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Rudkin, Raymond Sidney (Ray) (1920–2010)

by Malcolm Brown

Ray Rudkin set out in life to be a bank employee but world events sent him on a rather different course. He became one of the ''Thirty-Niners'' – men who were serving in the militia or the RAN/RAAF reserves when World War II started. Many of those enlisted in the Second AIF. Rudkin fought with the Ninth Division 2AIF at Tobruk, El Alamein, Lae, Finschhaven, Sio and Brunei.

After the war, despite his repeated efforts to return to the serene world of banking, the military never left him. He served as a soldier in Kashmir, then Korea. He finally stepped down in 1967 after 28 years with the forces.

Raymond Sidney Rudkin was born at Nyngan, western NSW, on July 4, 1920, on a government experimental farm, son of Gallipoli veteran Thomas (Sid) Rudkin, who worked for the NSW Department of Agriculture, and Elsie (nee Clark). He did his schooling at Nyngan and at Temora, where he did brilliantly in his exams. At 16, he joined the Rural Bank at Temora and in 1937 joined the 56th Militia Battalion, which was locally based. In 1940, he took leave from the bank and was on a three-month militia training camp when the Seventh Division was formed. He enlisted and became part of the 2/17 Battalion.

Rudkin sailed with the battalion for the Middle East on October 20, 1940, the same date that his father had sailed for service in World War I in 1914. With a reshuffle of brigade structure, the 2/17 Battalion became part of the Ninth Division. When not fighting, he played rugby league in battalion teams. By 20 he was a sergeant major, and he was commissioned in Cairo in 1941. His sister, Kathleen, sent to the Middle East as a nurse, married a member of the battalion, Austin Mackel. Rudkin went to the Pacific Theatre to fight the Japanese, then was in the liberation of Brunei, where he was awarded the Military Cross. He finished the war as a captain.

Demobilised in 1946, Rudkin returned to the bank, starting at Lockhart in the Riverina, then Barham and Narrandera. He continued his sport, winning many golf tournaments in the Riverina. In 1948, he agreed to join the Citizens Military Forces (CMF), which had just been formed. He became a member of the 7/21 Battalion. Plenty of World War II veterans joined the CMF, because they thought the world's troubles were not over.

In 1950, his father was killed in a car accident and Rudkin and his mother moved to Harbord in Sydney. He was approached by the then Lieutenant-Colonel John Broadbent, his wartime commanding officer, to serve in the CMF, agreed and became commander of the 17/18 Infantry Battalion's support company, based in Chatswood. In 1952 he was promoted to major and in July that year volunteered to go to Kashmir as part of the force supervising the accord between India and Pakistan. He travelled extensively and was posted for three months to New Delhi as liaison officer to the commander-in-chief of the Indian Army. Rudkin kept up his sport and played golf with the private secretary of the Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. He also met Dawn Cunningham, private secretary to the Australian High Commissioner.

Rudkin returned to Australia in 1956 and within days, instead of going back to the bank, volunteered to go to Korea as a representative of the Commonwealth Advisory Group and observer team in the UN Military Armistice Commission. He was based at Panmunjom on the border, but again travelled widely. He married Dawn in the Australian embassy in Tokyo in 1957. Returning to the Rural Bank, Rudkin started as manager of the Queanbeyan branch. He had management appointments to Lismore and the University of NSW before becoming the Sydney metropolitan divisional manager. He was president of the 2/17 Battalion Association and for years belonged to a 2/17 Battalion luncheon club. After retiring, he went to live at Maianbar, in Sydney's south, and became a leading light in the community, being among other things patron of the local RSL.

In 2008, he was a guest at a morning tea hosted by the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, to mark the 60th anniversary of the formation of the CMF. Last year, he was honoured by the Reserve Forces Day Council, along with others among the ranks of the Thirty-Niners.

Ray Rudkin is survived by his sons Richard and Andrew and three grandchildren. Dawn died in 2008. There will be a memorial service today at 2pm at the Holy Trinity Garrison Church, Millers Point.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 2010

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Rudkin, Raymond Sidney (Ray) (1920–2010)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/rudkin-raymond-sidney-ray-16856/text28752, accessed 29 March 2020.

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