“Do you know of someone who may be able to identify the Carlton footballer in my Uncle’s drawing?”
The question was asked by Adelaide resident Dolph Young, who recently shared this pen and ink image, which was sketched by his father’s brother Allan Young sometime between June and December 1941.
Dolph’s interest in solving the mystery of the player portrayed in Uncle Allan’s sketch was stirred a few weeks ago, when he discovered the precious item amongst his father’s papers. Noting the famous monogram on the guernsey, he resolved to contact the Carlton Football Club seeking an answer to the question of the player’s identity.
In viewing the image, which also carried Allan’s signature, Dolph also responded with heartfelt emotion.
“My Uncle was a Prisoner of War on Ambon Island. He sent this drawing to his mother and asked that she keep it for his return,” Dolph said.
“Tragically, he never came home. He was brutally murdered by the enemy while he was a prisoner.”
Allan William (‘Bill’) Young, a twin and the youngest of nine children, was born in the north-west Tasmanian coastal town of Wynyard on August 27, 1918 – less than three months before The Armistice was signed to bring merciful end to the war to end all wars
In his teenage years, Allan followed his father into the building trade – but he also toiled as a farm labourer through Depression times. Though slightly built, he was more than handy as a boxer and his strength belied his spindly frame. To win a bet, he famously lugged a cement brick some six kilometres from the Penguin Town Hall to the top of Mt. Montgomery in just over an hour, then lit a fire on the summit to signal his success – a feat reported in the local press.
Allan later relocated to Melbourne to pursue work opportunities, but following the outbreak of the Second World War he enlisted with the Australian Army. That happened at Royal Park, not far from the old Carlton ground, on May 5, 1941, and Allan was just 22.
In June of that year, Private Young (service no. VX54913) was posted to Darwin with members of the 2nd/21st Battalion, which formed part of the 23rd Brigade, 8th Division of the 2nd AIF. The ensuing months were not ideal for him and his fellow soldiers, given the primitive amenities, isolation and mundane garrison duties.
“However, in reading Allan’s letters to his family from Darwin he seemed content with his lot,” Dolph said, “and the series of drawings, including the one of the Carlton footballer, are thought to have been completed by him in this period.”
On December 13, 1941, Allan embarked for the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia), as part of the Allied defence as part of what was known as “Gull Force”. He set foot on the island just seven days before Christmas.
Conditions on Ambon were terrible and the Commanding Officer of the 2nd/21st despaired for the limited rations, ammunition, transport, air and artillery support. Worse still, the battalion comprised just 1100 troops (3700 in total together with a Dutch force) and was no match for the advancing Japanese.
On January 30, 1942, barely a month after Pte Young set foot on the island, the Japanese invaded Ambon. Despite determined resistance, members of the 2nd/21st were overwhelmed in the battle, and from February 2, members of the 2nd/21st were subjected to some of the worst atrocities of the Second World War.
In six days from February 15, more than 200 Australian soldiers who had tried to defend the airport at Laha as part of Gull Force were murdered in cold blood by their captors.
Pte Allan Young, aged 23, was one of them.
On February 20, 1942, Pte Young was executed and buried in a mass grave.
Allan’s fate did not become known to his parents until after war’s end. His father Albert survived him by five years; his mother Marion by almost thirty.
Today, Allan’s memory is perpetuated by way of the Australian ex-Prisoners Of War Memorial at Ballarat. His name is also inscribed on the Ambon Memorial to the Missing in Amboina, and on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
The Carlton footballer thought to be the subject of Allan’s sketch is none other than the uncompromising Bob Chitty, a member of the Blues’ 1938 Premiership team who later captained the old dark Navy Blues to victory in ‘The Bloodbath’ Grand Final of 1945.
As with Allan Young, Chitty’s brother Arthur - considered the best footballer of the clan – made the ultimate sacrifice. He was killed at El Alamein whilst on active service with the 2/23 Australian infantry Battalion. Two more Chitty brothers Ron and Phil were taken prisoners of war by the Germans and later released, while Peter, a two-game St Kilda player, famously earned the “Changi Brownlow Medal” for being best afield in a match involving Victoria and the rest at the prison camp.
In comparing the old Blue’s likeness with Allan’s portrait, Dolph and his wife Ann concurred. To quote Dolph: “It would seem Bob Chitty shares a likeness . . . and we greatly appreciate your support as we remember all who served for our sake”.
Lest We Forget.