Africa Star: Private Kenneth Burke Rubie, 2/4 Battalion

Accession Number REL48673.002
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medal
Physical description Bronze
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1946
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Africa Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

History / Summary

Born in Molong, New South Wales in November 1903, Kenneth (Ken) Burke Rubie enlisted in the AIF on 25 October 1939 and was assigned as a private (service number NX5373) to 2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion. In North Africa he fought at Bardia, Tobruk and Benghazi. Sent with the 6th Division on the ill-fated Greek campaign of 1941, Rubie was captured in northern Greece in the Florina valley near Vevi when his group was cut off from the main body of the battalion.

Rubie and his fellow prisoners were transported by train, via Budapest and Vienna, to Marburg an der Drau (Maribor) in the north of Yugolsavia (now part of Slovenia), where they were interned at Stalag XVIII-D. From here Rubie was sent to work on a canal at Weinburg.

After completing this work Rubie was detached to work for a succession of farmers, noting their thrift, small size of their holdings, the better food, and 'prehistoric' tools. He was generally well treated and appreciated that the owners of his first farm, the Rossmans, treated him as a son. Sent to Radkesburg near the Yugoslav border to undertake railway work, Rubie made two attempts to escape in 1943. In February he planned to escape through Hungary but after four nights was caught by border police and returned to Marburg. A further attempt in April also failed.

On 31 August 1944 Rubie was part of a large scale, successful escape coordinated by Australian Private Ralph Churches and a British soldier, Driver Leslie Laws, from the Royal Engineers. Prior to this date Churches had been in contact with local Slovenian partisans, who were to provide vital assistance during the escape. At least 105 prisoners, of whom 12 are known to have been Australian took part in the escape. The majority were liberated by Churches and Laws from Work Camp 1046/GW, a railway work camp near the village of Ozblat, 25 kilometres from Marburg on 31 August. Their Austrian guards and civilian overseers were also forced to 'escape' with them.

Progress along the evacuation route south was difficult and took place mainly at night, as German patrols were active in the area. After travelling 250 kilometres in two weeks, enduring forced marches, evading ambushes, having at times to back track and enduring cold and lack of food, the men reached Semic, a partisan base with an airfield used for communication with the Allies.

There was a delay of several days before air evacuation could be organised. According to Rubie the airfield had been bombed and a new rough field had to be hastily constructed. The RAF parachuted in an officer to coordinate the evacuation flights which were carried out by DC-3 Dakotas able to carry 20 men at a time.

Rubie was allocated to the third flight which was delayed by a mechanical fault. En route to the Prisoner of War Reception Centre at Bari in Italy, where he arrived on 18 September, his aircraft had to evade German anti-aircraft fire. The final entry of Rubie’s diary reads '… Set down at Bari in North Italy, taken in charge by the 8th Army – given beautiful white bread, food, hot showers, three blankets. First time I had been warm for years. We were free, and arrangements were being made to send us home.’ Rubie was discharged on 1 August 1945.