The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX1585) Acting Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Richard Reinke, 2/23rd Battalion, AIF, Second World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (QX1585) Acting Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Richard Reinke, 2/23rd Battalion, AIF, Second World War.
QX1585 Acting Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Richard Reinke, 2/23rd Battalion, AIF
Accidental death 7 September 1943
Story delivered 7 September 2018
Today we remember and pay tribute to Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Richard Reinke.
Jack Reinke was born on 12 May 1917 at Blyth, South Australia, the son of John and Agnes Reinke. He grew up on the family farm at Narridy, near Crystal Brook, and attended school in the local area.
In early May 1925, his father died from pneumonia, leaving Agnes to bring up six children.
By the time the Second World War began, Jack Reinke was working as a labourer in Queensland, though he had become engaged to a young lady back in South Australia by the name of Bettina.
Rather than return to South Australia, on 19 November 1940 Reinke enlisted for service with the Second AIF at Hughenden in Queensland. He was sent to the Second AIF Reinforcement Depot for training where he remained until May 1940, when, along with other reinforcements, he embarked from Sydney, bound for England.
Arriving in England in early June, Reinke was sent to Tidworth, where he joined the 72nd Battalion. In October, the battalion was re-designated the 2/33rd Battalion and moved from Tidworth to Colchester. Reinke was promoted to acting corporal around the same time.
Several months of intense training followed, against the backdrop of the Battle of Britain, to which Reinke and his mates were keen observers. His battalion was designated as a mobile reserve to counter a potential German invasion of England, though by the end of the year the threat had passed.
At the beginning of 1941 the 2/33rd Battalion travelled from England to the Middle East. At the start of June it was involved in the invasion of Syria and then took part in the fighting at Merdjayoun and Jezzine. After the surrender of Vichy French forces, the battalion was involved in garrison duties at Lebanon and then occupied defensive positions at the port of Tripoli.
In February 1942, the 2/33rd Battalion returned to Australia and began training for the war against Japan. After a period of leave, during which Reinke visited his family, the battalion moved to Caboolture in Queensland. Three months of intense training followed before it sailed for Port Moresby at the end of August. Earlier in the month, Reinke had been promoted to acting sergeant.
The battalion disembarked at Port Moresby on 9 September. Four days later, the men were in the thick of the fighting at Ioribaiwa. The Australians were forced back to Imita Ridge and during the withdrawal the 2/33rd formed the rear guard.
Soon after the battle, the Japanese, having reached the limits of their supply line, began withdrawing. The 2/33rd Battalion was involved in pursuing the Japanese back across the Owen Stanley Range. On reaching the beachheads, the battalion took part in the battle of Gona. By this stage, the battalion had suffered heavy casualties and in December was withdrawn to Port Moresby.
The 2/33rd Battalion returned to Australia in early January 1943. Only weeks later, Reinke was devastated to hear the news that his brother, Acting Corporal William Henry Reinke had been killed at Sanananda on 21 January while serving with the 2/10th Battalion. He was 22 years old.
In mid-March Reinke was confirmed in the rank of sergeant. Later that month, he was hospitalised with malaria. He recovered quickly and returned to his battalion in early April. In June he was promoted to acting warrant officer class 2 and became the company sergeant major of D Company.
The 2/33rd Battalion returned to New Guinea in late July and spent the next month preparing for an airlift to Nadzab, in support of American paratroopers.
In the early hours of 7 September, the men of the 2/33rd Battalion were waiting in trucks at the end of Jackson’s Airfield for their plane flights to Nadzab. The men of D Company were in the rear-most trucks.
The men could hear movement of aircraft preparing for take-off from Jackson’s Airfield some 700 metres away. Soon after, a B-24 Liberator Bomber took off, flying low over the Australians. This was followed soon after by a second B-24, nicknamed “Pride of the Cornhuskers.” Immediately after take-off some of the Australians noticed that the plane was coming straight at them and a number of the men began to run, trying to escape the impending disaster.
The Liberator could not get the lift required to take it over the trees at the end of the airstrip. The aircraft’s port wing dipped, clipped a tree and sheared off, sending the bomber crashing into trees next to D Company’s trucks.
The resulting explosion of the fully laden bomber engulfed the D Company trucks. In the resulting inferno at least 30 men from D Company were on fire. Those who were uninjured were quickly joined by men from other companies trying to extinguish the flames.
A member of another company witnessed a badly burned Reinke emerge from the flames. “Can I have a cigarette?” he asked. After drawing on it once, he died.
All 11 members of the B-24 and 15 Australians, including Reinke, were killed. Forty-five would later die from their burns, and a further 92 were injured.
Reinke was laid to rest in the Bomana War Cemetery. He was 26 years old.
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Acting Warrant Officer Jack Richard Reinke, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX1585) Acting Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Richard Reinke, 2/23rd Battalion, AIF, Second World War. (video)