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Today we remember two Willunga Football Club players

ANZAC Day is Australia’s day of remembrance.

The 25th of April marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

On Anzac Day we remember the men and women who fought for our country, especially those who lost their lives while fighting for Australia.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. We will remember them.”

Lest We Forget

Today we remember two Willunga Football Club players who died during the Second World War.

Sergeant Archibald James Little (known as Jimmy Little)



Jimmy Little was three years old when his father, a butcher, enlisted as a WW1 infantryman in March 1916. He served in Belgium and France and was shipped home post-war in late 1918. Jimmy left school in the early 1920s and worked as a storekeeper. He married Eileen Clift of Willunga in May 1936. Six months after WW2 began in September 1939, Jimmy like his father before him, enlisted in the infantry. He was appointed to the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion. Many of the South Australian volunteers in that battalion came from the Fleurieu peninsula: three were players from Willunga Football Club - the Harris brothers and Jimmy Little. Before the war the three men were instrumental in their team winning the SFL 1936 and 1938 premierships. Jimmy was the most brilliant player of the three - he won Mail Medals in 1939 and 1940.

The 2/3rd machine-gunners served in the Middle East until Japan entered the war. In 1942, the battalion was returning to Australia when it was diverted to Java to help repel an imminent Japanese attack. They disembarked on Javanese soil in late February 1942 but when the Japanese invasion fleet landed its troops a short time later, the Australians were greatly outnumbered. After five days of fighting, the men were ordered to surrender. They became POWs (Prisoners Of War). 139 men from the 2/3rd died over the next three and a half years in prison camps or working as forced labourers on the Thai-Burma railway. Jimmy Little was one of those who perished.

Sergeant Archibald James Little, known as Jimmy, died of illness in Thailand on the 18th of July 1943, aged 30. The Harris brothers survived the war and returned to play one last season of football for Willunga. Once the club had been re-established, they retired.

By coincidence, Arch Flanagan, an old Tasmanian friend of mine (died 2013 aged 98), also served in the 2/3rd battalion and was forced to work as a POW in Thailand and later, Japan. He played football with Jimmy in the battalion team and told me several years ago that Jimmy Little was “a fine sportsman.” Late in life Arch made a simple wooden plaque to commemorate his close friends who did not survive the war: Jimmy Little’s name is on that humble handwritten memorial. Lest We Forget.

Sergeant Jimmy Little is buried in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand. RIP Jimmy.

 

Flight-Lieutenant Arthur Ronald Giles (known as Ron Giles)



Ron Giles is standing on the far right of the Lancaster crew with whom he died.

 

Arthur Ronald Giles known as Ron was a WFC player in the 1930s before the outbreak of WW2 in September 1939. He was the uncle of ex-WFC president, player, life member, current time-keeper and Vietnam veteran, Paul Giles.

Ron enlisted in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) in May 1942 and a year later embarked for the UK where he was assigned to the No. 576 Squadron of the RAF (Royal Air Force). He flew in a series of 4-engined Lancaster bombing missions over France and Germany. On his final operational mission, 22-year-old Flight Sergeant Giles, Air Bomber, was the only Australian aboard a flight against a target in Frankfurt. The other six crew members were made up of four Britishers and two Canadians. The plane was officially reported ‘missing on operations’ in September 1944 and a telegram immediately sent to the family in Willunga.

After the war, German witnesses verified to the Red Cross that Ron’s plane collided in mid-air with another British plane at 11pm on 12-9-1944 and crashed to earth ‘over enemy territory’ near the small town of Eppelsheim. Local people recovered the bodies of the two aircrews and German soldiers buried them in a nearby village cemetery. Two suitcases of Ron’s personal effects were returned to the Giles family in 1946. At the same time, Ron’s Wing Commander in Lincolnshire wrote to the Giles family: “Your son had been with us for quite a long time, and had proved himself a capable and popular operational Air Bomber.”

After the war, Ron’s body was reinterred in the Rheinberg British Military Cemetery in Germany.

RIP Ron.

 

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