THREE ex-Diggers – two of them centenarians – were among attendees at an event held by the Victorian Association of Jewish Ex- & Servicemen and Women Australia (VAJEX) on Sunday to commemorate Anzac Day.
Among those present at Glen Eira Town Hall were three World War II veterans, Woolfe “Gunner” Lewis, 102, Leon Bloom, 100, and Maurice “Modge” Smith, 99. All three were accompanied by family members.
They are the oldest members of VAJEX and were recently honoured by the organisation for their bravery in combat during World War II. Three sets of framed medals housed in glass display cases were presented to the trio by VAJEX president Marvin Bude and by past president Ben Hirsh.
On Sunday, VAJEX member Phil Lipshut, a relative of Maurice, laid a wreath in honour of his forebears Albert and Alwyn Levy, who fell during World War I, and David Alexander and Newell Harris, who fell in World War II.
“Across Australia, there are now only a few thousand surviving World War II veterans,” Lipshut noted to The AJN.
Albert Levy, who was Lipshut’s great-uncle, was honoured by the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in 2018 on the centenary of his death in France in the Battle of Amiens. Levy of Melbourne, a sergeant, had led a patrol of 15 in advance of their unit, the 39th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, to take on a German machine-gun post that was firing on them.
He was wounded in the leg by machine-gun fire. Stretcher bearers reached him but as he was carried back, he tried to sit up in the stretcher and was killed by an enemy sniper’s bullet.
Lipshut, along with other members of the 39th Association, representing descendants of soldiers from the 39th Battalion, were present for the 2018 wreath-laying ceremony for Levy, one of 102,000 soldiers on the AWM’s Roll of Honour.
A 2003 article on Levy in The AJN had been part of a submission by Lipshut to the AWM in nominating his great-uncle for a Last Post ceremony at the 2018 commemoration.
Lipshut has visited Levy’s grave marked by a Magen David among the crosses in the war graves’ extension of the Mericourt-L’Abbe Communal Cemetery in northern France.
Albert Levy’s cousin Alwyn Levy was killed in a training accident with the Royal Flying Corps in London on April 25, 1918.
Army chaplain Rabbi Dovid Gutnick addressed Sunday’s gathering. Guests at the commemoration included Caulfield MP and deputy state Liberal leader David Southwick.