William Ross (Bill) REID

REID, William Ross

Service Numbers: SX10245, S25669
Enlisted: 15 August 1940
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: St Peters, South Australia, 21 February 1920
Home Town: College Park, Norwood Payneham St Peters, South Australia
Schooling: East Adelaide and the Adelaide Technical High Schools, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Died: Killed In Action, Egypt, 31 October 1942, aged 22 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
A II. B. 9.
Memorials: Adelaide Savings Bank of South Australia Honour Roll WW2, Adelaide Technical High School Old Scholars WW2 Honour Roll, Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Municipality of St Peters Citizens Who Have Enlisted Roll of Honour, St Peters All Souls Anglican Church Stained Glass Window WW2
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World War 2 Service

3 Sep 1939: Involvement Captain, SX10245
3 Sep 1939: Involvement S25669
15 Aug 1940: Involvement Captain, SX10245, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
15 Aug 1940: Enlisted SX10245
15 Aug 1940: Enlisted Wayville, SA
Date unknown: Involvement
Date unknown: Enlisted S25669

A Captain at 22 years.

William was born at St Peters on the 21st February 1920 to James Stephen and Rosetta Helen Reid. He was one of four children with his siblings being Gwen, Robert, and Jack. Bill attended East Adelaide and then the Adelaide Technical High Schools. There he proved to be a versatile athlete, enjoying and being successful at a range of sports, particularly cricket, where he played in the A grade East Torrens team and for the Senior Colts football team as well as being a capable swimmer.
Post school he gained employment at the St Peter’s Branch of the Savings Bank as a Bank Messenger whilst also being part of the Militia as S25669, described on his enlistment papers simply as ‘fit’. His leadership skills were evident as he rose through those ranks, commencing as a Private but by July ’39 was Corporal, a Sergeant in March the following year and Lieutenant in June ’40. He was ready to serve his country with his official discharge on the 1st September, thus enabling him to enlist at Wayville, now the Adelaide Showgrounds, on the 15th August ‘40. He was just 20 years old. There, he was allocated the number SX10245 in the 2/48th Battalion and almost immediately appointed as Lieutenant whist he and other new enlistees trained at Woodside. The 2/48th the Battalion contingent then embarked on the Stratheden for the Middle East, on the 7th November 1940, arriving on the 17th December 1940. Whilst on board, Bill undertook a Signals Course, then once in the Middle East again undertook further training, before being promoted to Captain in July ’42 at just 22 years of age. Bill served 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.
Aged just 22, Bill was killed in Action in Egypt on the 31st 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. As they sat there the C.O. must have been confident, knowing he had as his senior officers such men as these: adjutant, Captain Bill Reid..” and a list of others. “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 in moving forward, battalion headquarters become 400 yards in front of the leading companies and had met massive enemy resistance. The casualties continued to mount with a significant number of deaths. “The C.O. was hit in the face with a machine-gun bullet but refused to leave. The adjutant, Captain Bill, although wounded three times, remained on duty.” He then quoted from the unit war diary:
‘Bn HQ: Captain W/R. Reid, the adjutant, was to be sent to take command of A Company when Captain Shillaker was hit, but Captain Reid was wounded in three places and remained with Bn HQ on duty. He was killed later in the day.’ 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.” This was a measure of Bill Reid.
In the early morning light, Glenn described the last moments of Bill’s fight. “Shells, both anti-tank and 88mm poured into the 2/48th Battalion area for seven long hours. One 88mm shell exploded in the trench occupied by Captain Bill Reid and captain Mick Bryant, killing Reid and wounding Bryant. 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.”
Murray Farquhar in his early book, Derrick V.C. also mentioned that ‘There had been no discrimination in those climatic last days of October. Even battalion headquarters had fared no better. Hammer was wounded: his adjutant, Bill Reid, on that last day, had been detailed to replace Shillaker, then was thrice wounded and finally killed.’
Almost a month later back home, Bill’s death was officially reported in the November Advertiser: Killed In Action.— SX8889 Cpt. John. W. N. Minocks, 2/43rd Glossop; SX10245 Cpt William R. Reid, 2/48th St. Peters; SX6735 Lt. Alister L P. McDonald, 2/43rd Broken Hill; SX6469 Sgt. Archibald M. Badenoch, 2/43rd Tarcoola- SX9787 Pte. Edward Edwards, 2/48th Wallaroo; SX6304 Pte. Angus McP. Halliday. 2/43rd Burra; SX11128 L-Cpl. J. T. Holman. 2/24th, Telowie Creek; SX11344 Pte. Kevin L. McCormack, 2/43rd, Wayville; SX11873 Pte. Stanley Moon. Inf., Payneham; SX6616 Sgt. C. S. Nicholson, 2/43rd Thorngate; SX5612 A-Sgt. H Shephard, 2/43rd Mt. Gambier; SX13307 Pte Robert F. Talor. 2/43rd Renmark. Died Of Wounds, — SX11288 Pte Maurice H. Quinn, 2/48th Cleve. They were some of South Australia’s finest young men, all sadly grieved, so many families’ lives changed forever.
The major newspapers carried similar tributes to Bill. Both the Advertiser and News in November reported that ‘Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Reid, late of Harrow road, St. Peters, and now of Campbelltown, have been informed that their youngest son, Capt. W. R. (Bill) Reid. 22, has been killed in action in Egypt. Capt. Reid enlisted in August 1940 and left for overseas in November of the same year. He served in Tobruk for nine months. Educated at East Adelaide and the Adelaide Technical High Schools, he was a keen sportsman and played A Grade cricket for East Torrens and Senior Colts. He was also a keen footballer and swimmer. Before his enlistment he was on the staff of the Saving Bank of South Australia.’
In a thoughtful gesture ‘Tack’ Hammer VX24325, (then Lt/Col Heathcote Hammer) wrote a gracious letter to Bill’s parents, James and Rosetta, expressing his condolences, praising their son as a brave soldier, respected, loved and missed by all in the 2/48th Battalion.
Initially Bill and the other members of his battalion killed in the same battle, were buried in the field. He was finally re-interred in the El Alamein War Cemetery in March ‘45 where he rests in Plot A II, Row B Grave 9. His parents chose the inscription ‘His duty nobly done’ for his headstone. Resting with him are 22-year-old SX10970 Private Rex H. Brown and 22-year-old SX8328 Corporal Harry Davis from his 2/48th battalion. Nearby are other young men, many also 22 years of age, from the 2/17th 2/24th 2/28th 2/32nd and 2/43rd all of whom were killed in the same ferocious battle. Captain William Reid is also remembered at the All Souls Anglican Church with a Stained Glass Window called ‘Valiant for Truth’, unveiled in November ’47 in memory of ‘those who died in wars that we might live’.
Bill’s mother, Rosetta received his war medals which included the 1939/45 Star, the African Star, Defence Medal, War Medal and the Australian Service Medal in February ’52. Precious reminders of a very young man with leadership skills beyond his years. Sadly, his 75-year-old father, James died six months before they arrived. Aged 77, his mother died in June the following year. Both are buried in the St. Martin’s Anglican Church Cemetery at Campbelltown.
Family and friends continued to remember Bill in the ensuing years.
Advertiser Tuesday 10 November 1942, REID.—Killed in action in Egypt. Capt. William Ross (Bill) Reid dearly loved youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Reid and loving brother of Gwen (Mrs. R Foord). Robert, and Jack (AMF) aged 22 years. REID.—A loving tribute to Capt. William Ross (Bill), killed in action, Oct. 31, in Egypt.—Remembered by loving brother Jack, sister-in-law Connie, nephew Billy. Forever we'll remember him.
Advertiser Monday 1 November 1943, REID..—A tribute of fond remembrance to Captain Bill Read, killed in action Fl Alamein. October 31. 1942. Words will never express the wonderful friend he was, or how dearly we all loved him.— Inserted by A Williams family.
Advertiser Tuesday 31 October 1944, REID, W. R. Capt.—In loving memory of our dear son. Bill, killed in action. El Alamein, Oct. 31. 1942. Not Just today, but every day. In silence we remember. — Father and mother. REID W. B. ln loving memory of our dear brother Bill, killed in action. El Alamein, Oct. 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by Gwen, Reg and children. REID, W. R.—ln loving memory of Bill, killed El Alamein, 1942.—Ever remembered by Auntie Hett. REID, Capt. W. R. —ln proud and loving memory of Bill killed El Alamein. October 31 1942.—Ever remembered by brother Bob, sister-in-law Molly and children. REID.—In memory ot Captain Bill Reid, killed in action at El Alamein, Oct. 31. Away in God's beautiful somewhere, sheltered from wars and pain; when life's journey Is over, we will meet Bill again. To live in the hearts of those that loved you is not to die.—lnserted by A. Williams and family. : REID. Capt. W. B Bill —ln loving memory of our dear brother, killed in action. Middle East. Oct. 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by Jack, Connie and Billy.
Advertiser Wednesday 31 October 1945, REID, Capt. W. B. 2/48 Batt. —ln loving memory of our dear son Bill, killed in action at El Alamein on October 31. 1942. —Ever remembered, mother and father. REID, Capt. W. R —In loving memory of my dear brother Bill, killed in action. Middle East, October 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by Jack, Connie and Billy. REID, Capt. W. R, 2/48th —In proud and loving memory of Bill, killed in action El Alamein, October 31, 1942.— Ever remembered by Mollie, Bob and children. REID. Capt. W. E.—ln loving memory of our dear brother (Bill), killed In action at El Alamein on October 31, 1942.— Ever remembered by his loving sister Gwen. Reg and family. REID—In loving memory Capt William Reid, killed in action El Alamein October 31. Silently the evening shadows gather round our door, silently a face comes before us, bringing treasured memories to us all.—Ever loved and remembered by A. Williams, St. Peters
Advertiser Thursday 31 October 1946, REID.—In memory of Capt. Bill Reid, killed at El Alamein October 31 1942. A thought for today, memories forever. Inserted by A. Williams's family. St. Peters. REID, W.R. Capt. 2/48th Batt.—ln loving memory of dear Bill, killed in action at El Alamein. October 31. 1942. Sadly missed by mother, father and family.
Advertiser Friday 31 October 1947, REID—In loving memory of dear BilI, killed in action, El Alamein, October 31. 1942.—Ever remembered by mother father and family.
Researched and written by Kaye Lee, daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133, 2/48th Battalion.

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