From Our Contribution
AWM photo PO2466.226
|Date of Birth||5 Apr 1918|
|Place of Birth||Armadale, Western Australia|
|Death||20 May 1941|
|Age at Enlistment||21 years, 6 months|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Address||Serpentine, Western Australia|
|Next of Kin||Brother , Mr Harold Summerfield|
|Date of Enlistment||7 Nov 1939|
|Unit/Formation||2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion|
|1st Departure from Australia|
|Journey Dates||20 Apr 1940 ‒ 7 Jun 1940|
|Transport Details||HMT Y3 Nevasa Fremantle to Port Tewfik, Egypt via Colombo|
|Journey Dates||10 Apr 1941 ‒ 12 Apr 1941|
|Transport Details||SS Pennland Alexandria, Egypt to Pireaus, Greece|
|Journey Dates||25 Apr 1941 ‒ 26 Apr 1941|
|Transport Details||SS Thurland Castle Megara Greece to Crete|
|Post War Details|
|Fate||KIA 20 May 1941 Crete|
|Monument(s)||ANZAC Memorial Park (Byford)|
|Australian War Memorial||Australian War Memorial|
1939-45 Star |
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45
Enlisted at Subiaco and eight days later he was taken on strength by the 2/11th Australian Infantry Battalion Following some basic training in Perth the unit embarked in Fremantle on 30 Nov 1939 for Sydney to train with the rest of the 6th Division. Returned to Perth in early 1940 and was granted pre-embarkation leave from 21 - 29 Mar 1940. However, Robert was late returning, resulting in him being charged with being AWOL from 4:00pm on 29 Mar - 9:30am on 3 Apr 1940. Found guilty he was fined £2 ($4), and forfeited another 5 days pay (5/- or 50 cents per day).
On 20 Apr 1940 along with the rest of his battalion he boarded the HMT Y3 Nevasa for Kantana in Egypt, disembarking there on 19 May 1940. The voyage was via Colombo, and while there, Robert had been AWOL from 8:30pm until 10:00pm on 3 May 1940. He was fined 6/- (60 cents). He was also AWOL in Palestine from 10:00pm on 28 Mar until 10:00pm on 30 Mar 1941, for which he was fined £3 ($6) and forfeited 2 days pay.
After arriving in the Middle East, the 2/11th trained in Palestine and Egypt. A decision to reorganise Australian infantry brigades along British lines, with three battalions instead of four, meant the 2/11th was now part of the 19th Brigade, but it remained part of the 6th Division. The battalion went into action for the first time at Bardia on 5 Jan 1941 and, as part of the Allied advance into Italian-occupied Libya, subsequently fought at Tobruk on 21-22 Jan 1941, and to secure Derna airfield on 25 Jan 1941. It was advancing to the south of Benghazi when the Italians surrendered on 7 Feb 1941.
On 10 Apr 1941 they embarked on the SS Pennland in Alexandria harbour for Pireas in Greece. The Allied forces, however, were unable to hold back the attacking Germans. The 2/11th withdrew from its initial positions at Kalabaka and remained on the move until it occupied rearguard positions at Brallos Pass a week later. It fought and slowed the Germans there on 24 April and then continued its withdrawal to Megara, where it was evacuated by sea aboard SS Thurland Castle during the night of 25 Apr 1941.
The battalion landed on Crete the next day. It was subsequently deployed with the 2/1st Australian Infantry Battalion to defend Retimo airfield, which was held tenaciously for ten days following the landing of German paratroops on 20 May 1941. Although Robert was initially reported missing, his records were later amended to indicate that he had been killed in action on 20 May 1941 as he had been buried on 21 May 194 at Rethymno, Crete by the German troops.