself, hiding the position in a cloud of dust and smoke.’ He added:
‘Death would have reaped a rich harvest of gallant man. And of the 2/48th Battalion only forty on weary troops would remain in the field.’
The news was reported back home in the December issue of the Chronicle. Soon after, the Chronicle listed those who had been killed in action with Harold. They included 24-year-old SX9128 Pte Jack D Clark, 2/24th, Seven Hills; 34-year-old SX7246 Pte. Gordon Franklin, 2/24th Kimba; SX12363 23-year-old Pte. Harry Irwin B Irwin 2/48th Port Augusta: 27-year-old SX12363 Pte. Ron Jackson SX6963 2/48th Melrose: 26-year-old SX7506 Pte. Ernest N. Parkyn, 2/48th Murray Bridge; 22-year-old SX2139 Pte. Harry Pearce, 2/48th Watervale; and his brother 30-year-old SX7239 Pte. Phillip Pearce. 2/48th Watervale: 21-year-old SX12157 Pte. Eric K. Stagbouer, 2/48th Maitland: 29-year-old SX7987 Pte. Douglas Whyte. 2/48th Joslin. These were the cream of Australia’s young men.
The Blyth Agriculturalist carried an extensive tribute:
‘Watervale Soldier Killed in Action THE LATE PRIVATE HAROLD PEARCE. The patriotic town and district of Watervale has had another sad fatality in the loss of Private Harold Pearce, aged 22, who has been recently notified as being killed on active service in the strenuous fight for liberty and freedom. His brother, Private George Pearce, was also killed on active service some time ago. All told the Pearce family have four sons on active service, and to have lost two such fine sons is indeed a very sad occurrence for the family. They are the sons of Mrs. A. J and the late Mr. Pearce, of Watervale. The widespread sympathy of people of Watervale and many adjoining areas has been extended to the bereaved mother and family at their sad loss, but all the understanding in the world cannot help to bring the loved ones back again. Nevertheless, the trials and tribulations of this global war have to be borne bravely, and many sad hearts have to pay the price of Victory and Peace. No men could do more than they have done to rally to the Empire's cause. The family loss is great, and while they are not alone in bereavement, we know that once having entered the fighting forces they become, and we become, all members of a great Empire family. Their loss is our loss also, and with all other sections of the community the "Northern Argus" extends its heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved. Of the fallen it may truly be said: —"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old."’
The Northern Argus summarised ‘The late Pte. Harold was a signaller attached to same unit, (2/48th) and was killed while digging in after the company had reached its final objective at the Battle of Alamein by a shell killing him instantly at dawn - on Oct. 26th., 1942. He was buried at Tel El Eisa Military Cemetery, Grave B15, on Oct. 27th. He had formerly been wounded in Syria.’
To add to the family tragedy, older brother L/Corp Phillip Pearce was killed just days later on the 31st October by a direct hit from a shell.
Initially Harold was buried at Tel el Eisa before being reburied in the El Alamein War Cemetery on the 15th April ‘43, Plot XXII Row A Grave 3, surrounded by fellow soldiers from the 2/48th Battalion who fell at a similar time. These were 30-year-old Private Neil Purse WX9891 and 27-year-old Lieutenant Colin Taggart WX10083, 40-year-old Privates Percy Gratwick, V.C. WX10426, 36-year-old Henry Winn SX13573 and 40-year-old Private Richard Speck SX12924 plus 26-year-old Sgt Alfred F.E. Meyer SX6848. Balbina chose the simple inscription ‘His Duty Nobly Done. In God’s care.’ for his headstone as she had for George and would do for Phillip.
Harold’s younger brother, George also rests in the same cemetery in Plot IV. Row F. Grave 2 as does older brother, Phillip in Plot XVI Row D Grave 19.
Once peace was declared, Watervale conducted a grand welcome home dinner in September ’36 for those who had returned. For those who had not survived, a presentation was made to the family. Edward accepted this for his three brothers, Phil, George and Harold.
Tribute were published for Harold from his family and from those from the 2/48th with whom he served.
Advertiser Tuesday 17 November 1942, PEARCE-—Killed in action In Egypt. Oct.26. Harold, aged 22. fourth son of Mrs. and late A. J. Pearce. Watervale. — Inserted by his loving mother, brothers, and sisters.
Advertiser Tuesday 26 October 1943, SPECK In memory of Dick, killed In action at El Alamein. Oct. 25-26. 1942. A true pal will be ever remembered. —Inserted by his pals. Max. Madeline, and family. Spalding. In memory of our pals, who paid the supreme sacrifice at El Alamein, Oct, 1942. Lindsay Goode, Tas Scutt, Jack Curtis, Les King, Bill Jarmyn, Arthur Noak, 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.

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

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Born 23 January 1920 Watervale, near Auburn, SA
(SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 49A Page :502 District : Cla.)

Father Albert James PEARCE  and  Mother Balbina Pearce (nee NIEMIETZ).

Brother    Philip PEARCE                      (b. 10/7/1912 Port Pirie, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 892 Page : 138 District : Cla.)
Sister       Irene PEARCE                     (b. 26/1/1916 Penwortham, near Clare, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 973 Page :266 District : Cla.)
Brother     George PEARCE                  (b. 5/2/1918 Penwortham, near Clare, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 13A Page : 466 District : Cla.)
Brother     Edward PEARCE                  (b. 8/9/1921 Clare, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 82A Page : 54 District : Cla.)
Brother    John David PEARCE              (b. 19/9/1923 Watervale, near Auburn, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 123A Page : 81 District : UpW.)
Brother    Richard Thomas PEARCE      (b. 10/12/1925 Watervale, near Auburn, SA
                (SA Birth Record 1907 - 1928, Book : 165A Page : 146 District : UpW.)

Next of kin in service:
Brother    SX7239  Private Philip Pearce
                29/6/1940      enlisted at Watervale, SA
                                       last rank Lance Corporal in 2/48 Australian Infantry Battalion
                31/10/1942    killed in action
                buried in:       El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt (Plot XVI (16); Row D; Grave 9)

Brother    SX9706 Private George Pearce
                 27/7/1940     enlisted at Watervale, SA
                                       last rank Private in 2/43 Australian Infantry Battalion
                 16/8/1941     died of wounds (received in action) - in Libya
                  buried in:     El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt (Plot IV. Row F. Grave 2)

Brother    SX23840  Private Edward Pearce
               31/8//1942     enlisted into WWII AIF at Watervale, SA
                                      last rank Driver in 121st Australian General Transport Company
               23/4/1946      discharged from service in AIF

Brother    SX22244 Private John David Pearce
                20/8/1942     enlisted at Watervale, SA
                                      last rank Private in 7 Ordnance Vehicle Park
                26/6/1946     discharged from service in AIF

Described on enlisting as 20 years 3 months old; single; blue eyes; brown hair; Roman Catholic

26/3/1940         enlisted at Watervale, South Australia  (later signing up in Adelaide, SA)

11-19-6/1940     pre-embarkation leave

24/6/1940          embarked on board SS Strathmore, 2nd regiment, 2/10 Battalion
30/7/1940          disembarked into Liverpool, England

30/7/1940          marched in to Depot of Personnel, Bulford

16/8/1940          transferred to 72nd Battalion

5/1/1941            embarked on board HMT J33 at Glasgow
8/3/1941            disembarked at Middle East

17/6/1941          gun shot wound to right of chest
27/6/1941          evacuated to 7th Australian General Hospital
21/7/1941          discharged to convalescent depot
24/7/1941          taken on strength from 2/33 Battalion to 2/48 Battalion

3/8/1942            attending Signals 9th Australian Division Signal School
18/8/1942          rejoined unit from 9th Australian Division Signal School
29/9/1942          attending Signals 9th Australian Division Signal School
13/10/1942        rejoined unit from 9th Australian Division Signal School

26/10/1942        Harold was killed in action
30/10/1942        buried in:    Grave B15, Military Cemetery at Tel el Eisa

31/3/1945         Harold's remains were exhumed and reburied in:
                        El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt
                        Plot XXII. Row A. Grave 3

Sourced and submitted by Julianne T Ryan.   11/6/2015.  Lest we forget.