Autographed Italian flag : Corporal E J Ryan, 2/5 Field Ambulance, AIF

Accession Number REL33554
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Flag
Physical description Cotton drill, Hemp, Wool
Maker Unknown
Place made Italy
Date made c 1930-1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

This wool bunting flag is an Italian tricolour made from three even vertical stripes of green (nearest the hoist), white and red fabric. Embroidered on the central stripe are the Arms of Savoy, a blue bordered red shield, quartered by a white cross. Above the arms is a printed crown in black, red, gold and blue. The hoist, which is made of discoloured white cotton drill, has a partially legible maker's stamp at its lower end which appears to read 'FABBRICHE ITALIANE RIUNITE BANDIERE CANERA & CAMPI'. A black stamp showing an eagle holding a shield, is faintly visible on the lower part of the green panel, adjacent to the hoist. The white central panel of the flag is inscribed in black ink as follows with the details of 12 members of the Australian forces serving in the Middle East: 'Libia Tobruck 29-1-41 Cpl. E.J. Ryan 2/5 FLD AMB. NX70350 S/N M.I. BROWN. 6th. A.G.H. MIDDLE EAST. CPL. HARLOCK AMBULANCE SEA TRANSPORT COY VX47337. M.J. HAMMOND 9th Div Cavalry Middle East 26/5/41. VX24906 Sgt McLeay Ambulance Sea Transport 25/5/41 NX11894 Sgt KING.R. N.Z. KIA ORA VX9860 WOII C HAWKING AAMC TRAINING WING VX2515 SGT. M.L. ALTMAN 2/10 C.C.S A.I.F. TOBRUK VX14310 SGT. BJ. O'CONNELL 2/1 C.C.S TOBRUK ERIC EGGINS GOULBURN GAZA RIDGE 20.5.41 BILL EVANS. NEWCASTLE F Guy Tuddenham Smythesdale Gaza Ridge 23.4.41.'

History / Summary

This flag was collected in Libya by VX20849 Corporal Edward James Ryan of 2/5 Field Ambulance, AIF. Ryan, who was born at Warrnambool, Victoria in April 1904, enlisted in the AIF in June 1940. He embarked with 2/5 Field Ambulance at Melbourne in October 1940, and served throughout the North African campaign. He was present at Tobruk during the siege, and was evacuated with his unit in August 1941. After returning to Australia in March 1942, Ryan was classified as medically unfit, and discharged in June 1942 at the age of 38. The inscription 'Tobruck 29-1-41' above Ryan's name on the flag suggests that it may have been a trophy collected after the Australian capture of Tobruk, which occured on 21/22 January 1941. The other names on the flag have been identified as; NX70350 Staff Nurse (later Captain) Mabel Ivy Brown of the Australian Army Nursing Service, VX39954 Lance Corporal Keith Clyde Harlock of the Sea Ambulance Transport Service (a section of the Australian Army Medical Corps), VX47337 Trooper Maxwell John Hammond of 9 Division Cavalry Regiment (later 2/9 Australian Cavalry Commando Regiment), VX24906 Private Thomas William McLeay of the Sea Ambulance Transport Service, NX11894 Sergeant Robert King of 2/2 Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery (King was, as his inscription would suggest, a native of New Zealand), VX9860 Warrant Officer Class II (later WO Class I) Clarence Hawking of 2/1 Australian CCD (thought to be a medical unit), VX2515 Sergeant Maurice Leopold Altman of 2/11 Field Ambulance, VX14310 Staff Sergeant Barry John O'Connell of 2/1 Casualty Clearing Station, NX17622 Lieutenant Eric Colin Eggins of 9 Divison Mobile Laundry and VX39652 Captain Frederick Guy Tuddenham of the Sea Ambulance Transport Service. 'Bill Evans ' of Newcastle remains unidentified.