Known as “Red”, Harold Redlich was born on 2 September 1916, in Esk, Queensland, the son of Frederick and Maud Redlich, Latvian-born immigrants from Siberia who had arrived in Australia just a few years before.
Young Harold attended Greenslopes State School in Brisbane, before going on to work as a gold miner.
Harold’s brothers Andrew and James, enlisted with the RAAF, and would serve during the war.
Harold enlisted at Kelvin Grove in Brisbane on 5 June 1940, and became a founding member of the 2/15th Battalion, which was based at Redbank. There he undertook initial training, with a week of pre-embarkation leave in October.
After a church service on Christmas morning 1940, Harold Redlich and his battalion marched to Redbank Railway Station and took the train to Sydney. Then they boarded the Queen Mary, bound for the Middle East.
Arriving in Egypt by way of the Suez Canal, they travelled to Palestine and camped just north of Gaza, where further training followed. In February 1941, the battalion was transported to Egypt and then Libya, using captured Italian Army transport.
At this point in the war, the Italian Army had been pushed from the Egyptian border well into Libya, leaving the Germans to commit troops led by Erwin Rommel, whose armoured reconnaissance soon became a full-fledged offensive. Allied troops were pushed back and leading general officers were captured.
Remnants of the 2/15th Battalion reached the fortress port of Tobruk on 8 April, where defensive positions remaining from the Italian occupation were being prepared to face the Germans. After less than a fortnight in Tobruk, Redlich was promoted to lance corporal.
At the beginning of May, a large-scale fighting patrol was formed in order to destroy enemy transport. Selected members were chosen; they learned how to drive German trucks and were given training in handling mines and grenades.
After a patrol on 15 May 1941, there were 12 men missing. Two came in late, reporting that they had helped in cleaning out machine-gun posts and a tank which was seen to be burning. Other members of the section reported in later.
Eventually only one man was reported missing: Harold Redlich.
His body was never found. He was 24 years old. Today his name appears on the El Alamein War Memorial in Egypt.
Duncan Beard, Editor, Military History Section
Image: A memorial to the heroes of Torbruk. c January 1942. Credit: Unknown British Official Photographer