SX14177 Trooper Ernest Jack WOODARD
Ernest Jack WOODARD was born on 24 October 1918 at Victor Harbor, South Australia, the youngest of two children of George and Florence WOODARD (nee KIRBY). Jack, as he became known, attended the Victor Harbour primary and high schools. He left school after obtaining his Intermediate Certificate in 1935 to work as a shop assistant at the local David Bell & Co. drapery store where his father, George, worked. He also worked as a part-time projectionist in the Ozone picture theatre.
Jack was almost 23 when he enlisted in the 2nd AIF at Victor Harbor on 15 August 1941. He was posted to the newly formed 2/9th Armoured Regiment based at Adelaide’s Wayville Showground. On 2 October, Trooper WOODARD and his fellow recruits of the three SA squadrons of the Regiment, marched through the streets of Adelaide and then entrained for Puckapunyal in Victoria.
At “Pucka” the soldiers were accommodated in open, unlined huts with one troop to a hut. Comforts were few with straw palliasses and only shutters covering the windows. The huts were extremely hot in the summer of 1941-42 and bitterly cold when the weather changed. Training continued and in July 1942, the Regiment moved to near Cessnock, NSW. In May 1943 the Regiment moved to the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland and trained for jungle warfare. In March 1944 the 2/9th replaced its Grant tanks with British Matildas. These tanks were deemed to be the best available for Australia’s offensive needs, but they were not new and spares were no longer being made.
In March 1945, the Regiment received orders to prepare for overseas service. Trooper Jack WOODARD was among the 2,800 troops of the brigade group that embarked on USAT Sea Barb, a Victory-class troopship of 8,200 tonnes, and sailed on 13 April 1945. They reached Morotai six days later, however, their ultimate destination was Borneo.
The Borneo campaign was to consist of three operations, a series of amphibious landings, under the codeword Oboe. The aim of Oboe One was to capture Tarakan, on the northeast coast, to establish forward bases so air and naval units could support future operations and also to capture and conserve oil installations there. Oboe Six involved the capture of Labuan Island and Brunei Bay, both on the northwest coast, to provide a base for the British Pacific Fleet.
On 10 June 1945, the 9th Division and elements of the 2/9th landed at Labuan and Brunei Bay while B Squadron landed on Labuan Island with the 24th Infantry Brigade, where it supported the infantry on the airfield, Flagstaff Hill, Crater Feature and MacArthur Road. Meanwhile, A squadron had landed on Brunei Bay with the rest of the division and supported the advance inland. The 2/9th performed similar tasks in all of these locations, namely supporting the infantry’s advance by engaging Japanese fortifications and by providing mobile fire support. Concealed booby traps and snipers were a constant problem for the Regiment as they advanced, however fortunately casualties were low.
After the Japanese surrender the 2/9th remained in Borneo until the end of December, when it returned to Australia, arriving in Sydney on 4 January 1946.
SX14177 Trooper Ernest Jack WOODARD was discharged on 24 January 1946 after serving 1,616 days on continuous full time war service.
Jack returned to Bell’s store after the war and he and his wife, Joyce, raised three children. In the early 1960s he and Len Norman purchased a furniture business from Harry ZERNER and traded as WOODARD & NORMAN from premises at Harbor Traders in Victoria Street. Jack and Len sold the business in October 1972 and Jack continued to work for the new owners, Brian and Justine Henwood, until he retired in 1979.
Ernest Jack WOODARD died on 1 August 2008 and was survived by Joyce and their children. His ashes are interred in Victor Harbor Public Cemetery.
Australian War Memorial 52: 3/1/15 2/9 Armoured Regiment War Diary.
Donovan, Peter Francis, Waltzing Matildas: the men and machines of the 2/9th Australian Armoured Regimental Group in Australia and Borneo 1941-1946, (Blackwood, South Australia, published by Donovan and Associates).
MacArthur-Onslow, Denzil, “A brief history of the Australian Armoured Corps” MSS 1403.
Service file of SX14177 Trooper Ernest Jack WOODARD purchased from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
Additional material supplied by Rob Woodard.
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, June 2009.