Ingham, or “Little Italy”, is the heart, and the mighty Herbert River the artery, of the Herbert River Valley. Discover the absorbing history of the town of Ingham, the Valley, and its surrounds that span seemingly endless fields of sugar cane, rivers teeming with crocodiles, swathes of thick jungle, cloud dappled mountain ranges, and beaches misty with salty air.
I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Father Thomas Gard MBE
As a community we bask in the
reflected glory of those members of our community who have taken heroic and
courageous action on some distant battlefield and been recognized and rewarded
for that action. One such is Keith Payne W.O. and there are probably few, young
or old, who have not heard of him as the recipient of the VC AM. Another less known however is Thomas Gard,
the son of Mr. and Mrs Thomas Gard of Victoria Estate. The family had been long time stalwarts of the
St Patrick Parish and it was much to their great pride when their Thomas Jnr. was
the first local boy to be ordained a Catholic Priest. Such was the excitement
and importance of the occasion to the Herbert River district that a special
rail motor ran from Ingham to Townsville on the day of the ordination, December
3 1933, to permit friends and relatives to attend the ceremony held at the
Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Less than ten years later, with
World War 2 raging, he was released by the Diocese to serve as a military
chaplain with the 2/4 3rd Australian Infantry Battalion. During the
siege of Tobruk, on August 3 1941, he rescued Australian casualties under heavy
shell fire, even venturing fearlessly into enemy German lines. The way that he achieved the rescue makes a
remarkable and dramatic story. An eyewitness recorded that “The enemy
recognised his feat of bravery, held their fire, enabled and assisted him to gather
in the wounded. They gave him a cigarette, let him have a rest and guarded him
safely back to the British lines, where he arrived with his truck filled with
wounded.” While another recorded that Father Gard offered a German officer a
cigarette while convincing him to allow the removal of Australian dead and
injured. However he did not achieve this rescue without the equal bravery of
others: Father Tom Gard stood on the running board of the truck driven by Private
Keith Pope, while Sergeant Wally Tuit stood on the bonnet of the truck with Red
Cross flag flying. Following that episode, he went on to Syria to the Battle of
El Alamein, and then served in New Guinea in 1943 to 1944. By 1945 he was back
in Ingham to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his parents, which, as could be
expected, given the Gards’ involvement in their parish, was attended by not
only Bishop Ryan of Townsville but every priest of Halifax and Ingham parishes.
In the same year Father Thomas Gard was made a Member of the Order of the
British Empire in recognition of his “gallantry under fire”.
At his funeral held on July 26
1993 he was recalled as “A man’s man of no nonsense, loved sport to the point of
being almost a fanatic, feared no man including the Bishop, he was loved by the
whole community. Another of our
colourful and outstanding priests…” Even more recently a reminiscence recalled
him as “a particularly delightful man with a wonderful understanding of
mankind’s follies and faults. Loved a beer and was there every year at the
RSL’s ANZAC Day dinner.”
Vidonja Balanzategui, Bianka. Portrait of a Parish: A History of Saint
Patrick’s Church and Parish Ingham 1864-1996. Ingham: St. Patrick’s Parish,
Frazer, Ian. “Bravery under fire.”
Townsville Bulletin: Everyday History.
Celebrating 150 years since the naming of Townsville. Volume 4, 2016.
The Pub. “Reflection: ANZAC Day 2013: 554 thoughts on Reflection:
ANZAC Day 2013.” Comment by Scorpio6to2. April 25, 2013. Accessed July 13 2016.