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Cummings, Clement James (1908–1991)

One of Australia's most distinguished field officers of World War II, Colonel Clement James Cummings, OBE, died in Canberra on January 6 at the age of 82.

Colonel Cummings is credited with a crucial role in winning one of the most important battles in the Japanese thrust toward Australia, at Milne Bay, in August-September, 1942.

Colonel Cummings was born in 1908, in Atherton, Queensland, the eighth child of Albert John Askew and Emma Cummings. He left school at 14 to work as a clerk. He married Mary Robinson in 1933.

After joining the Citizens' Forces when he came of age in 1927, he was transferred to the Australian Imperial Forces in 1939 just after the outbreak of World War II. In 1941 he served in Palestine, Egypt and Syria, and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel in December that year.

He was wounded at Buna late in 1942, and in hospital for two months before being promoted to colonel and placed in charge of the 1st Australian Beach Group, whose activities in cluded landings at Labuan and North Brunei.

He received an OBE in 1943 for his distinguished military carecr, a Distinguished Service Order in 1945, and an Efficiency Decoration in 1947. Colonel Cummings was invalided out and discharged in November, 1945.

An officer who served with Colonel Cummings said the men of the battalion had regarded him as "one apart".

"We respected his leadership, trysted him completely and accepted his discipline without question," he said in a letter to his wife.

In addition to his outstanding war services, Colonel Cummings played a very active role in many facets of community affairs both in his home town of Cairns and, since 1962, in various ex-servicemen's organisations in Canberra.

He served as treasurer of the Woden Valley sub-branch of the RSL from 1963 to 1978 and was largely responsible for the Silver Brick Competition which built the sub-branch club-house in 1969.

He was awarded the Meritorious Medal for Service to the RSL in May, 1990. An active sportsman, he represented Cairns in cricket and rugby league.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and three children.

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'Cummings, Clement James (1908–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cummings-clement-james-17344/text30079, accessed 29 May 2020.

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