Charles Douglas Spencer
This ANZAC day I want to commemorate Charles Douglas Spencer, and other Spencer family members who have all been involved in the defence services for over four generations.
Charles Douglas Spencer (SX 428), or Doug as he was more commonly known, enlisted in the Australian Army in World War II on 20 October 1939 at Keswick, South Australia. He was 20 years old. We have a copy of his army dossier from the National Archives of Australia which outlines all his activities during the war. He was discharged on 26 September 1945 and at the time was a Sergeant with the HQ SIGS 1 Australian Corps.
Of more interest to us as a family, we have Doug’s own memoirs which he wrote out for his sons Noel who served in the Australian Army for 20 years and Max who served in the Australian Army for 6 years and then transferred to the RAAF for a further 20 years.
Doug’s memoirs start with his leaving Australia, his training camps, and places such as Egypt, Libya, Greece as well as North Queensland in 1943 and Papua New Guinea. It’s only a half dozen pages of typescript but in it he gives personal stories of his army adventures that otherwise would have been lost to history.
We are even more fortunate to have a photocopy of a letter written by then Lt Col R Kendall, at AIF Headquarters in the Middle East on 21 September 1941. In that letter Kendall outlines why he nominated Doug for the Military Medal.
As your Commanding Officer during the campaign in Greece, I am delighted to learn that you have received an ‘immediate’ award of the Military Medal. Please accept my very hearty congratulations.
The Act for which I recommended you for the MM took place near the VEVADIA railway station in Greece on 20th April 1941, when three trains of petrol, gun ammunition and explosives were set alight by intensive bombing and machine gun attacks by enemy aircraft. You were engaged in jointing and repairing the wires of a vital telephone route. In spite of the great risk to your own life and despite terrific heat, exploding shells and bursting petrol tins in the very near vicinity you continued jointing and repairing telephone lines throughout the bombing raid. As a result vital communications were quickly re-established.
Your act and its recognition add to the pride I feel in having commanded 1st Aust Corps Signals.
In 1979 Doug also received from the Minister of National Defence, Hellenic Republic (Greece) the Commemorative Medal of the Campaign 1940-1941. In 1980 he was invited to attend the anniversary of the Battle of Mainland Greece and Crete but he was unable to attend.
As well as the Military Medal and the Greek Commemorative Medal, Doug was also awarded the 1939-45 Star, the African Star, the Pacific Star, the Defence Medal, the 1939-45 War Medal and the Australian Service Medal.
A very modest man, Doug was persuaded for ANZAC day 1993 to be interviewed by The Murray Pioneer, a newspaper in South Australia. The article, published on 28 April 1993, focussed on Doug and his sons Noel and Max – all Sergeants in the Defence Forces and gives a brief outline of how they all became involved with a military life and what they had been doing since leaving the Defence Forces. The newspaper article does have a few inaccuracies but it also provides more information on the Spencer family’s military traditions.
Only one of Doug’s grandsons followed the family tradition and that was one of Max’s sons who spent 5 years in the Australian Army and is still with the Army Reserve. Recently we learnt that Doug’s father Henry Spencer had also spent time with the Royal Horse Artillery in the UK before he immigrated to Queensland in 1882.
Doug’s original medals are with his eldest son Noel and Max has made copies for himself, his Army son and Max’s grandchildren and all attend ANZAC Day ceremonies in their various home towns each year. The Spencer military tradition continues.
Lest we forget.