Valentine George GARDNER

GARDNER, Valentine George

Service Number: VX51106
Enlisted: 2 April 1941, Royal Park, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 2nd/14th Infantry Battalion
Born: Euston, New South Wales, Australia, 14 February 1920
Home Town: Mildura, Mildura Shire, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: 23 January 2016, aged 95 years, cause of death not yet discovered, place of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials:
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World War 2 Service

2 Apr 1941: Enlisted SN VX51106, Royal Park, Victoria
2 Apr 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lieutenant, SN VX51106
24 Oct 1943: Discharged Lieutenant, SN VX51106, 2nd/14th Infantry Battalion
24 Oct 1943: Discharged Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Lieutenant, SN VX51106

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Biography contributed by Paul Lemar

Lieutenant Gardner enlisted for war service at the Officers Training School, Royal Park, Victoria on the 11th March 1941. He was previously a Corporal in the AMF with the 4th Infantry Battalion.

He was taken on strength on the 3rd day of April 1941. He was posted to the No. 2 Officers Training School 4th Training Battalion and completed the No.3 Course for Potential Officers with recommendations for platoon commander as a weapons trainer on the 27th May 1941.

On the 9th day of June 1941 he rejoined the 4th Battalion at Camp Darley, Victoria and on the 14th June he was appointed Acting Lieutenant Sergeant. He was then detached on the 14th June to Special P&RO Course No. 8A and rejoined his Battalion on the 8th of July. Still attached to his Battalion he then went to the S.C Infantry Training School at Lara, Victoria and on the 24th December he transferred to the 6th Battalion at Camp Darley to be the acting Squadron Leader & Lieutenant. 

He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 20th day of January 1942 and on the 26th day of January 1942 he was posted to the 2/7th Battalion, 19th Reinforcements in Melbourne. From here he marched into the Southern Command 3MD at Toowoomba QLD on the 21st day of February. He was admitted to the 117th Australian General Hospital on the 8th of April for two days suffering from Influenza then rejoined his unit. He was then transferred to the 2/14th Battalion and proceeded to Yandina QLD where they trained over a large area from the Blackall Ranges to the coast.

He embarked from Brisbane on the 6th August on the “SS James Wilson” and disembarked at Port Moresby New Guinea on the 13th of August. The 2/14th Battalion was part of the 21st Brigade under the command of Brigadier Arnold Potts (they were known as the Maroubra Force) and were sent on an exhausting march up the Kokoda Track to reinforce the 39th Militia Battalion at Isurava, who had less than 300 men, many of which were sick or wounded. Lieutenant Gardner was assigned to D Company.

Three days after disembarkment, the battalion was transported on trucks to Ilolo before marching to Uberi, which was an extremely stiff climb, reaching Myola on 21st August. They continued through Manari and the track was dry and dusty until the 21st when rain fell heavily and the track became dangerously slippery near Templetons Crossing. More heavy rain that night and the next day made the track boggy and near impassable towards Alola.

On the 25th August, the battalion received orders to relieve the severely depleted 39th Battalion, which was holding the Japanese at Isurava.

Due to a shortage of supplies it was only possible for one company to move at a time, and as a result 'C' Company was dispatched to Isurava first, while 'B' and 'D' Companies were dispatched to Alola and 'A' Company moved to Templeton's Crossing.

At dawn on the 26th day of August the Japanese launched a fresh offensive at Isurava, with three battalions from the 144th Infantry Regiment.  

On the 27th of August, the Japanese offensive began in earnest as the 39th Battalion's positions around Isurava were subjected to heavy mortar and artillery fire. Japanese infantry broke into the position through the gaps between one of company's depleted platoons, however, the situation was restored by two Australian counterattacks.

The rest of the 2/14th Battalion arrived on the 28th August amidst continuing fighting, bringing with them a 3inch (76 mm) mortar for indirect fire support. The 39th Battalion then moved to the rear, but remained in support of the 2/14th in order to help repel the next wave of the Japanese attack.

By the 29th of August, the Japanese had about six battalions around Isurava and in the morning fresh attacks succeeded in breaking into the 2/14th's position with 'C' Company, on the battalion's right, being forced to give ground. With the situation critical, the Australians launched a counterattack. As a part of this attack, an Australian Private charged the Japanese, firing his Bren light machine gun from the hip, killing at least 30 of them and forcing others to withdraw. Although he was subsequently killed by a sniper, his actions allowed the Australians to briefly regain their positions and later he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest military decoration.

Further attacks during the day, however, forced the battalion to fall back 1 kilometre down the track.

On the 30th General Horri decided upon a final massive attack on the Australian positions. From sunrise to sunset the Japanese attacked in overwhelming numbers.

After four days of non-stop and often hand-to-hand fighting in which over 500 Japanese were killed, the Australians were forced to withdraw from Isurava to Alola to avoid being outflanked. The withdrawal took place in nightmare conditions of mud, rain and total darkness. A one hour walk to Alola took the exhausted Australian soldiers, carrying their wounded, all night to do.

The 2/14th Battalion had begun the Kokoda campaign with 546 men, but upon arriving at Uberi, where they had been placed in reserve, they only had 88 men available, of whom only three were officers.

Lieutenant Gardner was reported as being missing in this action sometime during the fierce fighting. On the 5th September he was then reported as rejoining his Battalion at Efogi and being wounded in action with a gun shot wound to the back, abdomen & limbs, but remained on duty.

He was evacuated to Base Hospital, Kings Hollow on the 6th of September and then evacuated to Brisbane on the 2nd October on the “HS Manunda” disembarking on the 6th of October where he was transferred by ambulance train to the 103rd Australian General Hospital, Baulkham Hills, NSW.

On the 20th January 1943 Lieutenant Gardner was admitted to the 115th Australian General Hospital Heidelberg, NSW with possible Epilepsy.

He was then moved to Camp Pell, Royal Park, Melbourne and was detached from the infantry on the 21st day of April 1943.

Lieutenant Gardner and was discharged from the AIF on the 24th October 1943 at Reception Camp, Caulfield Victoria.

Total effective period of service 934 days:     

Active service in Australian Operational Area 872 days

Active service in an overseas Operation Area 62 days

AWARDED FOR SERVICE DURING THE 2nd WORLD WAR 1939-1945

1939-1945 Star

Awarded for performing over six months operational service during the period from 3 September 1939 until 2 September 1945.

Pacific Star

Awarded for operational service in the South West Pacific Theatre of Operations between 8 December 1941 and 2 September 1945.

War Medal

Awarded for 28 days full time service in the period between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945.

Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Awarded for 30 days full time service in the Australian Armed forces between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945

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