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The 36th Battalion: a record of service of the 36th Battalion with the Third Division in the Pacific

II — Athletics


Early in March 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel Barry called together all company sports officers, informing them that Wednesday afternoons would be set aside for organised sport and that he would like to see the first battalion athletic championships held in April.

In order to find out what athletic talent there actually was in the battalion a series of 'tabloid' athletic meetings was first held, followed by company championships. In Fiji there was little difficulty in finding grounds, and the companies were able to hold their own meetings at Albert Park and on the Samambula, St. Felix and Huon Street 'arenas'.

April 8 was the big day of the battalion championships. Albert Park had been transformed through the work of an energetic subcommittee under Major Pat Webster. The grass was closely cut, and the white track shone out against the vivid green. At intervals around the 440 yards track small yellow and black flags had been placed, while from a high, white flagpole in the centre of the ground, the big battalion flag fluttered proudly in the breeze.

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The heats occupied most of the morning's programme, together with the 880 yards event, which demonstrated that the battalion had a first-class middle distance runner in J. J. Wallace. His long stride and effortless style were a pleasure to watch, and his time of just over two minutes was a very creditable performance after less than a month's training.

The afternoon's programme began with a march past of the company teams, a splendid sight as they circled the grounds, tanned bodies clad in khaki shorts and white singlets, marked by the vari' coloured company sashes. By now quite a large crowd was present, which included the Governor of Fiji, Sir Harry Luke, who was the donor of the handsome tortoiseshell shield which was the prize for the competition.

The afternoon's contests produced some splendid performances, notably B. B. Quinn (A company), winner of the sprints, D. W. C. Lange (A company) in the jumps, and J. J. Wallace (HQ company) peerless in the middle distances. To A company went the honour of being the first holders of the Luke Shield.

The results of the finals were:—
100 ydsB. B. QuinnH. WaughW. Tricklebank
220 ydsB. B. QuinnJ. W. CowleyW. Tricklebank
440 ydsT. L. HaroR. W. StarrD. R. Orton
One mileJ. J. WallaceH. E. McDonaldS. A. Aim
220 yds hurdlesA. P. ThomasH. WaughC. C. Wild
High JumpI. G. BlakeJ. BoolE. A. Stratton
Broad JumpD. W. C. LangeJ. BoolC. A. Cardie
Hod. Step and JumpD. W. C. LangeW. H. HartgillO. G. Davey
Shot PutH. W. WilliamsD. W. C. LangeE. P. Rutherford
Relay RaceHQ CompanyA CompanyC Company

Next came the brigade championships on 22 April, open to all troops stationed on the Suva side of Fiji. Although some of our representatives put up fine performances—notably B. B. Quinn who finished a close third in the 100 yards, and J. J. Wallace, second in the mile after a grand race—it was those magnificent athletes, the Fijians, who scooped the pool. At the end of the day, the First Fijian Defence Battalion was on top, closely followed by the Second FDF, while the 36th Battalion, well behind, finished third. We were the only New Zealand team to win a place.

Athletics then gave way to Rugby, and it was not until we came to Norfolk Island that activities were resumed. Unfortunately, then, page 96some of the stars of Fiji were missing, notably J. J. Wallace, D. W. C. Lange and I. G. Blake.

On Norfolk company championships were first held on paddocks in the company areas, and then on 17 December the battalion meeting took place at Lee's paddock. Again Major Webster's committee had made an excellent job of the ground, though it was more restricted than Albert Park, and it was impossible to get more than 330 yards track.

B. B. Quinn again won the sprints in a convincing fashion, while a newcomer, L. H. Bedford took over Wallace's mantle in the longer distances. A. M. Stuart of C company surprised all but his own company by running away with the mile and three-mile events. He proved himself in a class of his own in the three-miler, and easily lapped the field, after establishing a big lead in the first lap. Mention must be made of the sterling performance of A. C. Cook of D (support) company in the three miles. 'Cookie' ran a wonderful race, and displayed such great heart and stamina that when he finished in the third place, the ovation which greeted him could have been no greater had he won.

Individual results were as follows:—
100 ydsB. B. QuinnA. P. ThomasE. A. Major
220 ydsB. B. QuinnJ. W. CowleyN. E. Palmer
440 ydsL. H. BedfordT. L. HarpB. H. Bousie
880L. H. BedfordT. L. HarpJ. J. Mori
one mileA. M. StuartI. T. GallowayG. W. Broad
Three milesA. M. StuartJ. G. MullerA. O. Cook
220 yds hurdlesA. P. ThomasG. C. WildA. F. McKenzie
High JumpA. F. McKenzieT. HaroldJ. W. Waewo
Broad JumpJ. W. WaewoC. P. HaverbierD. P. Taylor
Hod. Step and JumpE. A. MajorN. E. PalmerE. D. Butchart
Shot PutH. PlowmanH. W. WilliamsC. Harold

Winners of Luke Shield: D (S) company.

Battalion championships were closely followed by the force meeting on Boxing Day, when the civilian population, including the Administrator, Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal, turned out in force. Though we were confident of a win, we had to give way to the fine team put up by the ack-ack, who were fortunate in having such a fine athlete as Second-Lieutenant Thornton, the winner of the 100 yards, the 2.20 yards, the 220 yards hurdles and the broad jump —a remarkable performance.

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L. H. Bedford won the 880 yards convincingly, and the mile was a triumph for the battalion, as I. T. Galloway, C. W. Broad and C. Clibborn filled all the places. A. M. Stuart won the three-mile as easily as he had done in the battalion competition.

Hardly were we off the transports which took us to New Caledonia than word was received that the 8th Brigade championships were to be held on Anzac Day, 25 April. This gave little more than a week for training, and so it was decided that the team which had represented us in Norfolk should take the field again.

The contest was held right at our back-door on the Ouenghi sports ground, which though big was rather uneven in its surface. Again we proved that we were the best athletic team in the brigade, and came home the winners with the 34th Battalion second.

B. B. Quinn won the 100 yards flat and the 120 yards hurdles and L. H. Bedford the 880 yards, while we repeated our Norfolk performance of gaining all three places in the mile, with I. T. Galloway, C. W. Broad and C. Clibborn. A. M. Stuart romped home once again in the three-mile.

An 8th Brigade team travelled up to Moindah for the divisional championships on 8 May. B. B. Quinn finished third in both the 100 yards flat and the 120 yards hurdles, while Stuart won the three-mile.

About this time the battalion lost the services of its capable sports officer, Major N. J. T. Webster who excelled in the organisation of athletics, and his departure for New Zealand left a big gap.

Since New Caledonia days, it has been impossible to organise further athletic meetings, but what has been accomplished will always be a source of pride and happy memories.