SX8507 Private Geoffrey Malin RUMBELOW
Geoffrey Malin RUMBELOW, was born at Victor Harbor on 12 June 1917, the second son of Howard Charles RUMBELOW and Ruby Lillian RUMBELOW (nee Theisinger). He was educated at Victor Harbor Public School and at the time of his enlistment in the 2nd AIF on 5 July 1940, he was working on a farm in the Waitpinga area.
Geoff had served three years with the militia 18th Light Horse Machine Gun Regiment, thus he quickly settled into army life. He was posted to the newly formed 2/48th Infantry Battalion, which was undergoing an intense regime of training, drill and discipline. The Battalion was ordered for overseas service and Geoff proceeded on pre-embarkation leave on 22 October 1940.
On 18 November, the Battalion embarked on the HMS Stratheden along with another 2,100 troops. The convoy sailed via Colombo and docked at El Kantara, Egypt on 17 December 1940; the men then travelled by train to Dimra, Palestine. In early 1941, the Battalion along with the rest of the 9th Division, moved to Cyrenica, Libya to complete its training. After a German-led attack, the Division fell back to Tobruk and the 2/48th Battalion formed part of the town’s defences on 9 April 1941.
On Easter Monday, 14 April the Battalion helped defeat the Axis assault on Tobruk, while manning part of the outer defences. On 15-16 April, patrols from the 2/48th captured 800 Italian soldiers from the 62nd Trento Regiment.
Over the ensuing months, the 2/48th rotated in and out of the frontline. Enemy aerial attacks continued against the Tobruk defences and the harbour. The port was the only supply route into the beleaguered garrison. Even the rear positions in the Tobruk area were subjected to aerial attacks and artillery barrages and no area within the perimeter was safe. Water and rations were in short supply, whilst the lack of vitamins and of good food caused the sickness rate to rise alarmingly. All the men were very thin, living as they were on the barest rations and essentials and under conditions of dust, dirt, fleas and flies.
On 28 September, Geoff was evacuated to the 2/4th Australian General Hospital with acute gastritis, a common illness at Tobruk. He was diagnosed with catarrhal jaundice. In early October 1941, the Battalion was relieved by the 3rd Polish Battalion and Geoff and his fellow casualties were evacuated to Egypt by sea on the night of 12 October.
The Battalion reformed in Palestine; by 6 July 1942, the men were at Shammama Halt, Egypt where they prepared for the imminent German assault. Tobruk had fallen and Rommel’s forces were headed eastwards towards the Suez Canal. In what would become known as the First Battle of El Alamein, the 9th Division started its advance and by 10 July, they were moving through the minefields. Attacking just before dawn, the 2/48th took its first objectives and captured about 400 prisoners.
Geoff was wounded in the attack with blast injuries and was admitted to the Battalion’s Casualty Section; he returned to duty shortly after. Tel el Eisa was captured the following morning.
The Second Battle of El Alamein commenced on 23 October and was fought until 11 November. The 2/48th was again at the front and the fighting was bitter and intense, and many casualties were suffered. Alamein was a great success for the Allies and the Axis forces were in general retreat. With the battle over, the Division was needed back in Australia to defend against the Japanese. The Battalion sailed from Suez on 1 February 1943 and docked in Melbourne on 25 February. After some leave, the Battalion reformed but Geoff had been admitted to hospital suffering from a fractured metatarsal.
Extended convalescence leave meant Geoff would not rejoin the Battalion. On 16 September 1943, after a lengthy medical examination, Geoff was classified medically unfit for front line duty. He was posted to General Details Depot (GDD) at Wayville.
On 27 December 1943, Geoff married Shirley Dawn HEATH at Yilki Church, Victor Harbor. Geoff was discharged from the army on 2 October 1945. He had served a total of 830 days outside of Australia.
Geoffrey Malin RUMBELOW drowned off Encounter Bay during a severe storm on 16 May 1975. He is interred in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
Service file of SX8507 Geoffrey Malin RUMBELOW purchased from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ), and made possible by a grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The grant also made possible the scanning of the photographs featured on the Waitpinga Pictorial Honour Roll Boards No 1 and No 2, along with the digital restoration of a number of the images of servicemen and women featured on the Waitpinga Pictorial Honour Roll Board No 3.
Australian War Memorial database ( www.awm.gov.au ).
Wikipedia – the 2/48th Battalion (Australia) – (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2/48th_Battalion_(Australia)
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, January 2014.