Veteran Bill Corey, of Aveo Leabrook Lodge, has participated in all but one Anzac day march since the end of the World War II, and when asked which medals are his favourite he smiles, pointing to three medals with the word ‘Tobruk’ engraved on them.
Bill, who turns 100 this year, is the last of South Australia’s, ‘Rats of Tobruk’, an elite group of Australian Soldiers who fought in the Middle East in WWII.
Posted in the 2/43rd Infantry Battalion, Bill’s unit was an integral part of the 9th division which repelled General Rommell’s Afrika Korps. It was while serving in Tobruk, a small town on Libya’s east coast, that the ‘Rats’ were born.
Bill recalls long days under the scorching desert sun battling not only enemy fire, but fleas, spiders and scorpions.
“British broadcaster Lord Haw Haw was a traitor and he used to call us rats, saying we lived like rats in the desert,” he says. “We took it as a compliment, the opposite effect he wanted.”
Bill’s unit continued their involvement in the Western Desert, going on to fight in the battle of El Alamein in Egypt, considered one of the turning points of WWII. He was later fighting in Borneo when a nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, signalling the end of the war.
Today the great grandfather of five shares his war time experiences with local schools and community clubs. “I like going into the schools because they love to listen, and it keeps me active, it keeps my brain working.”