Corporal Mervyn Hall was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his outstanding gallantry on the geographic feature known as ‘the Pimple’ during the battles for Shaggy Ridge in 1943. The Army Museum of Western Australia (AMWA) is the fortunate custodian of his DCM and four campaign medals.
The 2/16th Battalion from Western Australia was in the 7th Division and the photograph forms part of the historical account of the fierce but often neglected battles in the Ramu and Markham Valleys of New Guinea in 1943.
In later written histories and articles that included this well recognised image, the soldier is correctly identified as WX14757 Corporal Mervyn Hall who was awarded the DCM for his outstanding gallantry.
The Army Museum of Western Australia (AMWA) is most fortunate to hold Merv Hall’s DCM and four campaign medals in its collection, as his contribution as a Western Australian is significant to our military history and heritage. Additionally, Hall’s identity discs were also donated to the museum. These identity discs are clearly visible in the photograph (right).
The citation for the award of his DCM reads:
During the attack on SHAGGY RIDGE on 27 DEC 43, CPL HALL was almost entirely responsible for the success of the operation.
The attack took place over precipitous ground, already made more difficult as a result of heavy bombing and shelling, which necessitated crawling on hands and knees to reach the first part of the objective - a strongly fortified pillbox occupied by five enemy with two machine guns.
Observing that his SGT - WX 4241 SGT McMahon who had crawled to within a few feet of the post - was in trouble. CPL HALL advanced alone, in the face of a hail of grenades and machine gun fire, to the entrance of the pillbox and killed one of the occupants with a burst from his OWEN Gun. A second Jap leapt out of the post with a knife at CPL HALL but he battered the enemy with the butt of his OWEN Gun and with grenades, quickly silenced the remaining occupants.
Although almost blinded by grenade wounds, CPL HALL advanced ahead of his section to a second post one hundred yards along the one man track of the razor back and attacked with undiminishing dash and lack of regard for his safety. Only when his section were able to get forward and assist in the battle did he consent to go back for medical attention.
CPL HALL’s fearless leadership and remarkable courage against almost impossible odds enabled his platoon to consolidate on the nearly won ground and gain the objective.
By the end of 2012, the AMWA will have opened its new World War Two Gallery and the Merv Hall DCM story will be installed in the Ramu - Markham Valley campaign section. This gallery is phase two of a three phase, $1.9 million up-grade of existing galleries in readiness for 2014 when the centenary of the Great War will be commemorated through to 2018.
The AMWA, located at Fremantle’s historic Artillery Barracks, was established in 1977 and is a Regional Museum within the Australian Army History Unit. It interprets the military heritage of Western Australians in the Australian Army and the Army in Western Australia from the time of British settlement in 1826 through to current operations. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday and has some 120 Active Volunteers.
Captain Wayne Gardiner, RFD
Assistant Manager, Army Museum of WA
Army History Unit (AHU)