RUGBY league memories and wartime heroics will
form the background of a history-making day at an upcoming St George Leagues Club ceremony.
Brad Forrest reports.
NSW Sports Minister Graham Annesley will be joined by 94-year-old Mick Dennis on Wednesday, August 15, when St George Leagues Club rededicates an Honor Board in memory of eight St George Dragons servicemen lost during World War II.
Mr Dennis was awarded the Military Medal for his part in a commando operation in April 1945.
As historian John Thurgar detailed, in the pre-season training camp in 1943 the mood was sombre among the St George first grade players. There was not the usual banter and laughter for a tightly knit group at the top of their game.
Australia was threatened and under attack. Already four men who played first grade for St George had been killed — two serving in the European theatre with the RAAF and two in captivity at the hands of the Japanese in the notorious Chang prisoner of war camp in Singapore.
Another four would go on to lose their lives: two more serving in the RAAF and another two in the Army — eight in total.
‘‘Word came to the team in the previous pre-season training camp that Darwin had been bombed in the largest air raid ever on Australian soil,’’ said Thurgar. ‘‘And the day after the players’ Saturday match on May 30, 1942, three Japanese mini submarines attacked Sydney itself.
‘‘Many people were anxious, frightened, and confused. Others, however, saw their duty clearly. That was to defend Australia and our way of life.’’
Mick Dennis was the sole survivor of Operation Copper in New Guinea in April 1945 . Seven mates perished, including former policeman and Dragons player Spencer Walklate.
To escape Sapper Dennis was forced to swim through shark-infested waters and fight off the Japanese. He succeeded, finally getting valuable information
about hidden enemy guns to the advancing Allied forces. At the end of the war, St George Leagues Club constructed and dedicated an Honor Board to commemorate the fallen. During reconstruction, possibly in the 1960s, it was lost.
‘‘But their memory was never ‘lost’ by their families, comrades, fellow players and friends,’’ said
Thurgar. Members of the public are welcome to attend, and news on relatives can be emailed to to John Thurgar firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE EIGHT LOST DRAGONS
Leonard Reginald Brennan:
Born on February 26, 1911 in Birmingham England, he moved to Australia and lived at Ramsgate. A French polisher by trade, Brennan enlisted on August 16 1941 and trained as a pilot. He was second pilot on a Wellington bomber on the night of 7-8 June 1943 when his crew was sent to attack the island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunis. Their aircraft was shot down by a flak ship. All members of the crew were able to escape in a dinghy, but by the time a destroyer found them the following afternoon, Flight Sergeant Brennan and all but one of the crew had died in the cold. Brennan’s name is remembered on the Malta Memorial to the missing. He played nine games for St George in the 1932 season, 16 games in 1933 and 15 in 1934.
John Henry Holliday:
Born on February 10 1918 in St Peters, he enlisted in the RAAF on February 1, 1941. Holliday was posted to Darwin and left for Koepang Timor on January 30, 1942 aboard the Qantas flying boat Corio. When the aircraft was approaching a landing on the sea, it was attacked by seven Japanese fighters and had to make a forced landing three miles off shore. The back of the aircraft broke and the crew and passengers were forced to swim ashore. Some were able to make it to shore but Aircraftman Class 1 Holliday was not among them. His name is remembered on the Northern Territory Memorial.
George Henry Holder:
Born on March 27 1912 in Birmingham England Holder lived at Kogarah and enlisted in the Army on June 18, 1940. He was sent to Malaya as part of the 8th Division and became a POW when Malaya and Singapore were overrun by the Japanese in February 1942. In September 1944 he and others were put on board the Japanese ship Rakuyo Maru to be sent to Japan to work in the coal mines. Midway between Vietnam and the Philippines, the US submarine Pampanito put two torpedos into the starboard side. The ship sank quickly taking most of the POWs with it. Acting Sergeant Holder didn’t survive. His name is remembered on the Labuan Memorial.
John Patrick Lennox:
Born on March 21, 1907 in Mudgee he enlisted in the Army on May 19 1941, went to Malaya as part of the 8th Division and became a prisoner when Singapore fell. He was part of the force that was sent to Thailand to build the infamous Thailand-Burma railway in primitive conditions with little food or medicine and brutal guards. Gunner Lennox’s health deteriorated and he died of illness on December7, 1943. Lennox is buried in the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery in Myanmar. He played 13 games for the Dragons in 1930, 13 games in 1931 and 14 in 1932.
Arthur Victor Moymow:
Born on April 22, 1889 in Sydney, he enlisted in the Army on May 30, 1941 and remained in Australia and worked on the recruitment staff. This was most likely due to his age. Corporal Moymow took ill in October 1944 and died on October 18. He is buried in the Newcastle (Sandgate) War Cemetery.
Arthur Ronald Ross:
Born on January 25, 1925 at Teralba, NSW he enlisted in the RAAF in February 1943 where he trained as a pilot. It was during that time when Ross was flying a Kittyhawk and practising ground attacks that he collided with a Spitfire. The Spitfire was able to return and land safely but Sergeant Ross’s Kittyhawk spun in and he was killed. He is buried in the Mildura Public Cemetery.
James McKenzie Simpson:
Born on November 3, 1920 in Newcastle, he was living in Fiji at the time war broke out and paid his own fare back to Australia so he could enlist in the RAAF on April 28, 1940 and trained as aircrew before being posted overseas to Malta. From Malta Simpson’s crew left for a photographic reconnaissance of the Tripoli coast on July 15, 1941. Despite an extensive search, they were not seen again. Simpson is remembered on the Malta Memorial. He played three games during the 1936 season.
Spencer Henry Walklate:
Born on January 11, 1918 at Bushgrove, NSW he was a police Constable First Class at Redfern when war broke out, yet Walklate enlisted in the 2nd AIF on Dec 31, 1943. Spencer was appointed as a lance corporal and joined Z Special Unit in August 1944. He went to New Guinea and soon after was reported missing, presumed dead, on April 13, 1945 whilst deployed on Operation Copper (named after his profession) on Muschu Island, off the coast of PNG. It was later learnt that he had been captured, tortured and beheaded by the enemy on the nearby Kairiru Island. Spencer played 13 first grade games for St George in 1942