Grave Location – METHODIST D – 16
Service No. WX14427 Private 2/32 Battalion 6th Reinforcements Enlisted- 18 June 1941 Discharged- 6 November 1945 Date of Death- 26/10/1979 Age at Death- 63 Years Burial Location- Bunbury General Cemetery Methodist D Section Plot No. 16.
Harold Reginald Davis enlisted in the Army at Claremont on 18 June 1941. He stated that he was from Northam, W.A , he was born on 25th September 1916, was single and worked as a Labourer . He advised his next of kin as his Mother , Alice Bennell of Brookton, which he later amended to Alice Davis.
After 3 weeks training at Naval Base he was transferred to Northam Army Camp where he was stationed for additional training , until his embarkation to the Middle East on 7 November 1941, bound for Palestine. Following additional training in the desert near Alexandria, Egypt the Battalion was called into battle.
In July 1942 the Germans and Italians had reached El Alamein, which is only 70 Miles from Alexandria. Harold’s Battalion was rushed to El Alamein in response to these advances and to lead the attack on the enemy. The Battalion moved inland from the Coast from 7 July 1942 and the first major attack began on 17 July 1942. The 2/32 captured the ridge line, however the Germans resisted fiercely and counter-attacked with the use of tanks. During this and subsequent attacks, the 2/32 suffered heavy casualties, with nearly half of its men either killed or wounded, and over 200 men became Prisoners of War.
Harold was captured on the 17 July 1942 at El Alamein, and his own description of the event is as follows:- “ After making a night attack on a certain position which we captured from the Italians, and not being able to dig in, owing to the fact that the ground was hard and stony. In the morning my Company was surrounded by German tanks, and not having Anti-tank guns, our Commanding Officer gave the order to surrender “. Harold was officially reported as being captured as a Prisoner of War on 16 September, 1942.
Harold was held at the following Prisoner of War Camps:- BENGHAZI– from 25/7/1942 to 13/11/1942, BARI (Lower East Coast of Italy ) from 18/11/1942 to 24/11/1942, UDINE ( North Eastern Italy ) from 27/11/1942 and then at VERCELLI ( North Western Italy ) from 11 April 1943 . On the 10/11 September 1943, Harold and a number of fellow Australian soldiers escaped from the Vercelli camp. Harold and his mates were then to survive more than 2 years behind German enemy lines, with the assistance of a number of Italian partisans. Harold eventually made his way to safety in Switzerland , and traversed the Italian Alps in the process, which according to Italian locals, was an incredible feat of endurance.
After the War, Harold completed reports for the Australian Army in which he stated the following information:- “ The General living conditions in the Camps were affected by wooden bedding, fair lighting, poor heating and very crowded. Rations were insufficient, of poor quality and cooking facilities were poor. In Udine they were successfully receiving Red Cross comfort parcels. The Internment Staff were strict, but fair. The ordinary Italian soldiers were alright but the fascists were apt to be a bit too strict”.
Harold was recovered and deplaned in the United Kingdom on 30 June 1945, and returned to Australia on 21 September 1945. He was subsequently demobilized with an Honourable Discharge on 6 November 1945.
In correspondence from the Central Army Records Office , Albert Park Melbourne on 18 July 1955 written to the Commissioner of Native Welfare, Perth, the following Campaign Stars and Medals were awarded to Harold Reginald DAVIS, but he had never claimed them:- 1939/45 Star, Africa Star, Defence Medal, War Medal, Australia Service Medal. The District Officer, Narrogin of the Department of Native Welfare acknowledged in a letter dated 8 March, 1956 that Harold has now collected his Medals and Awards.
Harold is buried in an official Australian War Grave in the Bunbury General Cemetery located in the Methodist D Section at Plot No. 16.
( Italian Researcher Marco SOGGETTO has been researching the stories of the Australian Prisoners of War who escaped from the Vercelli Camp, and he is keen for Family Members to contact him at- firstname.lastname@example.org to assist in gathering further information to enable him to publish a book detailing the survival and exploits of these POW’s. Please contact him to provide any details that can help him with his project).