This story is reproduced here with the permission
of Kathy Sharpe and Dayle Latham, Senior
(Rufus Lucas has since passed away and was buried, 22 June, 2012.)
|Molly (91) and Rufus Lucas (97).|
At 97 years of age, Rufus Lucas is the last
surviving member of a band of nine brothers
who all served in world War 11. Kathy Sharpe
met Rufus and his wife Molly at their Nowra
Between 1940 and 1945, nine sons from one farming family on the Far South coast of NSW put down their tools and marched away to fight in World War 11.
the last of Bega’s
nine “brothers in arms”.
The extraordinary contribution of the Lucas
family in sending nine of its boys off to
the conflict is believed to be an Australian
Bega’s Henry and Alice Lucas had a family of 11 boys and four girls, and the last surviving member of this brood of 15 is Rufus, who today lives in Greenwell Gardens at Nowra with his wife of 71 years, Molly.
Alice Lucas died when Rufus was 12, so was spared the unimaginable anguish of having nine sons away at war at the same time.
Rufus is now 97, and although his memory has faded, Molly remembers well the worrying times they lived through together.
She said that between 1941 and 1945 Bega was like many country towns – virtually emptied of men. Anyone who could do so had joined the war effort.
“It’s just what you did. We all had to accept it, all the wives and girlfriends who were left behind,” Molly said.
She said the women were kept so busy doing all the work of the men that they had little time to feel sorry for themselves.
Rufus said he remembers meeting Molly Tasker when he was 10 and she was four, but the pair started courting in later years when Molly was 16 and working at the Niagara Café in Bega.
“Rufus used to box a lot in the show boxing ring, and I would go down and watch him,” she said.
They married at the Towamba church in 1941, and Molly was seven months pregnant when Rufus announced he was off to join his eight brothers in the war effort.
“Things were getting really bad,” Molly said. “There had been submarines in Eden harbour. Rufus just had the feeling he should go. There weren’t many men left by that stage, anyone who could go, went.”
Molly said the brothers had limited contact while they were away, with the nine scattered from Darwin, Europe, the Middle East and New Guinea.
Rufus was to serve on the Kokoda Track and the Owen Stanley Ranges in New Guinea. Sadly, Rufus was in New Guinea when his brother Basil, known to the family as “Babe”, was killed there. Another brother, Dudley, was killed in Malaya and his body was never found.
Back home, like many other women across the country, Molly was left to manage as best she could.
“Everyone seemed to be in the same boat. My own brother and father had gone. We just had to tough it out. I was lucky I had my mother to help me manage with the new baby,” she said.
Molly also helped look after the youngest Lucas brother, Chris, who was around 13 at the time and only at home because he was too young to join up.
Molly said beside sharing a strong sense of duty, the family was very close perhaps as a result of losing their mother so young.
Rufus was discharged just before the war ended, at the request of a farmer from Pericoe who needed him to help on his farm.
After the war most of the brothers continued to live on the South Coast and raise their families.
“They were always happy as long as they were together, “ Molly said.
That family closeness has endured through the generations, with Molly and Rufus moving to Nowra in 1968 to be closer to two of their four children who had moved to Sydney.
In 1968 they settled on 50 acres where the Cambewarra winery now stands.
Their daughter, Gail, said from the original Lucas brood of 15 children there are 97 grandchildren just in her generation. After that, everyone begins to lose count, though 500 people turned up to the last family reunion at Cobargo.
Gail said the four children grew up thinking it was normal to have so many uncles who had fought in the war.
“We didn’t think much about it though because Dad never wanted to talk about it,” she said. “The brothers did have a strong sense of duty but I think in those days most boys thought is was all going to be an exciting adventure.”
Molly said in recent years Rufus has begun to bring up some of his experiences and memories from the war years.
“It’s a hard thing to talk about,” Rufus said.
And though Rufus is the last one remaining from that extraordinary band of Bega brothers, the memory of their contribution will live on.
Seven of the nine brothers survived the war.
|Joseph Charles Lucas
|Basil Albert Lucas
Basil was just 15 when
he enlisted in June 1940. He served in Syria, Bardia and Tobruk before being killed by Japanese strafing at a field station on the Kokoda Track before he turned 18.
Dudley, plagued by a collarbone injury
childhood, had three attempts at enlisting
before successfully using an alias to join up in 1941.
He was killed
seven months later in Malaya.
|William John Lucas
||Henry Leonard Lucas
||Cecil James Lucas
GREAT–GRANDSON PROUD TO MARCH FOR LANCE
Lancelot Lawrence Lucas suffered from an unknown medical condition which saw him discharged twice but by August 17, 1942 he was considered fit for duty.
Like his brother Ronald 11 months earlier, Lance was assigned to the ill-fated 8th Battalion.
While many of the 8th Battalion were sent to Malaya and their death, Ron was in Darwin when the Japanese continued their southward charge and reached Australian shores.
The first bombs fell in an air raid on February 19, 1942 soon after Singapore had fallen.
About 240 Japanese planes attacked in two separate raids, killing at least 243 people and sinking eight ships in the first of 97 raids to strike Darwin.
This year, the 70th anniversary, the federal government has declared February 19 Bombing of Darwin Day.
Lance, who passed away in November, 1984 was awarded the Australia Service Medal, the 1939 to 1945 Star and the War Medal but tragically the medals and other memorabilia were lost in the bush fires that ravaged Bega Valley Shire in 1952.
Lance’s great grandson, Blake Young, carried the replacement medals in Eden’s Anzac Day march this year.