Friday, July 25, 2008

[Image] Tobruk's Bush Artillery

27th August, 1941.
El-Adem Sector
Tobruk, Libya.

Members of the 2/17th Infantry Battalion man a captured Italian 75mm gun.

Australian War Memorial #020286. Photo by W.O. Thomas Fisher.

I first came across this photo under the heading "Tobruk's Bush Artillery" published on p.54 of "Active Service with Australia in the Middle East". "Active Service" was the first of a series of yearbook type campaign journals that were published yearly by the Australian War Memorial. The caption that accompanied that above photo in "Active Service" is reproduced below;

"The troops and the gun represent one of the features of Tobruk that gives the boys something to talk about and "Gerry" something to think about."

"They are the bush artillery - captured Italian guns manned by soldiers who are otherwise employed in cook-houses, messes and the like, who's job it is to reissue enemy shells to the enemy. They do it, fast and efficiently, but the enemy does not appreciate the service."

I found this caption rather interesting considering the fact that one of the men in the photo is my Grandfather NX17811 Pvt. L.J. McCarthy of the 2/17th Infantry Battalion. The men in this photo were all members of D Company, 2/17th Infantry Battalion and not cooks like the official record stated.

In fact when this photo was taken by Warrant Officer (later Lt.) Thomas Fisher, official photographer of the 9th Division Military History and Information Section the gun in question was only 4000 yards from the German front line. Further photos in the series show the same men firing the gun at the Germans. Kind of cool to have a photo of your Grandfather firing heavy artillery at the Germans during the Siege of Tobruk. What is even cooler is that I have a photo in my personal collection of the same 5 men standing in the same order taken at Anzac Day in the early to mid 1990's with all their medals. The two images are quite powerful when shown side by side.

The soldier in the middle is NX65985 Pvt. C.E. Lemaire. My granddad's best mate and a later recipient of the Military Medal for bravery in the field for action against the Japanese at Borneo in 1945. Second from the left is NX60436 Pvt. H.E. Zouch. The other two men on either end are at this stage unknown however research is ongoing in an attempt to name all five members of Tobruk's Bush Artillery.

The soldier who took this photo was Warrant Officer Thomas Fisher of the Military History and Information Section. Sadly W.O. Fisher (later Lt. Fisher) was the only photographer of the Military History and Information Section to be killed in action during WW2. Lt. Fisher died in action against the Japanese at Papua on 16th November 1942. He has no known grave. More from Lt. Fisher's work in later posts. Lt. Fisher is memorialised on the Roll of Honour at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, Barry McCann son of Sgt Paul McCann ,B company,2/17th Battalion.Dad was one of the first 1000 men in the Battalion. All the men would have had other jobs. Paul was a runner & used to get the mail with the pay in it. As he told me once the cooks & others were given or had rifles & took part in all battles. The same situation as the garbage they often went on with that so & so was in Intelligence. They were given weapons too & took part in engagements on the Frontline.So that statement that those men were cooks can be correct in battle situations. Some of the men on mess duty (in the Sergeants mess where Jack Edmondson attended) would have been given punishment to work there.Some didn't particularly like how they were treated by some of the sergeants! Dad reckoned some interesting cups of tea were given out as payback as he would be given a signal from the tray server to not take a certain cup.
One other matter, when they talk about New Guinea & seem to focus on Kokoda, in fact one of those two separate wounded men being assisted back is from the 2nd/ 17th and not at Kokoda! Dad said "his one of ours."