A LONG battle to secure the war medals of a Rat of Tobruk has been lost due to family in-fighting, according to Queensland man Kelvin Johnson.
The war history enthusiast has been campaigning for more than six years to secure the medals of Warrnambool soldier Joseph John Egan, who died fighting during the famed North African campaign.
The Brisbane-based Mr Johnson, who left Warrnambool as a child, wanted to track down replacements for three medals owed to Joseph Egan, which mysteriously went missing in either the late 1940s or early 1950s or else were never issued.
Mr Johnson has claimed that two “non-blood relatives” contacted the Department of Veteran Affairs in order to block his application for the medals. He said the intervention resulted in the medals process being stymied.
“The whole scenario goes against the ‘Lest We Forget’ ethos,” Mr Johnson said.
“What I don’t understand is why two non-blood relatives wanted to block something which we had been working so hard towards for so long.
“Maybe it was spite.
“Joseph Egan deserves to be recognised for paying the ultimate sacrifice, losing his life in order to defend Australian interests.”
Mr Johnson lives in former PM Kevin Rudd’s electorate of Griffith and said his local MP had advocated on his behalf to secure the medals.
The Brisbane man believes the parliamentary secretary in charge of war medals, Senator David Feeney, was blocking his family appeal for the medals because of his fractured relationship with Mr Rudd.
“I believe Senator Feeney has let his own political feelings get in the way of doing the right thing, which is honouring an Australian with the medals he deserved,” Mr Johnson said.
Senator Feeney’s office was contacted by The Standard but referred questions to the Defence Department.
Mr Rudd’s office was also contacted but did not respond in time for deadline.
Joseph Egan fought with his brother, Lawrence, in D company of the 2/23rd Battalion in North Africa before he was killed by a German shell on May 17, 1941. The two Warrnambool brothers even emblazoned D company’s tank with “Warrnambool Zone’’ even though they belonged to the Albury Zone.
Despite his service, medals are still owed to Joseph Egan including the Africa Star, the Defence Medal and the Australia Service Medal.
The fallen soldier’s niece, Margaret Hurry, remembered saying goodbye to Joseph before he travelled overseas to serve Australia.
Mrs Hurry said she did not recall her mother ever receiving medals in honour of Joseph’s war service and believed no official recognition was ever offered.
“When I was a young girl, I remember waving goodbye to Joe and the others at Spencer Street station as they went off to war,” said Mrs Hurry, now in Melbourne.
“Laurie and Joe were involved in the Tobruk campaign.
“Laurie came back to Australia and told us about how he used to have to pick up fallen soldiers along the desert roads and haul them into trucks, like dead sheep.
“Like all the soldiers in North Africa, it was a brutal experience and many like Joseph did not come back alive.”