Major Hyman Abramovich MC
Australian Doctor, Major Hyman Abramovich refused to join the medical corps because such was his implacable hatred of the Nazis that he wanted to be involved in the front line fighting.
He won his MC at ANZIO and about him it was written by a war correspondent:
“His men and colleagues do not know how he made the jump from Sydney to the British Loyal Regiment which is based in Lancashire but they agree wholeheartedly he was one hell of a soldier who did as much as any man to put the German trip down the Rome-Anzio Road into reverse.”
His ability as a soldier, his leadership and fearlessness took him from being a Private in 1939 to a Major in 1943.
Hyman Abramovich lived in Sydney and graduated in Medicine from Sydney University in 1934. He traveled to London to do post-graduate work and worked as a locum in the East-End slums and as a medical officer at St Nicholas’ Hospital.
(A very substantial donation was made in his name to Masada College in Sydney, which perpetuates his memory.)
Elvira Adelstein 1921 – 2008
Elvira Adelstein (nee Sloman) enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy where she served from 1943 to the end of World War II. She was one of only a handful of female naval officers in Australia and probably the only Jewish female officer.
born in London and came to Australia with her parents when she was four. She attended Sydney Girls High and was renowned for her sporting achievements. After completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney, Elvira enlisted in the RAN and undertook a Junior Officers Naval training course at the HMAS Penguin at Balmoral.
Elvira went on to become Scientific Liaison Officer in the Navy and was based at HMAS Watson. Whilst on board a submarine, she found the moist atmosphere caused the crew to develop rashes and then discovered that the dye used in their summer uniforms reacted to the moist conditions in the submarine, and changing the fabric made the difference.
The Navy also used her photograph in a recruitment drive.
When she left the Navy she worked as a biochemist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and later was a science teacher at Sydney University. She also continued her sporting interests and her passion for art. She was also a national master at bridge.
Elvira married Neville Adelstein in 1944 and at the time of her death she was the matriach of 31 descendants. Her father Louis Sloman was an ANZAC who was wounded at Gallipoli and her husband Neville was a Lieutenant who served In New Guinea during World War II.
Captain Eric Phillip Blashki MC 1891 – 1973
Captain Eric Blashki’s first posting in World War One was as RMO to the 7th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. He was a Medical Officer with General Allenby’s troops in Palestine and was with the General’s lead troops when they entered Jerusalem.
In that campaign Captain Blashki was awarded the Military Cross, the 1918 citation stating that it was:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward during an engagement and established a dressing station in an advanced position. He remained at his post under heavy shelling and collected the wounded from an area swept by machine-gun fire. He showed the greatest courage and resource.”
He was also awarded three medals for his service in France in 1915.
Eric Blashki was born in Sydney in 1891 and studied medicine becoming a general practitioner in Hornsby. Eventually he became an ear nose and throat specialist.
He was an early member of Legacy and became President of that organization and also wrote a history of Legacy. He was married to Olive Gordon.
Warrant Officer Harold Collins 1892 – 1992
He landed at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and served as a stretcher-bearer because he had gained a silver medal in First Aid. His duties there caused him to suffer a hernia and he was evacuated.
Following his recuperation he transferred to the Australian Flying Corps where he served in France as a mechanic and rose to the rank of Master Mechanic.
For his war service he was awarded the Somme Medal, the Albert Medal and the Croix Combattant de L’Europe. In 1919 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
Harold Collins was highly creative and gifted and took many excellent photographs of active duty at Gallipoli and the Western Front, as well as training in Egypt and England.
He was a founding member of NAJEX and his nephew Dr Kevin Collins also served as President of NAJEX.
Lieut Colonel Stanley Goulston 1915 – 2011
Lieut Colonel Stanley Goulston MC AO was one of the famous Rats of Tobruk, serving as Regimental Medical Officer of the 2/1 Pioneer Battalion for nearly 8 months during the German siege. He was awarded the Military Cross and the citation refers to “his “splendid example of devotion to duty and courage under fire”. Dr. Goulston’s most prized award was a “Rats of Tobruk” medal. 19 of these unofficial medals were made out of shell casings and aluminium from shot down enemy aircraft and “awarded” by non-commissioned soldiers.
Dr Goulston returned to Australia in 1942 serving for 14 months in Darwin. He was then posted to London as senior medical officer.
Dr Goulston was educated at Sydney Grammar School and graduated with Honours from Sydney University’s medical faculty. He married Jean Danglow, daughter of Rabbi Jacob Danglow.
After the war Dr Goulston resumed his civilian medical career, becoming one of Australia’s most eminent gastroenterologists. Together with Sir William Morrow, he established the first specialist gastroenterology unit in Australia, at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Following his retirement at the age of 79, Dr Goulston returned to the University of Sydney to study poetry and literature relating to patient care. He was awarded a Masters degree in philosophy in 1996 and then pioneered the field of medical humanities in Australia. His popular course for medical students at Sydney University explored the humanistic side of medicine using poetry and literature.
Dr Goulston was also an active member of Legacy NSW becoming President of that organisation.
Captain Enid Himmelhoch 1911 – 1995
Captain Enid Himmelhoch enlisted in 1940 and served as a nurse with the Australian Army in World war Two. She served in Greece, the Middle East and New Guinea and witnessed both the evacuation of Crete and the Japanese surrender at Morotai and was discharged in 1946.
She received the following medals: the 1939 – 1945 Star, the Africa Star, the Pacific Star, the war medal 1939 – 1945, the Australian Service Medal, the Defence Medal and a Greek Medal for the Battle of Crete. She served in the 2/5 Australian General Hospital.
Captain Ian Isaacs 1945 – 2009
Captain Ian Isaacs was a surgeon who served in the Australian Army in Vietnam.
He grew up in Kingsgrove NSW, attending the local primary school and Opportunity School before completing his secondary education at Canterbury Boys High School and going on to study medicine at Sydney University. He was selected for National Service and after completing his junior and senior residency at Sydney Hospital underwent basic training at the Puckapunyal Army Base and was then assigned to 21 Platoon and a three month officers course followed at Healesville, Victoria.
After 12 months army training in Australia he left for service in Vietnam, where he rose from the rank of second Lieutenant to that of Captain. He was the medical officer to 1500 servicemen in Nui Dat in the province of Phuoctuy for 9 months and was then asked to be the Surgeon in Binh-Din in a civilian hospital for three months.
On his return to Sydney in October of 1971 he specialised in general surgery and then plastic surgery and subsequently went on to specialise in hand and microsurgery and was a Visiting Medical Officer at Sydney Hospital. He was the Director of the Hand Unit for five years and also the Chairperson of the Sydney Hospital Medical Staff Council.
In March of 2002 he was honoured with the Archie Telfer Prize, an award presented to staff who contribute to the academic reputation of the hospital and who demonstrate excellence in their chosen field.
In 2009, just before his passing, Ian was awarded the Sea Eagle – a limited and highly prestigious award. The dedication commended Dr Isaacs for excellence in hand and microsurgery.
Ian was married to Kerry Steinberg from Perth and they had two children, Tanya and Daniel.
The Hon Sir Asher Joel KBE AO 1912- 1998
Asher Joel grew up in a poor family in the inner suburb of Enmore and began his career as a copy boy at 14 and became a successful journalist. This led to him becoming the Press Secretary of Jack Lang and to becoming involved in the organization of the NSW Government’s celebrations of the coronation of King George VI and Australia’s 150th anniversary.
Before the war Asher Joel was a sergeant in a CMF infantry battalion. He was a member of the AIF but in 1942 transferred to the RAN where he became a lieutenant.
He served in Townsville as Assistant Staff Officer (Operations) and in 1943 was appointed Staff Officer (Operations) at Milne Bay, New Guinea. During the Second World War he became a Lieutenant in the RAN and was the first Australian naval officer to receive the US Bronze Star for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
He received numerous citations and testimonials for his outstanding work as a liaison officer with the Americans and as an intelligence officer and also in naval operations and at one period served in General Douglas Macarthur’s headquarters.
After the war he established Australia’s first Public Relations firm.
His special talent was organizing major celebrations and events and he organized these aspects of the US President’s visit to Australia, the opening of the Sydney Opera House, the Bicentennial of Captain Cook’s Landing and the Pope’s visit to Australia.
He was knighted by the Queen in 1971 and 1974 and was the first Australian Jew to receive a Papal knighthood.
He also served for 21 years as a Member of the NSW Upper House.
Corporal Leonard Keysor VC 1885 – 1951
Lance Corporal Leonard Maurice Keysor was born in England and migrated to Sydney via Canada a few months before the outbreak of the War. He enlisted on 18 August 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, where he won the Victoria Cross.
At Lone Pine his trench was being heavily bombed by the enemy and so he picked up or caught live bombs and tossed them back at the enemy and despite being wounded, continued doing this for some 50 hours. His citation states that he was marked for evacuation because of his wounds but declined to leave and volunteered to join another company which had lost its bomb throwers.
Following evacuation to England and recovery, he rejoined his battalion in France and fought in the Battle of Pozieres.
He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in January 1917 and promoted to lieutenant in July that year.
In March 1918 he was wounded again and after being evacuated, returned once more to his battalion and in May 1918 was wounded yet again in a gas bombardment near Villers Bretonnieux.
He then returned to Australia for a brief period to assist with recruiting and after the war ended resumed his employment as a clerk before returning to London. There he married Gladys Benjamin at the Hill Street Synagogue and started a clock importing business.
When in 1939 he attempted to re-enlist for the Second World War he was refused on medical grounds.
He died in 1951 and his Victoria Cross is now at the Australian War Memorial, having been purchased at an auction in London in 1977 by the RSL with funds from an appeal.
Group Captain Sir Richard Kingsland AO CBE DFC 1916 – 2012
Group Captain Richard Kingsland (previous name Julius Cohen) was a pilot with the RAAF in World War II and became famous for his daring and dramatic rescue of British Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshall Lord Gort and Minister of Information, Sir Alfred Duff Cooper from Vichy occupied Morroco in an exploit that would rival a James Bond film.
The rescue involved him
leaving his Sunderland flying boat at its mooring on the river at Rabat, finding his two eminent passengers (who were trying to rally resistance by the French) to give them the orders he had just received that France had capitulated and they were all to leave immediately before they were captured. Indeed Kingsley and Lord Gort were arrested and imprisoned but Kingsland blew the lock off the cell door and they escaped in a hail of gunfire. With Duff Cooper they raced back to the moored Sunderland, which was then surrounded by police. Kingsland started all four engines of the aircraft simultaneously and then, chased by policeboats, piloted it down the narrow river (which was just 3 metres wider than the wingspan of the aircraft), around the fishing craft in the harbour, over a sandbank and then out to sea where in rough conditions, he got the aircraft airborne and to the safety of Gibraltar.
Richard Kingsland was born Julius Allan Cohen on at Moree, rural New South Wales, and educated at Sydney High School. By age 18 he had received his wings in the RAAF, making him one of its youngest flyers.
After the Rabat rescue mission he was involved in close actions with the enemy while serving with the RAF on convoy duty over the Atlantic and then later with the RAAF in New Guinea.
After leaving the RAAF in 1948, he went on to an eminent career in public administration, rising to the position of Head of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior and Chairman of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was also Chairman of the Canberra School of Music.
Madge Milston (nee Grouse)
Madge Grouse served as a Private with the 2/1 Australian General Hospital in Port Moresby. She was one of the few female Australian military personnel to be sent overseas.
Neville Milston 1920 – 2007
Neville Milston was a radio operator with the 8th Division and spent 3 ½ years as a prisoner-of-war, having been captured at Singapore. Most of this time was spent on the infamous Burma railway, but despite the starvation diet, Mr Milston was never tempted to barter his prayer-book for food (it could have been used for cigarette paper) The siddur is now with in the SJM Military Exhibition.
Born in Leichhardt, Neville Milston joined his father’s gift business after leaving school. He enlisted in the CMF in 1938 and at 21 in the AIF and became a radio operator. He was sent to Malaya in 1942 with the 8th Division and after its surrender was taken to the infamous Changi prison camp. From there he was sent to Tavoy in Southern Thailand to work on the Burma Railway where conditions were utterly inhuman. Over the next 42 months he was a slave labourer building a railway line 450 kilometres long in hellish conditions and his weight dropped from 60 to 40 kilos. One third of the diggers working on the Burma Railway did not survive.
In 1949 at a NAJEX event he met Madge Grouse, a service-woman who had served in New Guinea and they were married for over 50 years.
Brigadier Alexander Roby ED 1923 – 1998
At one time Brigadier Alexander Roby was the highest ranking Jewish officer in the Australian Army, reaching the position of Commander of the Communications Zone Eastern Command with 8,000 men under his command.
Alex Roby was born in New Orleans in 1923 but grew up in Brisbane. At 21, after graduating with a Diploma of Engineering from the University of Queensland, he joined the AIF as a Lieutenant in the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps (RAEME) and served in Jacquinot Bay near Rabaul in charge of a floating workshop and dock which serviced and repaired army and navy ships.
On his discharge from the AIF he enlisted in RAEME in the Citizens Military Forces and rose to the rank of Brigadier. He married Pat Morris of Newcastle.
In civilian life, Alex Roby was a director of Rocklea Lead Co in Brisbane, which was taken over by O. T. Lempriere & Co. Eventually he transferred to Sydney as Managing Director of O. T. Lempriere, a non-ferrous metal company.
Alex Roby was the founding President of QAJEX and later a President of NAJEX and for some time a member of VAJEX. He also undertook many other Jewish communal activities.
Lieut Abraham Rothfield MC and Bar 1890 – 1968
A distinguished Australian Jew and educator, Abraham Rothfield won the Military Cross and Bar for outstanding bravery in action in World War I.
Abe Rothfield was born in Gateshead and gained a BA at the Durham University. At the outbreak of World War I, he was already serving in a territorial unit of the British Army, 15th (county London) Battalion, the London Regiment (Prince of Wales, Civil Service Rifles). He was subsequently commissioned in the 14th Bn, Durham Light infantry and in the last stages of the war, transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.
His distinguished war service in the battlefields of France earned him the prestigious Military Cross and Bar. The citation to the Bar reads “During the bombardment he walked along the top of the trench to reorganize the men. He was badly wounded but continued to direct operations until unable to do so through loss of blood.”
In 1924 Abe Rothfield emigrated to Australia and commenced a long and successful career as headmaster of the NSW Board of Jewish Education. He had an extensive knowledge and profound love of Jewish learning, which he passed on to his pupils, by whom he is fondly remembered. He was also a wonderful chazan and for many years he led High Holy Day youth services at The Great Synagogue. Such was his knowledge of chazanut that professional chazanim would seek his advice. He was also a teacher of Bar Mitzvah boys at The Great Synagogue, a scout-master and an enthusiastic member of NAJEX. He has been described as “an institution in the community”.
Captain John Harris Samuels 1914 – 1942
Captain John Harris Samuels was RMO of the 2/15 Battalion of the Australian 9th Division and was killed on the second day of the Battle of El Alamein. He served in Palestine, Syria and Egypt and was also one of the Rats of Tobruk.
Educated at Sydney Boys High School, he graduated in Medicine from Sydney University and worked at Townsville Hospital and the Mater in Brisbane.
He was an outstanding sportsman and represented his school and university at rowing rugby, athletics and cricket. He was a greatly admired RMO who commanded the respect of those above and below him in rank and his dedication and courage were demonstrated by the fact that he was killed on the front line of the battle. His family still have the special letters of condolence they received from King George VI and from General Blamey, the Australian Commander-in-Chief.
On 14 September 1942 he wrote a letter to the Young Men’s Hebrew Association which was published in its newsletter. The letter stated “You’d be interested to hear that Padre Goldman organized a (Rosh Hashana) service, indeed a difficult job in this part of the Western desert where we’re all very scattered. The lads enjoyed it immensely and amongst other things it was the means of renewing old friendships. There were 50 present and after the service the Padre turned on cake and fruit, both rare delicacies here.”
The newsletter noted sadly that by the time of publication, he had been KIA a month later.
Maurice Solomons MBE MM 1898 – 1997
Maurice Solomons won the Military Medal for bravery at Battle of Pozieres and was personally decorated by Sir John Monash.
He was taken POW by the Germans and a week before the Armistice, he was gassed and wounded at Villiers Bretonneux and was in hospital at the time of the Armistice. He received a personal letter from King George V wishing him a speedy trip home from hospital.
Maurice Solomons was one of five children and before the war worked as a messenger in the family clothing business. He prevailed on his mother to give her written permission for his enlistment as he was underage. Then he enlisted at Victoria Barracks in 1916 and sailed on HMTS Beltana in November. After training on Salisbury Plain, Private Solomons proceeded to the Western front.
It was during the fighting at Pozieres that volunteers were called to “go over the top”. The Germans were attacking and loss of life among Australian troops was on a scale previously unknown. Solomons and a mate volunteered and under heavy gunfire he went to reinforce the frontline to what was almost certain death. “The Germans were so close you could almost touch them,” he said.
In 1919 he sailed home aboard the HMTS Argyllshire, and was discharged in Sydney just in time to celebrate his 21st birthday.
He returned to the family tailoring business Evers and Cohen, which he eventually managed.
Maurice Solomons was Coogee-Randwick RSL President for many years and devoted much time and effort in the cause of war widows for which he received an MBE.
When he died in 1997 at the age of 99, he was the last remaining member of NAJEX who had seen active service in World War One. He was married to Amelia for 63 years.
Brigadier Joseph Steigrad CBE 1902 – 1971
Brigadier Joseph Steigrad (NX 212) was the most senior Jewish doctor in the AIF and because of his exceptional work in the Middle East in World War Two, was awarded the CBE and mentioned in dispatches.
He was born in Jaffa, Palestine, the youngest of nine children and in 1905 the family moved to Australia, settling finally in Sydney. Joe attended Sydney Boys’ High School where he won a scholarship to Sydney University.
After his graduation as a doctor in 1926 he became involved in the medical side of the army and when war broke out, had already attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He enlisted in October 1939 and was appointed to command the 2/1 Australian General Hospital. He established this as the first Australian Military Hospital in the Middle East (600 beds in tents) and was highly regarded for the way in which he met the challenges of this task.
At the end of the war Dr Steigrad supervised the medical rehabilitation programmes for demobilized medical officers in NSW.
Following the war Brigadier Steigrad had an eminent career as a pediatric surgeon and was highly regarded for his work as a teacher and administrator.
Dr Steigrad was a member of Legacy, chairman of the board of governors of the NAJEX Rehabilitation Fund, a mentor of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, a member of the State council of the Australian Medical Association, deputy honorary director of the Children’s Medical Research Foundation, chairman of the Advisory Committee for Training Speech Therapists, and a founder and president of the Australian Paediatric Association.
He was married to Isabel Heather Wilson.
HILDA GEORGIA ZINNER MBE 1926 – 2000
Hilda Zinner served in the Australian Red Cross in war zones in Malaysia and Vietnam. In 1964 she received the MBE for her services.
She was born in Hamburg in 1926 and came to Australia in 1939.
In 1957 she joined the Australian Red Cross and in 1959 was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Field Forces for the Society for overseas duties. Her first appointment was to the military hospital in Taiping (North Malaya) during a period of geurilla warfare.
Between 1961 and 1965 she completed two further tours of duty overseas in Singapore and in 1965 ranked as Commandant, received the MBE for her services in recognition of her contribution to the welfare of Australian and New Zealand servicemen and their families.
In 1965 Hilda went to Vietnam as head of the Australian Red Cross mission.