Leslie Gordon Price – A Rat of Tobruk

25 April 2012

Today is ANZAC Day and I foreshadowed back in February during the Bombing of Darwin 70th anniversary tour that my ANZAC Day blog this year would be dedicated to my Uncle Gordon, my mother’s eldest brother.Gordon Price WW2

During the bombing of Darwin tour, I met historian Brad Manera and was privileged to have him advise me on a ‘kidney dish’ that Gordon had carried around with him during his time in the army. For years I believed all soldiers had one, but perhaps not as engraved and decorated as Gordon’s. To my surprise Brad believed it was actually an enemy souvenir and because of the illustrations quite unique. I resolved then and there to get Gordon’s army dossier from the National Archives of Australia and within a few weeks of getting home from Darwin I received the dossier.

Gordon’s army record is indeed reflected in his ‘kidney dish’ – all the big battles of the Middle East and New Guinea are recorded as he was part of the 2/13 Infantry Battalion in World War 2. The Australian War Memorial has a brief history of the unit and a listing of Battle Honours including the defence of Tobruk, the battle of El Alamein, Borneo, Lae and the liberation of Australian New Guinea to mention just a few.

The army dossier had one surprise for me and that was Gordon’s date of birth – according to the file he was five years younger than he really was. So instead of enlisting at 23 he was in fact 28 years old although I’m not really sure why he would have changed the year of his birth.

The disappointment in the file is that the small photographs are not all that clear but I do have some Christmas postcards he sent home to family members that have a small photo of him in uniform. I have memories of Uncle Gordon but as a much older person as he was 45 when I was born.

Mum still has the albums with all the photos that Gordon sent home to her while he was away and when I visit her again in June, I hope to borrow the albums so that I can copy the photos and match them up to the places on the ‘kidney dish’ and in the dossier.

In the meantime I am reading Peter FitzSimons book on Tobruk to gain a better understanding of the war in North Africa having read the basics of the Siege of Tobruk in Wikipedia. The Australian War Memorial also has the 2/13’s unit diaries and these are digitised and online so I can really begin to understand what it means to be a ‘Rat of Tobruk’. Lest we Forget.


Shauna has been tracing her own family history since 1977 and is a Fellow of the Queensland Family History Society. In 2009 Shauna received the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisations (AFFHO) Services to Family History Award for her achievements in Queensland, Canberra and Victoria.

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  1. Hi Shauna, your Uncle’s file has now been digitized for viewing at the National Archives of Australia. It seems to me that when a copy of a WW2 service file is requested the NAA officers take the opportunity to scan it for digital preservation and online access. I’m not certain that is their publically stated policy, but I’ve seen many examples of this.

    Sometimes sensitive information in the file, usually of a medical nature, is masked from public display.

    I took the opportunity to have a look through the file. Believe the photographs to which you refer are pay book photographs. Taken for the purpose of insertion into the soldier’s pay book. These photos were often a little bit indistinct, but the original in the file may be a little clearer than the photocopy I assume you have, and the scanned image.

    Interestingly he original negatives of these photos appear to be in the file too. See scanned pages 5 and 14.

    He saw plenty of heavy action.

  2. Hi Bob yes when I ordered the photocopy I also agreed to have the digital copy online. I wanted the paper copy to give to Mum when I see her in June as I know she will be interested but isn’t into computers.

  3. What a fascinating story and a great discovery with the kidney dish. I’m very impressed with the NAA service, having received our records in time for ANZAC day.

  4. Hi Shauna, thanks for sharing your Uncle’s story! Reading this has helped to debunk a family myth. It was said that my great Uncle was also a Rat of Tobruk but he didn’t enlist until 1942 and the siege of Tobruk was in 1941. I need to double check his enlistment date when I get his records from the NAA just to be sure.

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