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Else, Alick (1916–1985)

by Stuart Braga

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Alick Else (1916-1985), soldier and farmer, was born on 20 August 1916 at Taringa, Brisbane, eighth child of Thomas Else, farmer, and his wife Emily Mary, née Bycroft, both Queensland born. Alick, who followed his father onto the land, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 30 May 1940. Five of his brothers also served in the army, Alick and Cyril being posted to the 2/15th Battalion. The unit arrived in Egypt in February 1941 and took part in the defence of Tobruk, Libya, in April-October. Else was promoted to corporal soon after the beginning of the siege.

Having been stationed in Palestine and Syria, the 2/15th Battalion returned to Egypt in July 1942. On the night of 4–5 August Else was a member of a fighting patrol ordered to secure a prisoner in the coastal sector of Tel el Eisa. Going well behind enemy positions, the group encountered heavy fire from a German machine-gun post. The Australians rushed the post, killing at least five enemy soldiers and capturing a prisoner. Further fire killed the prisoner, and the patrol’s commander, Captain Wilton Cobb, was twice wounded. Else took charge and extricated the patrol, with Cobb over his shoulder. For his `conspicuous bravery’ and `outstanding leadership’, he was awarded the Military Medal. The success of the 2/15th Battalion in this sector led to its deployment next month in a highly successful feint, Operation Bulimba. In October-November the battalion fought in the battle of El Alamein.

Back in Australia in February 1943, the 2/15th played an important role in the battle for Finschhafen, New Guinea, in September-October. On 13 October Else, who had been promoted to acting sergeant in September, was a platoon commander in an attack in dense jungle near the village of Kumawa. In a sustained action of grenade and bayonet charges, his men overcame a series of Japanese posts in well dug-in positions that had seemed impregnable. Five men were killed and ten wounded of a platoon of twenty-six, while Japanese dead numbered thirty-nine. Else led his platoon with `a total disregard for his own safety and with soldierly resolution’. His voice `could be heard clearly and distinctly giving directions to his section leaders’, including his brother Cyril, who was killed storming a strong post. The padre later commented that `it was terrible that the sergeant had to tell his own brother to go and get killed’. Else was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but was awarded a Bar to his MM. He was promoted to staff sergeant in November. In March 1944 the battalion returned to Australia. Following several severe bouts of malaria, Else was discharged from the army on 27 October.

Else typified the easy-going, devil-may-care digger, with a nonchalant exterior behind which lay steely determination. An engaging, friendly man, he was esteemed by his battalion for his outstanding courage and ability to lead at critical moments. After a brief stint at the fruit and vegetable market at Haymarket, Sydney, he returned to Queensland, working first at Harlin then on a dairy farm at Moggill, Brisbane. On 1 August 1946 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Gladstone, he had married Joan Isabel Mylrae. He farmed at Lower Cressbrook from 1950 until 1963, when he bought another property at Colinton. Survived by his wife and their two sons, he died of Parkinson’s disease and pneumonia on 21 September 1985 at Esk and was buried in Kilcoy lawn cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (1961)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (1966)
  • R. J. Austin, Let Enemies Beware! (1995)
  • series B883, item QX5495 (National Archives of Australia)
  • AWM 52, item 8/3/15 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Stuart Braga, 'Else, Alick (1916–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/else-alick-12461/text22391, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 1 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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