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08 January 2010

Sapper Malcolm Neale Tilbrook Steele of Blackwood

Photo: Courtesy Jenny Sharman (nee Steele)

Malcolm 'Mally' Steele was born in Mount Gambier, SA in 1895. He served in the senior cadets for two years, but was considered too short (at 5 foot 2 inches tall) for the citizen's forces. Despite his height, he was a handy amateur bantamweight boxer, and had won some fights before the war. He was a wood working machinist and was living with his mother in Norwood at the time of his enlistment at the age of 20.

He enlisted on 6 July 1915 and was allocated to the 32nd Battalion, a unit which included West Australians as well as South Australians. He arrived in Egypt with the rest of his unit in December 1915 and was allocated to the battalion machine gun section. After a spell in hospital, during which his unit prepared to ship out to France, he was transferred to the 9th Light Horse Regiment as a trooper. He served with the Regiment from May to October 1916 before a further stint in hospital then a transfer to the signals engineers as a sapper. He was allocated to the ANZAC Mounted Division Signals Squadron which used despatch riders, heliograph, telephone and semaphore to communicate between the brigades and regiments of the Division. He served with the Division between April and October 1917, but bouts of malaria prevented him from active involvement in the fighting during 1918.

After the war ended he was selected as a member of the AIF boxing team to compete in the Inter-Allied Games held in Paris in June/July 1918. He also fought bouts aboard the 'Prinz Ludwig' on his return trip to Australia in late 1919. Malcolm married in 1925, and was a member of the Norwood Sub-Branch of the RSL and a keen supporter of the Norwood Football Club all his life.

Malcolm also served in the Second World War reaching the rank of Corporal in the 4th Garrison Battalion. For some time he was in charge of the guardhouse located at the entrance of what became the Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, SA. He also worked as a motorcycle dispatch rider at one stage during that war.

In 1949, Malcolm, his wife Dorothy, his daughter Jenny and her husband moved to Blackwood and built a home at 8 Cypress Avenue, Blackwood (later Hawthorndene), and Malcolm lived there until his death in 1973.

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