Adelaide brothers in arms John and Archie Boyes were Rats of Tobruk heroes who fought with distinction in the North Africa campaign.... But they never got recognition, going to their graves pleading for the five service medals, like these, that were cruelly denied them for nothing more than disciplinary misdemeanours.
So their nephew, Vietnam Veteran Ken Stephens embarked on a three year fight with defence bureaucrats to restore his family's military honour that dates back to every major conflict since the Boxer Rebellion.
As we are about to reveal, Ken's remarkable lone stand is going to re-write history... not just for his uncles Jack and Archie, but hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other servicemen and their families.
John Boyes fought with the second 10th at El Alamein and Tobruk and then in New Guinea. Shorty Boyes served with the famed second 48th battalion... it's still the most decorated in our history with 4 Victoria Crosses and 80 other decorations for valour... this photograph of Shorty is in the National War Museum.
“I couldn’t believe it... It was a fantastic photo… there is my uncle graffiting a café in Tobruk but he had his name & number on there,” says Ken.
Bill McEvoy was sixteen when he enlisted and is one of the few surviving Rats of Tobruk... when we met Bill two years ago, he fondly remembered "Shorty's" alcohol fuelled antics like riding a donkey through the officers mess.
Here's Shorty's record... He liked a drink far more than commanding officers... going absent without leave for a few days while on a bender then returned to the fighting... petty stuff really... his brother John was also a heavy drinker... he was found not guilty of striking an officer at a court martial but guilty of other minor offences... both were routinely discharged after the war, however the Army decided they were incorrigible and forfeited their medals. They would never march with their mates on Anzac Day.
“I couldn't sleep at night… it bothered me and kept on bothering me until I sat down, did some research and put it in writing and sent off to apply for their medals,” explains Ken.
Well three years later, as a result of Ken's appeal, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal has delivered bombshell findings and recommendations on the issuing of medals since 1939.
In a stunning rebuke to the Defence department the tribunal found that the Boyes brothers were entitled to their medals because they earned them under regulations in place at the time... they had not committed any of the serious offences that would have seen medals forfeited and that they were not dishonourably discharged.
“…Highlighted so much inconsistencies and that's Army we are talking about… haven’t dealt with Air Force & Navy so there could be hundreds… I would say thousands,” says Ken.
The tribunal has also recommended that the Defence Minister order an inquiry to determine how many more servicemen had their medals improperly forfeited or withheld since 1939. It will come as a godsend to all those surviving veterans and their families who have lived with the ignominy.
“I am sure people out there with similar cases to me that needs to be fixed, justice has to be served in all cases, not one,” says Ken.
South Australian president of the RSL... Brigadeer Tim Hanna says the tribunal's decision is a welcome one and will have enormous ramifications for the defence department.
90 year old Bill McEvoy couldn't be happier for the Boyes brothers when we delivered him the news... for his part in Ken's fight for justice... we had a surprise for Bill... something he has always wanted… a dead man's penny.
There was one more solemn duty to carry out at Cheltenham Cemetery where Ken did the honours in presenting the chest of medals his uncle’s John and Archie should have received 70 years ago.