Sharing Stories of Service: Stanton Mellick

Major Mellick, 1939-1945, 31553 John Stanton Davis Mellick Archive, Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: 31553-0003-0004

John 'Stanton' Davis Mellick, attended Brisbane Grammar School in the 1930s, and later studied accountancy before beginning his association with the Australian Armed Forces. In 1938, with war looming in Europe, Stan joined the Citizen Military Forces (CMF, or militia). When war broke out a year later, he was immediately promoted to lieutenant and posted to 1 Cavalry Brigade Signals Troop, part of the CMF. Aged just 19, he was in charge of 30 men.

Stan enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Redbank Camp, soon after its formation. He was made Adjutant of Australian Signals in the First Military District, based in Brisbane, and soon afterwards he married his long-time girlfriend, Letty. Stan was again promoted and made captain, by which time he had transferred to the 5th Division Signals Company as General Staff Officer (Class III). Divisional HQ moved to Townsville in April 1942, and Stan arrived in July – just in time to witness the Japanese bombing of the city.

In January 1943 the division was dispatched to Milne Bay to relieve the 11th Division, which had established a base and successfully fought off a determined Japanese invasion. Stan noted how strongly fortified the base was, and that the Japanese continued to bomb every night. In August, Divisional HQ then moved to Salamaua and a month later, on to Lae, where it was redesignated as HQ Lae Fortress. While stationed there, Stan became ill with dysentery. He was eventually evacuated to Port Moresby but recovered quickly.

After briefly rejoining the division, Stan transferred to the general staff of First Army HQ in Toowoomba before it was relocated in May 1944 to Mareeba, in north Queensland, as it prepared to take a more active role in the fierce fighting further north. In October, First Army HQ was dispatched to New Guinea, and Stan again found himself in Lae.

In early 1945, the Brigadier of the general staff tasked Stan with the formulation of a plan to capture the fiercely defended town of Rabaul, on the island of New Britain. The plan was never enacted because the Japanese surrendered soon after the atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August.

After the Japanese capitulation, a number of surrender ceremonies were held across South-East Asia. On 9 September 1945, almost a month after Japan officially surrendered, one of the largest ceremonies was conducted on Morotai Island, the headquarters of Australian forces in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia). General Sir Thomas Blamey, Commander-in-Chief of all Australian military forces, accepted the sword and signature of Lieutenant General Fusataro Teshima in front of 10,000 Australian and allied troops. Although Stan did not attend, he rescued some original photographs of the ceremony that were about to be thrown in the rubbish.

'Sappers' in training, North Queensland, 1939-1945, 31553 John Stanton Davis Mellick Archive, Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number:31553-0001-0036

After the war Mellick qualified as a pharmacist and worked in this field for many years. Mellick also distinguished himself in other areas, including as a senior lecturer in English language and literature at the University of Queensland; service on the Board of St Andrews War Memorial Hospital; post-war military service as Lieutenant Colonel commanding 401 Signal Regiment; Chairman of the Restoration Task Force St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Chairman of Grace College council, as well as being honoured in 1997 through the Stan Mellick Centre at the University of Le Havre in France, in recognition of services to that University.

Pay day, Angau, near Lae, New Guinea, 1944-1945, 31553 John Stanton Davis Mellick Archive, Brisbane John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 1553-0002-0039

Mellick is the author of several published literary works including: A centennial history of the Pharmaceutical Society of Queensland, 1880-1980; The Passing Guest: a life of Henry Kingsley; and Keeping faith: a history of St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, 1958-2003.

In 2005 Mellick was awarded the Medal for the Order of Australia (OAM) "for services to the community, particularly through the restoration of St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, and to Australian cultural studies", and in 2016 endowed the State Library of Queensland ‘Letty Katts Award’ in honour of his late wife, through the Queensland Library Foundation, that supports research and documentation of Queensland’s music history.

Stanton Mellick and his wartime experiences are featured at Anzac Square Memorial Galleries.

In 2022 we will be featuring 15 stories of service personnel from WWI to present. We encourage you to share your stories of service with us. To learn more about this campaign and how you can contribute, visit our website.

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Marg Powell | Specialist Library Technician | State Library of Queensland

Updated by Anzac Square Memorial Galleries

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