Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of Remembrance Day. When you hear the haunting notes of the last post, I ask that you stop and remember those who sacrificed their lives in the name of peace. One minute of your time is but a small price to pay in comparison to the sacrifices made by veterans who fought in the various arenas of war.
Tomorrow I will remember my Grandfather’s brother who was a veteran of the second world war. I met him as a child, but the meetings were fleeting. Sadly, my knowledge of Uncle Bill was gleaned from my Mother’s distressing little anecdotes about his wartime experiences. His decision to enlist in 1939 was a fateful decision that effected his health until he died. The following is Uncle Bill Hendy’s extraordinary story of survival, thanks to his son-in-law, Dave Macdonald.
WILLIAM JAMES HENDY
William (Bill) James Hendy QX2508 Bill was born on the 18/8/1908, son of John and Bridget Hendy. In the 1930s Bill worked in the Sugar Industry as a Sugar Boiler at the Invictor Mill at Giru. However in 1939 Bill was working at Marian near Mackay Queensland, when on the 3rd of Sept 1939, WW2 was declared by Robert Menzies. On the 21th of October 1939 just 6 weeks after war was declared, at the age of 31 Bill enlisted in the Army, at Marian. After seven months of training, on the 5th of May 1940, Bill Departed Sydney on the converted troopship Queen Mary, bound for Greenock, Scotland, arriving there on the 17th July 1940. In late 1940 while in the UK the 9th Division was formed initially to defend the UK against a possible invasion. After only 3 months in the UK William was transfer to the 6th Division and sent to North Africa, arriving there on the 24th of December 1940. Bill first saw action in early 1941, against the Italian forces in North Africa, in the advance to Benghazi. In March of 1941 Bill was sent to Greece with the 6 Division, arriving there on the 26th March 1941. There they were to help defend Greece against the Italian Army. The Greek campaign, in which Australian, New Zealand and British troops took part was an ill-planned, disastrous and short campaign. Australian and New Zealand governments, who provided most of the troops, were not privy to the planning of the operation. Prime Minister Robert Menzies was uneasy about the operation and sought unsuccessfully to have it reassessed. Menzies feared the Greece campaign would to become another Gallipoli. On 6 April 1941, German forces attacked Greece and Yugoslavia simultaneously. From the outset, the Allied forces were vastly outnumbered. Some 58,000 men against some 300,000 German Troops. On the 16th of April the Greek Government stated that the British Forces should evacuate Greece. It was during this withdrawal that Bill Hendy and his group were attacked repeatedly with bombs and machine-gun, fire from low-flying German aircraft. It was during one of these attacks that Bill took cover next to a creek bank, unfortunately one of the bombs fell above the bank where Bill took shelter. This was the last thing Bill remembered about the withdrawal. Bill was buried alive. From what Bill was told there was a number of casualties, wounded and killed. They looked for Bill but there was no sign of him and they thought he was OK and went ahead. It was some time after his own group headed off, that a group of British soldiers came to spot where Bill was and they noticed a boot moving from out of the sand. They then realised that some poor bugger was buried from collapsed sandy bank. They quickly dug the digger out. The solder was a Australian QX 2508, it was Bill Hendy. Bill was unconscious but alive. Over the next few days the British solders carried Bill to the sea where on the 28th April 1941, Bill was evacuated to the 7TH British General Hospital on Crete. In early May of 41, Bill was transferred from Crete to Alexandria, Egypt. It was late June before Bill was able to return to active duties. He was in the Middle East for the last battle of El Alamein and returning to Australia in February 1943. Bill served at Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Greece and Bougainville and was discharged on the 5th March 1945, after near 5 years of service. After the War Bill suffered from lung problems for the rest of his life after being buried in Greece. He was in and out of Hospital until his death on the 24th February 1973. He was survived by his wife May and is three daughters, Patricia, Rhonda, Lynette and grandchildren.
LEST WE FORGET