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Lindsay Alfred Bear (1921–2000)

by Nicholas Anderson

This article was published online in 2024

Lindsay Bear, by K. Krischock, 1944

Lindsay Bear, by K. Krischock, 1944

Australian War Memorial, 065542

Lindsay Alfred Bear (1921–2000), soldier and engineer, was born on 16 June 1921 at Spotswood, Melbourne, third of four sons of Victorian-born parents Harry Edward Bear, telegraph mechanic, and his wife Emily Maud, née Hillier. After his mother’s premature death from tuberculosis in 1933, Lindsay was fostered by family friends at Ivanhoe. Passionate about learning, he excelled academically at Fairfield and Ivanhoe State schools before the economic hardship of the Depression saw him leave school at fourteen. He supported himself by working as a paper-boy, in a flour mill, and then as a die-cast operator at the Collingwood foundry of Die Casters Ltd. Nicknamed ‘Teddy,’ he grew to be six feet and half an inch tall (184 cm), with brown hair and eyes, and a dark complexion. Athletic and an accomplished cyclist like his siblings, he joined the Kensington-Fairfield Professional Cycling Club. His growing physique curtailed any future cycling aspirations, however, after he broke several bikes that could not handle his strength. Other sports interests included swimming, cricket, and football.

Volunteering for service in World War II, Bear enlisted on 15 November 1939 in the Citizen Military Forces and served part time with the 5th Battalion (Victorian Scottish Regiment) before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 27 May 1940. He was posted to the 2/14th Battalion and was promoted to acting corporal in June. The battalion departed in October for the Middle East, and there completed training in Egypt and Palestine. At his request, in March 1941 he reverted to private to join a friend in the Bren-gun carrier platoon. The battalion returned to Egypt in April 1941.

The 2/14th first saw action in June and July 1941 in Syria and Lebanon against the Vichy French. Bear was lucky to remain unscathed on 12 June after he and a comrade inadvertently drove their carriers through a minefield and, again, after enemy aircraft strafed the stationary vehicles while he and the other driver were conferring outside them. Following these actions, he adopted his former rank and rejoined ‘A’ Company. After undertaking garrison duties, the battalion returned to Australia in March 1942. The unit was deployed to Papua in August and immediately reinforced the 39th Battalion at Isurava on the Kokoda Trail, where it was held in reserve until ‘C’ Company came under fierce and sustained attack on 29 August. Bear’s platoon was sent forward to caulk a gap in the defences during which its commander was killed. Taking charge, he wielded a Bren gun to kill an estimated fifteen enemy soldiers in close quarters combat before being wounded in his left hand and right leg. For this exhibition of bravery, he was awarded the Military Medal. He was medically evacuated to Australia in September. On 19 October 1942 he married Martha Cranston, a clerk, at St James’ Church of England, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne.

Following recovery, Bear was promoted to sergeant in March 1943 and then to acting warrant officer in April while he instructed a small arms course at Bonegilla; he reverted to sergeant in June. The 2/14th returned to Papua in early August for further training then moved in September to New Guinea, where it took part in the Ramu-Markham Valley-Finisterre Range operations in New Guinea. On 11 October his platoon was assigned the dangerous task of taking Pallier’s Hill. Prominent amongst the attackers, he ‘hurled the Japanese like a sheaf-tosser’ with his bayonet (Russell 1948, 238) before suffering multiple gunshot wounds. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry.

After several months of recuperating, in August 1944 Bear attended Course No. 14 conducted by the Officer Cadet Training Unit, Seymour, from which he graduated with a commission as a lieutenant in November. He reportedly scored the highest marks ever received and was awarded the commander-in-chief’s baton. From January 1945 he underwent two months of jungle warfare training at Canungra, Queensland, and then two more with the 2/27th Battalion, before returning to the 2/14th Battalion in May. He completed his overseas service at Morotai in June 1945 and then in Borneo in July as part of Oboe II, the Allied operation to capture Balikpapan, before succumbing to malaria and exhaustion. Returning to Australia on 14 August, he transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 10 October. Resuming his old position at Die Casters, he also attended the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, where he took courses in welding, management, metallurgy, and supervision across a ten-year period, and taught courses for seven. In 1956 he was appointed works manager for the engineering firm J. F. Thomson Pty Ltd, run by a colleague from the 2/14th. During the late 1960s he spent time studying techniques in stainless steel production in Sweden and Italy, which the firm applied to pressure vessel production and thereby substantially undercut competitors. He was promoted to production manager in about 1971 and then production director around 1977.

Possessing a positive disposition, as a young man Bear was like ‘a great jovial overgrown boy, always wearing the broad smile of one who feels that it is good to be alive’ (Russell 1948, 237). His character became more earnest in the postwar years. He was a popular figure in the 2/14th; his comrades frequently recounting his deeds in the decades after the war. As committed Christians, following their conversion in the late 1950s, he and Martha co-founded Shalom Israel in February 1991, a non-sectarian group providing support to Israel based on references from the Bible that prophesied a strong Jewish state at peace with its neighbours. The money the group raised helped fund global Jewish migration to Israel. Survived by his wife and their three daughters and one son, he died at Box Hill, Melbourne, on 22 September 2000 and was buried in Katherine Anglican Churchyard, St Helena.

Research edited by Matthew Cunneen

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Jewish News (Sydney). ‘Life/style Christians Who Want Israel to Prosper.’ 25 December 1992, Life/Style 1
  • Australian War Memorial. AWM52 8/3/14, 2/14th Battalion War Diary
  • Australian War Memorial. AWM4 23/28, 21st Brigade War Diary
  • Bradley, Phillip. On Shaggy Ridge: The Australian Seventh Division in the Ramu Valley from Kaiapit to the Finisterres. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Dexter, David. The New Guinea Offensives. Vol. 6 of Series 1 (Army) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1961
  • McCarthy, Dudley. South-West Pacific Area—First Year: Kokoda to Wau. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1959
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, VX17821
  • Riverine Herald (Echuca: Vic.) ‘Gallantry on the Battlefield: Soldier Receives Two Decorations.’ 2 March 1944, 2
  • Russell, W. B. The Second Fourteenth Battalion: A History of an Australian Infantry Battalion in the Second World War. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1948

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Citation details

Nicholas Anderson, 'Bear, Lindsay Alfred (1921–2000)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bear-lindsay-alfred-32767/text40744, published online 2024, accessed online 25 June 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Lindsay Bear, by K. Krischock, 1944

Lindsay Bear, by K. Krischock, 1944

Australian War Memorial, 065542

Life Summary [details]

Birth

16 June, 1921
Spotswood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Death

22 September, 2000 (aged 79)
Box Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

dementia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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