Other Properties - Australian Groups
GROUP OF EIGHT: 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Pacific Star; Defence Medal 1939-45; War Medal 1939-45; Australia Service Medal 1939-45; Korea Medal 1950-53; UN Korea Medal. VX12834 R.W.Saunders on first six medals, 337678 Capt. R.W.Saunders on seventh medal, 3/37678 R W Saunders on last medal. All medals impressed. Swing mounted, very fine - extremely fine.
Ex Ken Maxwell Lyon Collection.
Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) (Civil) on 12Jun1971 as Liaison Officer in the Office of Aboriginal Affairs.
Reginald Walter Saunders, born 07Aug1920 at Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve near Purnim, Vic; WWII: Enl.24Apr1940 at Caulfield, Vic; Disch.05Oct1940 as Lieutenant ex 2/7Bn. Korea: served 06Nov1950 - 26Jul1951 and 22Aug - 05Nov1951 with 3RAR; Deceased 02Mar1990.
Reg Saunders was the first Aboriginal Australian to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army. His father, Walter Christopher George Saunders, was a WWI Australian Army veteran and his younger brother, Harry Saunders with 2/14Bn, was KIA at Gona, Papua on 29Nov1942.
Reg was raised by his grandmother, his schooling was sporadic and his initial occupation was working as a sawmiller. He enlisted in the AIF in WWII as a private but by Aug1940 he was A/Sgt with his training battalion. When he was posted to the Middle East he reverted to private. He served in campaigns in North Africa, Greece and Crete including the ferocious bayonet charge at '42nd Street' (named after British 42nd Field Coy of Royal Engineers that occupied that street) on 27May that temporarily disorganised the enemy. When his unit was routed in Crete and made a hasty evacuation, he, along with some other members of his unit, was unable to escape. Reg refused to surrender and with help of the local Cretans he remained in hiding for twelve months before he was finally able to escape from Crete on 11May1942 on board a trawler bound for Libya.
He was returned to Australia and then sent to New Guinea to rejoin his unit, 2/7Bn. After fighting through the Salamanca Campaign he remained on the front line with his unit and his bush skills proved to be most valuable in leading patrols and ambushing the enemy. In mid 1944 his CO nominated him for officer's training in Australia. It was during this period that he married Dorothy Mary Banfield WAAAF at Prahran, Victoria. At the conclusion of his training he was commissioned on 26Nov1944 and returned to New Guinea. He served there for the remainder of the war as Platoon Commander of No 10 Platoon. On 11May1945 he was WIA with GSW to the knee and RTA. He was placed on the Reserve of Officer's list on 13Oct1945.
Back in civvy life he moved to the city working in various jobs including tram conductor, shipping tally clerk and builder's labourer. When the war started in Korea he returned to the Army being appointed to the Interim Army on 28Aug1950 and promoted in Nov1950 to T/Captain with 3RAR. Initially he was Platoon Commander of A Coy and then in March 1951 of C Coy. Reg was very popular with his men and had a good-natured sense of humour. Long before political correctness took over, one of his fellow officers commented that Korea 'was no place for a white man' and quick as a flash Reg replied, 'it's no place for a black man either'. He was in the famous Battle of Kapyong where his unit was awarded a USA Distinguished Unit Badge (in 1966 renamed Presidential Unit Citation).
On his return to Australia he was posted to a National Service Training position but this was not to his liking so he resigned his commission on 04Oct1954 and left the Army. Initially he returned to his timber days and worked as a logging contractor in Gippsland but later relocated to Sydney for work with the Austral Bronze Company at St Mary's for the next eleven years. In 1962 he was elected President of the St Mary's Sub-Branch of the RSS&AILA.
In 1969 he joined the office of Aboriginal Affairs as a liaison and PR officer. Reg was awarded an MBE in 1971 for his work in establishing communication between the government and indigenous communities. In 1985 he joined the council of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Twice married, he had ten children. Reg Saunders died on 02Mar1990. In 1992 the RSL established a scholarship in his name for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women and a room in the Lady Gowrie Services Club at Manuka is named in his honour.
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GROUP OF EIGHT: 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Pacific Star; Defence Medal 1939-45; War Medal 1939-45; ...