It has certainly never been my intention to reduce each and every one of the many servicemen and women who appear on the downloadable spreadsheet to a mere list of names, numbers and addresses. Many of those who served experienced their own unspeakable horrors and where fortunate enough to return home from the war, more often than not, were reluctant to recount their experiences. They chose instead to live with the demons which would forever torment them.
Those who never returned were not left with that option. It is to them that we owe an inestimable debt of gratitude. One cannot but imagine the extent to which the world would have changed had Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito prevailed. Certainly, New Zealand might well have fallen to the Japanese but for the decisive Allied victories in the Pacific.
So, without in any way diminishing the immense contribution made by all who served, I thought to relate some interesting facts which emerged during the course of this research.
Within the list there are 588 servicemen and women listed as having been killed or who otherwise died, while on active service. As regards the list; the youngest mentioned – of whom there were two – were aged 20, the eldest, also two; 43.
Broken down by place of death:
North Africa – 252 (including Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, the Western Desert, Egypt). 71 were killed during the months of June and July 1942 alone.
Of the four Lee brothers who served, three, James Wesley, Richard Clarence and William Eric were all killed within the space of a year. Two were killed on the same day. A fourth brother John Basil saw out the war.
Italy – 167
Crete – 66
Greece – 33 (including the Aegean Is.)
At sea – 32 (including off Tobruk, off Tonga, unspecified). 18 of these were recorded as on the fateful voyage of the SS Nino Bixio as POWs when it was torpedoed by a British submarine and 5 on the SS Sebastiano Venier (Jason).
Pacific – 9 (including Solomon Is, Mono Island, Gilbert, Treasuries and unspecified)
New Zealand – 11
Germany – 6
England – 4
Holland – 1
Australia – 2
Poland – 1
Yugoslavia – 1
Austria – 1
Most, if not all of these listed also appear on local memorials erected in their honour.
It is not uncommon to see that more than one family member did not return; for example three of the five Kelly brothers who served, never did. Marshall who was killed in Greece, Ned Rako who died of natural causes in Australia and Thomas, who was killed on Crete.