Brav­ery un­der fire

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

The Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment an­nu­ally buys about 3000 horses in Bri­tain. Most come from Ire­land, which is also the largest pro­ducer of first- class hun­ters and steeplechasers. Last year Ire­land ex­ported 10,000 horses, of which 6000 were sold for mil­i­tary pur­poses. Dur­ing 1913, Bri­tain ex­ported 17,000 horses, ex­clu­sive of the poor, worn- out brutes shipped to Con­ti­nen­tal butch­ers. The an­nual ex­port of horses from Aus­tralia amounts to about 6000. At­ten­tion is called to an ad­ver­tise­ment in this is­sue whereby males are urged to qual­ify as [ am­bu­lance] bear­ers, and women as com­pe­tent nurses by at­tend­ing at the Am­bu­lance Cen­tre this evening. One of the vol­un­teers who left Townsville by the Bingera on Mon­day for Enog­gera was a re­turned soldier named Frank Wil­son. He served with the 36th Bat­tal­ion and was wounded in the hand, the lit­tle fin­ger of one hand be­ing left dou­bled up and use­less. Be­fore he could be ac­cepted again for ser­vice, he had to have this fin­ger re­moved by op­er­a­tion and the wound has now just suf­fi­ciently healed to al­low him to get away. The an­nual pic­nic of the Mund­ing­burra State School was held last Satur­day when about 700 souls jour­neyed by train to Mar­garet’s Creek, Cor­marty, some 23 miles down the Ayr line. Weather con­di­tions were ideal. Sports and games nu­mer­ous and var­ied. The ap­ple- eat­ing con­test would have made a splen­did sub­ject for the movies. The ladies’ race was won by Mrs Con­nelly ( Mag­netic Is­land) and the men’s by Mr C Far­don, as­sis­tant teacher at the Mund­ing­burra School. The Mag­netic Is­land and Ross Schools were guests for the day. Vet­eran Catholic priest Tom Gard is re­mem­bered af­ter his death in 1993 for his brav­ery un­der fire while an AIF chap­lain in the Siege of To­bruk FA­THER Tom Gard was re­mem­bered af­ter his death in 1993, aged 83, as a war hero and `` all things to all peo­ple’’ as a Catholic priest.

He died sud­denly on July 21, 1993, in Proser­pine, hav­ing served 60 years as a priest, in­clud­ing a chap­laincy with the 2/ 4 3rd Aus­tralian In­fantry Bat­tal­ion in World War II.

Ing­ham- born Fr Gard had reached out to all, re­gard­less of sta­tus, cul­ture and creed, Townsville Catholic dio­cese spokesman Fa­ther Michael Mullins told the Townsville Bul­letin on July 24, 1993.

In 1945, he had been made a Mem­ber of the Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire for gal­lantry un­der fire, recog­ni­tion of his part in res­cu­ing Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties dur­ing the siege of To­bruk, on Au­gust 3, 1941.

De­tails of the res­cue mis­sion were first re­ported by the Bul­letin on Septem­ber 8, 1941, based on a let­ter home from Ma­jor R J Wheeler, a for­mer Perth med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner serv­ing with the Rats of To­bruk.

`` Fr Gard’s act of brav­ery oc­curred dur­ing shell fire which was so se­vere that stretcher bear­ers could not ven­ture out to bring in wounded in a truck marked with the Red Cross,’’ the Bul­letin re­ported.

``[ He] drove out into the thick of the fray and went right in to the Ger­man lines on his er­rand of mercy.

`` The en­emy recog­nised his feat of brav­ery, held their fire, en­abled and as­sisted him to gather in the wounded. They gave him a cig­a­rette, let him have a rest and guarded him safely back to the Bri­tish lines, where he ar­rived with his truck filled with wounded.’’

Later ac­counts also gave credit to Fr Gard’s com­rades, Pri­vate Keith Pope — for driv­ing the truck — and Sergeant Wally Tuit for stand­ing on the bon­net with an un­furled Red Cross flag, while Fr Gard stood on a run­ning board.

Mel­bourne Her­ald jour­nal­ist H. I. Mar­shall wrote in 1945 that in fact Fr Gard had of­fered a cig­a­rette to a Ger­man of­fi­cer while per­suad­ing him to let them pick up the dead and in­jured.

The ad­ven­tur­ous priest, then aged 31, had been evac­u­ated with dysen­tery a month a later, then re­joined the bat­tal­ion in Syria, had been present at the bat­tle of El Alamein, re­turned to Aus­tralia with the Ninth Di­vi­sion and took part in the New Guinea cam­paign dur­ing 1943 and ` 44.

`` Tommy Gard was a bit dif­fer­ent from what the troops may have imag­ined the Sky Pi­lot would be,’’ Mar­shall wrote. `` They soon found a qual­ity in his Chris­tian­ity that only started with church pa­rades and spir­i­tual wel­fare and that knew no de­nom­i­na­tional limit.

`` True, a rugby foot­baller was wasted on a South Aus­tralian bat­tal­ion — he nearly killed him­self and a cou­ple of oth­ers when he tried to master Aus­tralian Rules — but a bats­man and change bowler of his abil­ity al­ways had uses. He be­came cap­tain of the bat­tal­ion cricket team, and open­ing bat.’’

Pic­ture: AUS­TRALIAN WAR ME­MO­RIAL

Chap­lain Tom Gard, far right, with mem­bers of the 2/ 43rd AIF Bat­tal­ion Reg­i­men­tal Aid Post, western desert, Egypt, July 30, 1942.

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