Honouring man of the land’s heroic war past

Zach RelphSouth Western Times

On October 23, 1942, Collie man Lieutenant George Barnes and the 13 Platoon C Company embarked on a suicide mission to raid a German stronghold near El Alameein, Egypt.

The party left base at 10pm in a bid to confuse German forces into thinking they were under heavy attack.

It marked the initial moments of the 2nd 28th Australian Infantry Battalion’s involvement in the Second Battle of El Alamein, part of the Western Desert Campaign during World War II.

Bombarded by heavy enemy fire when cutting through barb-wire barriers, Lt Barnes ordered the surviving men to retreat back to safety before being struck by two machine gun bullets across his lower-left abdomen.

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Lt Barnes, who was born in England and raised in Collie after migrating to Australia, fell unconscious in a bomb crater where he was left for dead.

Regaining consciousness, the heavily wounded soldier strapped his ammunition belt around the gaping wound and crawled back to Australian lines through sheer determination.

At dawn on October 24, the decoy mission had been hailed a success and a main attack was launched further along the allied front.

However, Lt Barnes was forced to return to Australia and recover from his horrific injuries following the raid which resulted in five Australian deaths and 10 injured soldiers.

Yet, the defiant digger’s fighting spirit brought him back to the war once recovered and he rejoined the 2nd 28th Battalion in Papua New Guinea where he served out the remainder of the war.

Lt Barnes returned to Collie where he lived with his wife and their three children.

He started a bulldozing company with his brother-in-law which operated throughout the South West.

In his spare time, he cleared land at his hobby cattle farm just outside of Collie which is now owned by Worsley Alumina.

The long-time Collie local kept himself busy in retirement and was an active member of not-for-profit soldier support group Legacy.

Lt Barnes died on May 20, 2007, aged 90.

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