Daughter Jenny Hood gives her father, former 2/27th Battalion serviceman Ed Ebsary, a hug on his 100th birthday on October 16, 2019. Picture: Caroline Phillips, Mayor of the District Council of Karoonda East Murray
This book is dedicated to infantryman, Corporal J. H. Thomas (SX4420) of the 2/27th Battalion AIF.
For Ryan, Dylan and Tyler Ross, in memory of Sydney Charles Ross (SX19744), the grandfather they never knew.
The Lost Battalion could not have been written without the support, advice and patience of many of its key characters, the few surviving men of the South Australian 2/27th Battalion who saw action in the Middle East and New Guinea in World War II.
It is the result of considerable reading and research, compiled with more than 67 hours of recorded interviews.
Much love and thanks to my sons, Ryan, Dylan and Tyler for unknowingly inspiring me and to my wife Lee-Anne for her love and patience with a husband prone to writing into the night.
Sincere thanks to Peregrine Travel’s Adelaide founder, Geoff Simpson for encouraging me to join him in walking the 96-kilometre Kokoda Track and to Jim Drapes of Back Track Adventures, who on last count has trekked the track more than 30 times, for making it happen.
Also to fellow trekkers Steve Flowers and Nick McMahon for their camaraderie in training and their companionship and friendship both on and off the track.
Many thanks to those who believe in the project including Geoff Williams, Trevor Scadden, Samela Harris, Brian Moore, Carolyne Jasinski, Ray Hirst, Cliff Presley, Barry Patton, Boti Nagy, Peter Cornwall and Gil Namur (www.lifeasahuman.com).
Also to the family members of World War II returned servicemen who responded to requests for information through South Australian regional newspapers and RSL newsletters, particularly Peter Ebsary of Snowtown in South Australia's Mid-North and Denise Little of Port Kenny on the West Coast.
Thanks to the literary work of infantryman John Burns M.M., the baker's boy from Glenelg who compiled and wrote the battalion history, The Brown and Blue Diamond at War, The Story of the 2/27th Battalion A.I.F., published in 1960 by the now-disbanded 2/27th Battalion Ex-Servicemen’s Association. It is a constant touchstone.
The Nominal Roll listed in the battalion history will be reproduced in full in The Lost Battalion, including addendum made after publishing of the original volume, in the hope that the listing of the serial numbers of the thousands of men who were members of the 2/27th Battalion during the course of World War II, including many from Australian states other than South Australia, will help their grandchildren and other relatives in their search for information on their forefathers.
The extensive resources of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and its on-line catalogue of images, interviews and the 2/27th Battalion’s day-to-day war diary was invaluable, as were the transcripts of interviews with former battalion members, held for posterity in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Australians at War Film Archive and in the Murdoch Sound Archive.
Grateful thanks to English singer/songwriter Mark Knopfler and his record company, Straitjacket Songs Ltd, for allowing me to reproduce the lyrics to the very apt and emotive Dire Straits song, Brothers in Arms.
Also to the ordinary soldiers, the poets and writers of the second AIF known only by their serial numbers, who recorded their thoughts and feelings in verse by contributing to the book Jungle Warfare, published in 1944 by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, during the final stages of World War II.
Their simple poems touched me as a boy like nothing else I have read since.
Finally, I owe an undying debt of gratitude to Bert Ward (SX9994), Ray Baldwin (SX2905), Eric Sambell (SX11850), Max Chapman (SX12357) and Alan Weir (SX3912), who passed away during the course of this project, and to Ed Ebsary (SX9760), the last surviving member of the half-a-dozen former 2/27th Battalion soldiers I began interviewing in 2011.
Ed, who celebrated his 100th birthday on October 16, 2019, has four children by his first 36-year marriage to Vida, two sons and two daughters, and two stepchildren by his second 26-year marriage to Connie.
He also has 16 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren aged from 4 months to 26 years old, with the 20th great grandchild due in January, 2020.
All these men helped me on my literary journey, giving freely of their time and thoughts.
I sincerely hope this book does some small justice to the memory of the men of the 2/27th Battalion who did not come home.
It is a story of desperation, inspiration, courage and compassion.
There are a myriad of facets to the comradeship, heroism and duty demonstrated by those who have served Australia in wartime.
Though sometimes obscured by the fog of war, for the sake of those who never returned home, for the enlightenment and education of their children and for all generations to come, we should strive to bring their humanity into the light.
For our children, their grandchildren and their grandchildren.
- Vincent Ross, November 11, 2019