Nowra RSL farewells stalwart Norm Pettit

NOWRA RSL Sub-Branch stalwart Norm Pettit passed away on August 21, aged 96.

Norman Keith Pettit first enlisted in the militia in on November 20, 1938, aged 18.

He served in the 1st Cavalry Division of the Light Horse Brigade based at Inverell in northern NSW.

The Light Horse became part of the CMF and Norm moved to the signals depot, training at Paddington.

He completed his training on August 21, 1940 with the rank of corporal and transferred to the AIF in September 1941.

Through most of his military career Norm was employed as a group one instrument mechanic.

He transferred to the Australian Army Ordnance Corps training depot where he remained until February 1942, by which time he was already in the Middle East, having sailed on the Queen Mary with the 7th Division.

While on the troop ship Norm contested many boxing events, but due to his age no one took him seriously until he defeated opponents two divisions higher than his own weight class.

He was posted to the 4th Australian Ordnance Workshops Company where he remained until June 1942.

He then transferred to the 4th Australian Light Anti Aircraft Regiment workshops section. This unit was part of the 7th Division, with Norm finding himself in Libya and as far west a Tobruk with the British 8th Army.

It was the same month when Tobruk fell to Rommel’s forces. The 8th Army pulled back to El Alamein, just 60 miles west of Alexandria and the Suez Canal.

El Alamein ranks with Stalingrad and Midway as turning points in the Second World War.

However, he almost didn’t get there, following the Syrian campaign he was aboard a troop ship at Port Tewfik heading home.

Just two hours before sailing he was taken off to join the 9th  Division, his expertise with the Bofors predictors was needed in the Western Desert.

By the time he left North Africa in February 1943, the Germans had been forced west by the 8th Army until they met up with the allied army which landed in Morocco and Tunisia in November 1942.

Following his return home in March 1943 there was just enough time to get married before his unit was off to Tully and Mareeba in North Queensland for jungle training.

By July 31, 1943 they were in the Ramu Valley in New Guinea in combat with the Japanese on Shaggy Ridge and The Pimple until the campaign ended.

He returned to Australia on May 20, 1944 and transferred to the 2/4th Australian Anti-Aircraft Workshops in October that year.

His next posting in January 1945, was a surprise, to the 1st Australian Dental Mechanic Training Unit.

He then posted to the 56th Australian Dental Unit in July 1945 where he remained until demobilising on March 6, 1945.

He completed a total of seven and a half years service.

He was also a member of the Nowra RSL Sub-Branch for 34 years. He was always on the committee and always active.

He was co-ordinator of the Lyrebird Day Club in its early days.

For many years he was the delegate to state congress and district council.

He was awarded life membership of the league in 2004 and served as vice-president until recently.

He was the beloved husband of Betty and Ruth (both deceased) and father and father-in-law to Julie, Kerry and Barry, Lindy,  Rae and Peter.

He also had seven grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Norm’s funeral was held at the chapel of the Worrigee Crematorium on Monday, August 29.

  • Supplied by Nowra RSL Sub-Branch
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