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Raymond Eric Gerard Bennett

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Raymond Eric Gerard Bennett
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Personal Information
Date of Birth 16 May 1907
Place of Birth Bunbury, Western Australia
Death 14 Oct 1967, aged 60
Place of Death Marmion, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 32 years, 4 months
Description 5'7" (1.70m) tall ; ; dark complexion ; grey eyes ; black hair
Occupation Truck driver
Religion Roman Catholic
Address Railway avenue, Armadale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Father , Mr William Bennett
Military Information
Reg Number WX124
Date of Enlistment 7 Nov 1939
Rank Gunner
Unit/Formation 2/3rd Australian Field Regiment
Military Movement
1st Departure from Australia
Journey Dates 11 May 1940 ‒ 30 May 1940
Transport Details HMT Empress of Japan Fremantle to Cape Town
Transfers
Journey Dates 30 May 1940 ‒ 17 Jun 1940
Transport Details HMT Queen Mary Cape Town to Gourock, Scotland
Journey Dates 15 Nov 1940 ‒ 31 Dec 1940
Transport Details HMT Empress of Canada Gourock, Scotland to Alexandria, Egypt
Journey Dates 26 Mar 1941 ‒ 28 Mar 1941
Transport Details SS Braftdal Alexandria to Pireaus, Greece
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 27 Apr 1941 ‒ 28 Apr 1941
Transport Details HMS Ajax Greece to Crete
Journey Dates 31 May 1941 ‒ 3 Jun 1941
Transport Details unknown ship Crete to Alexandria, Egypt
Journey Dates 13 Feb 1942 ‒ 28 Mar 1942
Transport Details SS City of Hankow Egypt to Adelaide
Post War Details
Fate Returned to Australia
Medals 1939-45 Star
Africa Star
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45



Pre War

War Service

Enlisted at Subiaco and sent to the Northam camp on 7 Nov 1939. On 8 Dec 1939 he boarded a train in Northam for Sydney, arriving on 13 Dec 1939. Following training Raymond was granted embarkation leave in Sydney from 29 Feb until 21 Mar 1940, after which they travelled back to WA and reported to the Melville camp on 28 Mar 1940. While in Sydney on 4 May 1940, Raymond's unit boarded HMT Queen Mary, a member of Convoy US3 which included 4 other ships with the 17th Brigade of the 6th Division aboard, his records imply that he boarded HMT X5 in Perth, believed to be HMT Empress of Japan. The convoy sailed for the Middle East, as at that time Italy had not yet declared their hand. However, before reaching Colombo, Italy had entered the war and the convoy was redirected via Cape Town. In Cape Town the Chinese crew of the Empress of Japan mutinied and her troops were spread amongst the other ships for the rest of the voyage. Ray's records show that he was transhipped to the HMT X1, likely to have been HMT Queen Mary, and that the day before he had been charged with being AWOL from 8:00am to 2:30pm on 29 May 1940, for which he was fined 10/- ($1), and awarded 2 day Confined to Barracks at the end of the journey. They disembarked from the Queen Mary at Gourock, west of Glasgow in Scotland on 17 Jun 1940 and were placed on trains, first for Edinburgh, and then Salisbury in the south of England.

Sent to Tidworth for specialised training, Ray was hospitalised from 29 Jul until 6 Aug 1940 in their Military Hospital with Mumps. On 1 Sep 1940 he was charged with 'Failing to appear at the place of parade appointed by his Commanding Officer.' His punishment was 2 days Confined to Barracks. While in Britain the 2/3rd Field Regiment was employed on garrison duties to defend against any German invasion that might occur. While there they became the first Australian artillery unit to receive the new 25 pounder guns. On 15 Nov 1940 they embarked on HMT L11 HMT Empress of Canada in Gourock, Scotland for the Middle East, arriving there on 31 Dec 1940.

The regiment saw action against the Italians at Tobruk where they supported the 19th Infantry Brigade. Benghazi fell next and after that was taken, the regiment deployed one battery forward in support of the 17th Infantry Brigade at Marsa Brega. A short time later, though, the regiment was withdrawn back to Ikingi Maryut to re-organise.

On 26 Mar 1941 the unit boarded SS Braftdal for Greece, arriving several days later. On 6 May 1941 Ray was charged with having been AWOL from 7:00pm on 31 Mar until 3:30pm on 1 Apr 1941, for which he received a 10/- ($1) fine and the automatic loss of the day's pay. On arrival in Greece they moved towards the Yugoslav border where they attempted to defend Vevi in the Florina Valley. Here they had the distinction of being the first Australian artillery unit to engage German forces during the war. After mauling an SS force on the Itia–Vevi road, the Australian and New Zealand forces were pushed back to Servia on 11 April. Amidst driving snow the regiment fought a desperate rearguard effort around the Klidi Pass, firing over open sights at advancing German infantry. Falling back through thick mud, the regiment came under attack from German fighter-bombers before they eventually affected their withdrawal.

A disastrous series of withdrawals followed in which the regiment lost all of its equipment. A week later, the regiment was briefly attached in support of the 6th New Zealand Brigade. On 18 April, the fighting was so intense that the regiment's guns fired over 6,000 rounds in a twenty-four-hour period as it attempted to thwart the advance of a German armoured column near Mount Olympus. Later the regiment supported the 4th New Zealand Brigade around Erithrai. Finally, on 27 April the regiment was evacuated from Greece on board HMS Ajax and withdrawn back to Crete.

The regiment was initially assigned as a makeshift infantry unit to carry out garrison duties, but in early May the regiment was re-equipped with captured Italian and French guns, and the regiment was assigned a coastal defence role and moved to Georgiopolis, on the south-east coast of Suda Bay. With the arrival of German parachute troops on 20 May, the regiment was transported to Maleme airfield, and another battery was detached to Retimo and in these places the regiment fought with its guns in support of the 19th Infantry Brigade. Near Meg Khorafia some of the regiment's personnel were thrown into the line as infantry. As the Germans pressed hard against the Australian and New Zealand defences, the regiment found itself holding the line as the infantry fell back, and as the guns fired over open sights, the gunners defended themselves with small arms.

Later during the month, as the Allies were forced back towards Sphakia, to prevent the Germans from capturing it, the regiment had to destroy most of its equipment. Two of the captured 75 mm guns were saved, though, and were manpacked by men from 'B' Troop over mountainous terrain to act in a rearguard role between Sphakia and Suda, while the Royal Navy attempted to evacuate the stranded troops. The regiment continued to fight until it was withdrawn by sea on 31 May, leaving behind 129 men who were captured by the Germans. On 3 Jun 1941 Ray disembarked in Middle East, being one of the lucky ones to have returned from Greece and Crete.

From 30 Jul until 13 Aug 1941 Ray was treated for dysentery by the 2/7th Australian General Hospital. He returned to his unit via the Artillery Training Regiment on 23 Aug 1941. The regiment remained in the Middle East until 13 Feb 1942 when the 6th Division was recalled back to Australia in response to the growing threat posed by Japan's entry into the war. Arriving in Fremantle aboard SS City of Hankow on 28 Mar 1942, Ray was admitted to the 110th Australian Base Hospital Perth, and following treatment on 8 May 1942 he was granted leave until 15 May 1942. On 6 Jun 1942 he rejoined the 2/3rd Field Regiment which by then had relocated to Queensland, by rail.


During July 1942 Raymond moved between the 11th Australian Field Ambulance, the 116th Australian General Hospital, the 114th Australian Convalescent Depot and finally the 2/5th Australian General Hospital in NSW for treatment of acute shredding dermatitis. For a time he was attached ot the 1st Australian Training Regiment, but on 20 Oct 1942 Raymond rejoined the 2/3rd Field Regiment, then based on the Atherton tablelands. Unfortunately his dermatitis again was to cause him to require medical attention throughout November and December 1942.


Reorganised for tropical warfare the 2/3rd Field Regiment shed many men, including Raymond who on 10 Feb 1943 was transferred to a Depot unit at Sellheim (Charters Towers) for re-allocation, and on 30 Apr 1943 he joined the Australian Ammunition Service. Soon after he was granted 24 day's leave, and on 22 Jul 1943 he was attached to the LHQ Training Centre, and on 4 Oct 1943 he was promoted to Acting Corporal. In Jul 1943 Raymond again required medical attention, this time from the 22nd Australian Camp Hospital, and on 24 Aug 1944 he was embarked on the AHS Manunda in Townsville for Sydney, disembarking two days later and was placed on an Ambulance Train.

The next day (27 Aug 1944) he was admitted to the 115th Australian Base Hospital in Victoria from the 3rd Australian Ambulance Train. On 30 Aug 1944 he transferred to 110th Australian Base Hospital Perth, arriving on 3 Sep 1944 when he proceeded on 16 days leave. On 10 Oct 1944 he appeared before a Medical Board, the result being that his dermatitis caused him to be unsuited for any occupation where the wearing of khaki was necessary. On 13 Oct 1944 he was discharged from the hospital, and he was discharged on 18 Nov 1944.

Post War

Married Daisy Matilda

Notes


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