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This week in history: our wartime heritage.

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DVA 102 Monday 2 July 2001

This Week In History - Our Wartime Heritage

Issued by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, to foster awareness of Australia’s wartime history and heritage during the Centenary of Federation.

6-12 July

6 July 1918: Corporal Walter Ernest Brown, 20th Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, originally from New Norfolk, Tasmania, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour at Villers-Bretonneux, France. Corporal Brown was told that a sniper’s post was causing trouble in the area. Picking up two grenades he ran towards it under fire. His first grenade fell short, but on reaching the post he knocked down one German and threatened the others with the remaining grenade. The 13-man party surrendered and Corporal Brown shepherded them back to the Australian lines.

6-9 July 1941: Battle of Damour, Lebanon. This was the final battle in Lebanon against the Vichy French and involved the Australian 7th Division, reinforced by the 17th Brigade, 6th Division. The Australian forces advanced to surround the enemy positions at the villages of El Boum and El Atiqa. At El Boum, the Australians charged with bayonets, but found that the Vichy French forces had abandoned their defences after an opening artillery barrage. At El Atiqa, the Australians met stronger resistance, losing 27 dead and 74 wounded, but succeeded in gaining ground. With Damour cut off, the Australian 6th Cavalry moved into the town on 9 July and found the Vichy French positions abandoned. The Australian victory opened the way to Beirut and the Vichy French surrendered on 11 July.

6 July 1964: Warrant Officer Class 2 Kevin Conway, serving with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam, became the first Australian to die in action during the Vietnam War. He was attached to the US Special Forces A Team stationed at Nam Dong when the team came under attack from a Viet Cong battalion. WO2 Conway and USSF Master Sergeant Gabriel Alamo had just entered a mortar pit when WO2 Conway suffered a fatal bullet wound and Master Sergeant Alamo was killed by grenade fragments.

9 July 1943: No 3 and No 450 Squadrons RAAF and eight Royal Australian Navy corvettes were involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily. Operation Husky was the second largest undertaken in Europe during World War II after Operation Overlord (D-Day). The operation involved 180 000 Allied troops and 2590 Allied ships.

10 July 1911: King George V granted the title of Royal Australian Navy to the Commonwealth naval forces. The first RAN ships were the destroyers HMAS Yarra and Parramatta. A third ship, HMAS Warrego, was commissioned in 1912 and in 1913 the battle cruiser HMAS Australia and light cruisers HMAS Melbourne and Sydney arrived in Australian waters. When the new fleet sailed into Sydney

Harbour for the first time on 4 October 1913, a public holiday was declared.

10 July 1940: Beginning of the Battle of Britain, a three-month aerial campaign by the German Luftwaffe to break Britain’s air power, paving the way for an invasion. During the battle 24 Australian pilots, air crew and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force personnel lost their lives.

10 July 1941: Private James Gordon, 2/31st Battalion, originally from Rockingham, WA, won the Victoria Cross near Djezzine, Lebanon. During an attack, Private Gordon's company came under intense machine-gun fire, bringing its advance to a halt. Private Gordon crept forward over an area swept by machine-gun and grenade fire, then charged the position, killing the four machine-gunners with his bayonet.

Media Contact: Mark Croxford (02) 6277 7820 or 0408 645 787


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