was granted special home leave to Fremantle from the 2/10th Armoured Regiment
AIF, Puckapunyal (near Seymour in Victoria) to be married to Roma Milbourne
of South Fremantle on Saturday, 24 January 1942.
way for troops to travel across the Nullarbor Plain in wartime was by
troop train. We boarded the train in Victoria. All troops were travelling
in cattle trucks and old carriages and every stop, we all got out for
exercise or to get a meal.
well until January 22 when the train stopped one day's travel out of
Kalgoorlie because the line had been cut by floods further down the
line. While we were stopped I walked down to the end of the train and
found a very nice 'special' coach attached. As I walked down to have
a look, a group of very well dressed civilians came towards me and a
voice from the group said 'Young Syd Gray, I thought you were up north
staggered. It was John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia. He was an
old friend and Labor colleague of my father for many years. He came
over, shook my hand and introduced me to some of his cabinet.
'I'm going home on special leave to get married on Saturday
willing'. He invited me into his coach, and we had a long talk, some
nice sandwiches and a beer.
'Syd, you know the floods have taken out some of the track between here
and Kalgoorlie and this train might not get through to Kalgoorlie'.
I hadn't realised that things were that bad, so I was pretty concerned
at that stage. He said, 'Don't start worrying yet, I have to be in Perth
by Saturday morning and I will be getting a plane for myself, my friends
and staff and you can be included'. He said, 'I've also rung Elsie,
and we are coming to your wedding on Saturday afternoon'.
turned out the plane wasn't needed, as the train did get through the
flooded stretch and the connecting train got us into Perth Station at
1pm on Saturday.
a wonderful wedding. My old army friends from Arthur's Head Battery
came along and acted as the "guard-of-honour" outside the
Wesley Church in Fremantle.
to his word. John and Elsie Curtin came to the wedding and all our family
and friends were there to wish us luck. (It was a time when luck was
very important to every soldier and their families). We have a photograph,
taken with John and Elsie, that was published in the Sunday Times.
didn't have time to get us a present and they gave us 10 pounds, which
was quite a lot of money then. Roma came back to Seymour with me and
when we went to a bank to cash the Curtin cheque, it was quite a time
before they checked out our credentials and gave us the money.'
Records of Sydney G. Gray. PM John Curtin & Elsie Curtin attended
the wedding of Syd Gray & Roma Milbourne, January 24 1942. By S
Gray, 1999. JCPML00346/1