Many are aware of the recent passing of Major Kevin Claude Thomas MM. The decorated Korean War Veteran and one time highly skilled Commando served in the 31st Infantry Battalion for almost a decade and then trained many 31st Battalion Officers over a further 5 years at the Townsville OCTU at Lavarack Barracks.This is an outline of his Military Career and demonstrated by a magnificent Tribute Poster by our French Honorary Member, Pierre Seillier.Kevin Claude Thomas was born on July 16th 1930 at Crows Nest, Sydney.He joined the Army in Sydney on 19th July 1951. After training at Kapooka was assigned to 3RARServed in Korea 1951-53 (two back to back tours) from late 1951 to 24 July 1953.1952 Promoted CplAwarded MM in May 1953 for actions in Sept 1952Late 1953 RTA and discharge.In 1954 Kev joined 1 Commando Regiment CMF1955 Passed Para School at Williamstown and obtained Wings and promoted Sgt1956 Seconded to a team with British Submarine Tellymackers, did 4 day submarine course and granted “Dolphins” from Australian Navy1957 on family move to Brisbane transferred to 2/14th Qld Mounted Infantry1958 Promoted 2nd Lieut1960 on family move to Ayr appointed Platoon Commander with 31st Battalion RQR1969 Promoted Capt and moved to OCTU as Instructor, shortly after promoted T/Major as Senior Instructor1971 Passed 21A course and confirmed as Major1973 Awarded Efficiency Decoration (ED) for Long Service1974 Moved to Retired ListA copy of Kevin’s Military Medal Citation is attached.One of the 3rd Battalion’s diggers in Kevin’s section killed in the action where Kevin was awarded the MM was 19 year old Keith Gardner.Kevin subsequently met his sister Margaret and later they were married on 26th Feb 1955. In April 1991 they both travelled to Korea and visited Keith’s grave at Pusan Cemetery where Kevin took a photo of Margaret next to Keith’s grave.In October 1991 the Federal Member for Herbert, Ted Lindsay, who had served in 31st Battalion RQR with Kev, spoke in the House of Representatives on Kev’s service in Korea, and read out his Military Medal Citation.Ted went on to say –“Kevin Thomas and his comrades in arms who served in Korea have left behind them an enduring legacy of selfless devotion to the highest ideals of mankind. I recall President Truman’s words of salute to American Troops in Korea; they apply no less to Australians who served there. His words were as follows-You will go down in history as the first army to fight under a flag of a world organisation in defence of human freedom….Victory may be in your hands, but you are winning a greater thing than military victory, for you are vindicating the idea of freedom under international law.I record the gratitude of this House to Australian Korean War heroes and their fallen comrades. “Kevin Thomas MM was given a very moving Memorial Service on Saturday 16th February 2019 by 3RAR at their home at Lavarack Barracks. Among those present with Kev’s family were Denis Tarbuck (A COY 3RAR Korean War Veteran) and 31st Battalion Association members: Colonel Greg Stokie Retd, (Queensland President), Don Thompson, Ambrose Saldumbide, Bob McIntosh, John Hayward, Vic Nicol, Ron Piper, Alan Hartley, Terry Hansen, the family of the Late Kev Fraser, the aforementioned Ted Lindsay, and Felix Reitano (Ingham Branch President), who Kev’s family said “was kind enough to do Kev’s Military Eulogy in the absence of Colonel Hugh Gaffney AM RFD ED Retd, the Patron of 31st Infantry Battalion Assoc.” Also present was Major Ian Reid, XO 31st/42nd Battalion RQR representing the CO, Lt Col Damian GreenLEST WE FORGETPhotos 1. Pierre’s Tribute 2. Kev with 1 Commando Regt (back row 2nd from left) 3 Kev in Samichon Valley with Hill 187 behind in 1952 4. The MM Citation
The following is another tribute done by our Honorary Member in France Pierre Seillier. Pierre reports on the identification of another 31st Battalion man Pte Leslie Clark Dunn:
Hello all. If I read well the Facebook page “Fromelles Descendant Database” compiled by our friend Tim Lycett, Carolyn Gardner wrote “My husbands grandfather Pte Leslie Dunn has just been identified by DNA. He also fell in Pheasant Wood. His headstone commemoration is to be held on 19/7/19 which happens to be his granddaughters birthday. Sadly my husband died several weeks previous to receiving the long awaited news.”
I have done research and I assume that the soldier is 641 Private Leslie Clark DUNN 31st Bn He is the only Leslie Dunn KIA during WW1 at Fromelles. Once again a man of our beloved 31st Bn, also listed as KIA on 21st July… Commemorated over many years at Villers Bretonneux, now at VC Corner and soon at Pheasant Wood, when I know more about the graves location, I will let you know
You can read his story in Tim Lycett’s book “Fromelles the final chapter”. A German soldier named Fischer, wrote to Johnson’s father after the war and returned his belongings. Fischer also said he’d had Ralph buried in a military cemetery at Beaucamps ( Beaucamps Communal Cemetery, German Extension) but he was never found after war, when allied graves were removed from Beaucamp German Cemetery and transfered to Pont-de-Hem Military Cemetery, La Corque, France. A special memorial headstone was erected for him. Now we know he was in Pheasant Wood mass graves, and is identified and buried in Fromelles Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery.
Association member Tim Lewis has been in contact with Keith Hearne, one of the few remaining members of 2/31st Batalion still active. He was formerly a President of the Victorian Branch of the 2/31 Battalion Association. Tim was also contacted by Eric Anderson, the son of “Hook” Anderson. Eric sent a parcel of old newsletters published by the 2/31st Bn association. “Hook” Anderson was for many years the editor of the 2/31st Bn Association newsletter “Forever Forward”. Amongst the newsletters were half a dozen copies of “Forever Forward”, dating from December 1993 to December 1998 and the four copies of the 25th Brigade newsletter “Teh Kallim”, dating from December 1963 to June 1988.
Keith Hearne sent a number of pictures of association reunions. We are hoping that Keith can give us some more information on members in the pictures including some of their stories. In later years as numbers gradually declined Keith mentioned that their had been an amalgamation of the 2/31st and 2/25th Battalion Associations in Victoria.
Tim gave me a number of pictures taken by his father, Leiutenant Aub Lewis, prior to and during the final campaign of the 2/31st Battalion, in Balikpapan. Some of those pictures were taken prior to the departure from Australia during training in the Atherton Tablelands. A selection of those are included below. Some members may recognize a familiar face from the past amongst them.
|Fred Cave during Bren Gun Carrier training at Atherton Tableland
|Officers of the Battalion with the Commander
|Groups of Diggers
At a small gathering of members of the Association in November 2018, two of our hard working members of the Brisbane Branch executive were presented with their OBE (Over Bloomin’ [Insert adjective of choice] Eighty) awards.
President Ray Fogg and Secretary Tony Wadeson were both recipients of this prestigious award. As a memento of the occasion both graciously accepted excellent caricatures portraying their activities over and above their commitments to the association. Our best wishes go to Ray and to Tony.
Presentation to Ray Fogg by George Stanger (also another Association OBE)
|George making the presentation to Tony Wadeson which pays tribute to Tony’s involvement with Surf Lifesaving .