SX70 Private Edward (Ted) Charles ALCOCK
Edward Charles ALCOCK was born at Thebarton, South Australia on 11 August 1915, the eldest of two children of Allan Currie ALCOCK and Lavinia ALCOCK (nee Denholm). Ted, as he was known, was educated at Welland and Kilkenny Public Schools.
Ted was working as an electrician when he enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 20 October 1939; he was one of the elite ‘thirty-niners’ and amongst the first 100 men in South Australia to enlist – his serial number was SX70. After basic training, Ted was posted to Australian Army Ordnance Corps (AAOC), and then to the 2/1st Australian Field Workshops as a fitter. The unit, part of the 9th Division, embarked overseas on 5 May 1940 and landed in Gournock, Scotland. The Division had been sent to help defend Britain against a German invasion. Ted was detached to HQ AIF in London from 8 July 1940 and was assigned to the security guard at the Australian High Commission. Ted witnessed first-hand the continuous aerial bombing of London by the German Luftwaffe, when the first bombs fell on London on 24 August, and then on 57 continuous nights from 7 September.
Returning to his unit on 21 November, the Workshops readied for service in North Africa. The Division sailed from England on 5 January 1941 via the Cape of Good Hope as the U-boat threat in the Mediterranean was severe. The Australians arrived in Egypt on 8 March. On 17 April 1941, Ted was transferred to the 3rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Workshops Section). The unit served in the Western Desert, near Sidi Barrani and Mersa Matruh and saw action against the Axis forces. He was evacuated to the 61st British General Hospital on 22 June suffering from dysentery. He then underwent some training with the Artillery Training Regiment where he became proficient in the maintenance and repair of field artillery pieces. Ted was posted to the newly formed 4th Anti-Aircraft Regiment on 20 January 1942. On 11 June, he returned to the 3rd Regiment and on 1 July 1942, the 9th Division was thrown into the First Battle of El Alamein. The battle raged for 26 days and heavy casualties were suffered on both sides (Allied 13,250 Axis 10,000). The artillery units where in the frontline continuously and the 3rd Regiment suffered a number of casualties.
After the battle, the Axis forces withdrew and the Allies underwent a period of rest and refitting. The Second Battle of El Alamein commenced on 23 October 1942 and was fought over 19 days. The 9th Division was positioned in the northern sector of the 8th Army’s front at El Alamein, nearest the coast. This sector was to effect the main thrust of the Allied attack. While some British forces failed to meet their objectives on 25 October, the 9th Division gained considerable momentum, attacking both frontally and executing a wide “left hook” from their original positions, in their sector, with one Axis outpost after another falling to them.
With the 51st (Highland) Division, and the 2nd New Zealand Division, they mauled the Italian Trento Division and the German 164th Division. By the following day, the 9th Division had managed to further slice through the German 164th Division and trap the greater part of it against the sea. The Axis forces were up against a superior-equipped Allied force and by 11 November, they were in retreat. Again, the casualties were high; the 9th Division had lost 1,225 killed, 3,638 wounded and 946 captured, for a total of 5,809 casualties.
The Australian Government ordered the 9th Division home and Ted and his unit embarked from Suez on 29 January 1943, disembarking in Sydney one month later.
Whilst on leave, Ted was hospitalised and was thus unable to join the Division, which was now in far north Queensland training for jungle warfare. After a further period of hospitalisation and convalescence, he was declared medically unfit for further service. He was discharged on 12 November 1943, having served four years of active service, of which 1,369 days were spent overseas.
Ted married Muriel Mortimer Payne in June 1947 and there were two children of the marriage. Edward Charles Alcock died on 11 January 1995 at the age of 79. He is interred in the Loxton Cemetery.
The above studio portrait of SX70 Private Edward Charles ALCOCK is from the Allan ALCOCK family collection.
Service file of SX70 PTE EC ALCOCK from the National Archives of Australia (www.naa.gov.au ).
Australian War Memorial ( www.awm.gov.au ).
The photograph of EC ALCOCK’s headstone was taken by Victor Harbor RSL members Ian & Janet MILNES on 12 June 2015. Janet MILNES is the eldest child of Edward Charles ALCOCK.