Eric Stanley Southern

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Eric Stanley Southern
Southern Eric Stanley 1.jpg
Known to be in this portrait are three members of 2/32 Infantry Battalion: WX19284 Private (Pte) Leonard Smith, WX18650 Pte Eric Stanley Southern, Australian Army Catering Corps, and WX9732 Corporal (Cpl) James William Read. Pte Southern and Cpl Read were both killed in action on 26 November 1943 in New Guinea.
Personal Information
Date of Birth 7 Apr 1908
Place of Birth Croydon, England
Death 26 Nov 1943
Place of Death New Guinea
Age at Enlistment 33 years, 9 months
Occupation Wood cutter
Religion Church of England
Address Forrest road, Kelmscott, Western Australia
Next of Kin Wife , Mrs Annie Vera Southern
Military Information
Reg Number WX18650
Date of Enlistment 6 Jan 1942
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 2/32nd Australian Infantry Battalion
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 6 Sep 1942 ‒ 22 Sep 1942
Transport Details HMT Queen Mary Convoy 12A Fremantle to Egypt
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 24 Jan 1943 ‒ 18 Feb 1943
Transport Details HMT Queen Mary Egypt to Fremantle
2nd Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 7 Aug 1943 ‒ 10 Aug 1943
Transport Details USAT Charles P. Steinmetz Cairns to Milne Bay
Post War Details
Fate Killed in Action 26 Nov 1943
Monument(s) Kelmscott War Memorial
WA State War Memorial
Australian War Memorial Australian War Memorial
Medals 1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

Pre War

Departed London, England for Fremantle aboard the SS Armadale on 12 Nov 1910 with his Mother and 6 siblings.

On 5 Mar 1938 he married Annie Vera Steer (1912-1971) in Leonora. Children were Edward John Southern (1939-2015); Robert William Southern (1943-1984), one more son and two daughters.

War Service

Enlisted at Claremont, and transferred to the 13th Australian Infantry Training Battalion at Northam camp on 13 Jan 1942. From 6 - 21 Mar 1942 he was detached for Special Guard Duties, and from 4 Apr 1942 until 16 Jul 1942 he was transferred to the No 3 Special Detachment. On 7 Aug 1942 he was allocated to the reinforcements for the 2/32nd Australian Infantry Battalion. Found guilty of being AWOL from midnight 21 Mar until midnight 22 Mar 1942, he was fined £1, and forfeited a day's pay. Granted pre-embarkation leave from 7 - 15 Aug 1942, he embarked for overseas on 6 Sep 1942 aboard HMT P4 in Convoy US 16 for Egypt were they disembarked on 8 Oct 1942.

On arrival in Egypt, Eric was sent to the 24th Australian Infantry Training Battalion to complete his training before joining the 2/32nd Battalion on 1 Jan 1943, just in time to prepare for a return to Australia.

On 24 Jan 1943 he embarked on HMT Queen Mary in Suez, a part of a convoy termed Operation Pamphlet. The Operation Pamphlet convoy comprised HMT Queen Mary, HMT Aquitania, SS Île de France, HMT Nieuw Amsterdam, and HMT Queen of Bermuda. Port Tewfik couldn't handle them all at once son in sequence they loaded, sailed down the Red Sea to Massawa where they anchored until all of the convoy had loaded. The Queen Mary, carrying the 2/32nd Battalion was there for a week before it was able to set sail for Australia. Rather than travel as expected by the troops via Colombo, the ships set a course for the central Indian Ocean and on 9 Feb 1943 entered what was then known as Port T, a secret naval base unknown to the Japanese in the Addu Atoll, the southernmost land of the Maldives. On 10 Feb the convoy set sail for Fremantle, arriving there on 18 Feb 1943 and disembarked the Western Australian troops. However, wile on board the Queen Mary Eric ran foul of authority and on 29 Jan 1943 was charged wit having on the previous day failed to appear at a parade called by his Commanding Officer. His penalty was 3 days CB (extra duties).

Following leave, they entrained for Adelaide on 4 Apr 1943, and finally on 2 May 1943 he joined the battalion proper having previously been part of its Supernumerary Personnel, having the previous day been classified as a Cook Grade 2. On 22 Jul 1943 he was therefore transferred to the Australian Army Catering Corps, and attached to the 2/32nd Battalion. By now he battalion was in North Queensland preparing to deploy to New Guinea, and on 7 Aug 1943 they embarked in Cairns on the USAT Charles P. Steinmetz an American Liberty ship for Milne Bay in Papua, disembarking there on 10 Aug 1943.

Committed to the fighting for the first time in the Pacific in September 1943, when the 2/32nd Battalion was assigned to capture Lae, during the final stages of the Salamaua–Lae campaign. After conducting an amphibious landing north-west of the town, the battalion's involvement in the fighting was limited as it was held back as part of the divisional reserve throughout the operation, and Lae was captured sooner than expected. The battalion's next campaign followed only a few weeks later, when the operations to secure the Huon Peninsula were launched, with the 24th Brigade landing at Finschhafen in late September. Throughout the following months, the 2/32nd was involved in the fighting around the landing beaches and then the advance inland.

The battalion's War Diary for 26 Nov reported that 'C' Company had been heavily bombarded by Japanese artillery and mortars at close range before a series of attacks over a two and a half hour period. The company lost two men killed in action and another 14 wounded, with Eric being one of those killed. He was originally buried near Fortification Point, Finschhafen, however, his body was later exhumed and reburied in Lae War cemetery.

  • Lae War Cemetery
  • Eric's gravesite


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