Roy Connell

Roy Connell 1899 – 1997
9th Australian Light Horse

A veteran of the two World Wars…
His mother thought he was too young to go but decided that if the army would take him, she would sign his permission papers. He enlisted on 6th September, 1917…
…Roy enlisted once more on the 2nd June, 1940. Roy recalls that his uncle fell about laughing when told of his plans to enlist. This time his family thought Roy too old…

At the age of seven, Roy Connell moved with his family to Broken Hill. Before enlisting, he worked at a number of jobs, including droving, opal mining and as a station hand where he also had the opportunity of working with camel teams. While he was on a fencing job at a property near Broken Hill, he learned of an extra-ordinary incident that had taken place in the township. Apparently two men had been pushing an ice cream trolley through the streets of Broken Hill flying a Turkish flag on the trolley. They stopped at the train line and waited for the train that traveled to Silverton. The two men then opened fire on the train, resulting in a number civilian casualties. Roy said that it was this incident that prompted him to enlist for service in World War One.
His mother thought he was too young to go but decided that if the army would take him, she would sign his permission papers for him. He enlisted on 6th September, 1917 and trained in Adelaide with the reinforcements for the 9th Australian Light Horse and then embarked for active service in April of 1918, aboard the HMAT Port Darwin from Sydney bound for the Suez Canal.
Roy had heard stories of what it was really like overseas and expected things to be fairly rough. He was initially posted outside of Jerusalem. Roy remembers vividly how the dust would rise about three feet over the land every morning and would not settle again until the evening. It was impossible to keep clean but at least you could use the dust to rub the ticks and lice from yourself, he said. Their job was to train the new horses once they were at camp. All the men were experienced but the horses were untrained for battle and they had only six weeks to train them. During peace time this type of horse training usually takes about six months, so they were fairly pushed for time.
Roy recalls the first time he had to do sword drill with his new horse. His horse had never seen a sword before and, as he drew his sword, the horse bolted on him. He held the sword over his shoulder and used his other hand to try and pull the horse up but it wasn’t until the horse had jumped several trenches and started tiring that Roy was able to regain some control. Returning from their unscheduled journey, they were immediately required to do the drill again because the horse had failed the drill the first time around. This time, however, the horse was so tired that it couldn’t even flinch when he drew his sword again.
Roy was one of the men who took part in the Long March from Jerusalem to Damascus. They had to endure much hardship along the way and spent most of the time leading the horses because of the mountainous terrain. Once they reached the Jordan River, they were supposed to cross at the “Jacobs Daughter Bridge, however the enemy had made camp on the other side of the river and were too close to the bridge for them to cross. An enemy plane (a Focker) attempted to bomb them. He was so close you could see the pilot leaning out of the plane with the bomb in his hand ready to drop it. The bomb hit the bridge and rendered it impassable. It was not until some time later that the enemy troops moved on and they were able to go down river to find a crossing.
As they rode into Damascus, they discovered evidence that a bloody battle had recently taken place. There were many men lying dead or wounded in their path and large numbers of the enemy had been captured. On arriving at camp, Roy became ill with what he called Sand Fly Fever, which has similar symptoms to malaria. He was then sent by boat back to the Suez Canal and hospitalized for some time before being sent to Port Said to the convalescent camp. Because of his ongoing illness, Roy did not get the chance to rejoin his unit before the Armistice was signed.
When he was well again, he was posted to Base Camp where he stayed for a further two months before being sent back to Australia. It was during this time that many men underwent vocational training. Roy trained as a cook at Moascar while waiting to be sent back home. He finally arrived back in Australia and was discharged in August 1919.
After returning home to Broken Hill, he took on various jobs, including working on roads, droving and station hand work. In 1932, he moved with his family to the Mareeba district in Far North Queensland. His uncle had some land there and the family started a tobacco farm, with each member having their own piece of land. However, Roy felt that there were too many bosses and moved off the farm to work as a station hand for some time and then moved on to several jobs, including sinking wells, fencing and gold mining.
It was whilst he was working with an uncle on a gold mine that the Second World War was declared. Roy decided to do his duty once more and enlisted on the 2nd June, 1940. He recalls that his uncle fell about laughing when he told him of his plans to enlist. This time his family thought he would be too old for active service.
Roy Connell joined the 2/15 Infantry Battalion, serving in the Middle East and was later discharged on the 22nd September, 1945.
Roy never married because, as he said, he never found the right time.
His life-time hobby of poetry writing has resulted in his publishing two books of his own work, many of which reflect his life spent on the land and time spent in the service of his country spanning two world wars. Roy was a life member of the LHA.
Regimental number 3713
Religion Church of England
Occupation Station hand
Address Morgan Lane off Chloride Street, North Broken Hill, New South Wales
Marital status Single
Age at embarkation 18
Next of kin Mother, Mrs A C Chaplain, Morgan Lane off Chloride Street, North Broken Hill, New South Wales
Enlistment date 6 September 1917
Rank on enlistment Private
Unit name 9th Light Horse Regiment, 34th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number 10/14/5
Embarkation details Unit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board SS Port Darwin on 30 April 1918
Rank from Nominal Roll Private
Unit from Nominal Roll 9th Light Horse Regiment
  Returned to Australia 10 July 1919