Kalangadoo remembers WWII veterans

KALANGADOO REMEMBERS: Private Williams (Bill) James Peake was 17-years-old when he enlisted in the Third Light Horse Regiment.

By Raquel Mustillo

MEMBERS of the Kalangadoo community will gather on April 18 to remember two World War II veterans for the town’s annual Anzac commemoration service.

The service of Private Williams (Bill) James Peake and Craftsman Leo Matson Bilney will be honoured at the 6.15am ceremony at the Kalangadoo Cemetery.

Born in Mount Gambier on March 1, 1924 and educated at the Kalangadoo Primary School, Private Peake enlisted in the Third Light Horse Regiment as a 17-year-old.

Private Peake – who was 6ft tall and an accomplished horseman – lied about his birthdate and stated he was born in Queensland to enlist, using his skills to train others in the handling of horses and their care.

After six months training with the 10th Australian Infantry Battalion in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria line of commands, Private Peake was transferred to the Australian Warfare School in July 1942.

He completed in September and was posted to the 2/7th Australian Independent Company, which sailed to Port Moresby, from which it was flown to Wau, in New Guinea in January 1943 to reinforce the Kanga Force during the Salamaua-Lae campaign.

In April 1943, Private Peake was transferred to the 2/25th Field Park Royal Australian Engineers which was involved in the fighting in New Guinea, including along the Kokoda Track.

Private Peake contracted malaria in November and was in and out of hospitals until he recovered in February 1945, where he was transferred to the 2/27th Battalion and was part of the Operation Oboe Landings on the island of Borneo, in Indonesia.

After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war ending, Private Peake transferred to the 65th Infantry Battalion, travelling to Japan to undertake guard duty, patrolling and training.

Private Peake left Japan in December 1948 to return to Australia and was discharged on January 1949, serving a total of 2551 days – including 1591 days active service overseas.

Craftsmen Bilney was born at Kalangadoo on October 14, 1907, the 11th child of 15 to parents Henry and Coral.

The 34-year-old reported for duty at Woodville on February 17, 1942, training for active service as part of the 128 Brigade Workshop before transferring to the 129 Australian Brigade Workshop in July the same year.

He embarked for overseas active service on the USS Henry T Allen from Brisbane on July 16, 1943 and arrived at Port Moresby four days later.

Upon arrival, the 129 Australian Brigade Workshop was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division and worked with the 15th Infantry Brigade Group, moving with the brigade to Dumpu in January 1944 to relieve the units of the 7th Infantry Division in the final stages of the Ramu Valley Campaign.

After its capture, the 129 Brigade Workshop left for Lae in April 1944 and worked at the New Guinea province until August before returning to Mapee, Queensland to rejoin the 15th Infantry Brigade Group. While Australian units returned to New Guinea to relieve the US troops, Craftsman Bilney suffered injuries and was unable to rejoin his unit in Bouganville until February 1945.

Craftsman Bilney was discharged on January 9, 1946 after completing 1402 days service including 692 days active service overseas.

Both men returned to the Limestone Coast after their service, with Craftsman Bilney passing away in June 1972 and Private Peake passing away in August 2000.

Craftsman Bilney and Private Peake are both interred at the Mount Gambier Carinya Gardens Cemetery.

Members of the Bilney and Peake families will attend Sunday’s Kalangadoo Remembers service to honour their forebears.

The commemorative service will be followed by a gunfire breakfast at the Kalangadoo Institute.