Hero’s medals go on display

Capt John Harris Samuels

THE NSW Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (NAJEX) is set to present a set of medals of a Jewish World War II hero to the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Captain John Harris Samuels was the Regimental Medical Officer of 2/15 Battalion of the Australian 9th Division. He served in Palestine, Syria and Egypt and was also one of the immortal “Rats of Tobruk”.

He was tragically killed by a German shell while operating on a wounded soldier on the front line at the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942. He was 28.

NAJEX acquired his medals, together with a collection of correspondence and documents about him, at an auction last month.

“He won a number of medals which are not often awarded. We not only have the medals but we also have a very strong provenance and family history to go with them, so that’s very significant,” NAJEX president Charles Aronson told The AJN.

“To be able to present it to the Sydney Jewish Museum, to be part of their Australian Jewish Military exhibition is really something quite special.”

Curator, Collections at the museum Shannon Biederman said: “The exemplary service of Captain Samuels will now be documented through these items for future generations, and further highlight the contribution of members of the Jewish community to the Australian Military.”

The acquisition of the medals and papers comes on the anniversary of the start of World War II and with next year’s Centenary of Anzac commemorations on the horizon.

“The Centenary of Anzac has drawn a lot of interest … I think that the next three to four years in Australia will see a resurgence of interest in military history,” Aronson said.

NAJEX is currently seeking items of historical interest and anecdotes, from Jewish ex-servicemen and women or their relatives, for the Centenary of Anzac commemorations and in particular for the book on the history of Jews in the Australian military being written by Jewish author Mark Dapin.


The late Captain John Harris Samuels.