Vale Rat of Tobruk, Sydney Kinsman

Black and white photo from 1940s of young man in Army uniform

Rat of Tobruk Sydney Kinsman died recently, aged 100.

Syd joined the Australian Army in July 1940, having just turned 19. He served with the 2/48th Infantry Battalion in Palestine, Libya, Benghazi, Tobruk, Syria and El Alamein.

He proudly remembered the 2/48th Battalion, which saw out the full nine months of the siege of Tobruk as a highly decorated unit, with four Victoria Cross recipients in its ranks. Syd was wounded during the siege

After Tobruk, Syd went to Syria following the fall of Crete, before the battalion was ordered to Egypt and El Alamein in July 1941. It was at El Alamein that Syd was taken prisoner of war. He was held in Benghazi, Libya, until he was sent to Italy a year later. In September 1943, he and two others escaped to Switzerland from their work camp near the Vercelli rice fields in Italy’s north, hiking at night across the Monte Moro Pass in the Italian Alps.

After the war, Syd picked fruit in the Riverland before returning to Adelaide to qualify to work in the building industry. He then went to Central Australia shooting kangaroos for RM Williams to make some money. In 1949, he started building houses in Alice Springs where he remained for the rest of his life.

Mr Kinsman was well known in Alice Springs, where, according to the ABC, he was the town's last living Second World War veteran. Last year the local council erected a monument in his honour, to coincide with his 100th birthday.

An estimated 750 cars and vehicles took part in an Anzac Day ‘drive-past tribute’ past the home of Mr Kinsman on Anzac Day 2020. See ‘Drive-past tribute honours Alice’s Rat of Tobruk’ in the Winter 2020 Vetaffairs.

Sydney passed away on 15 June 2022, a month shy of his 101st birthday.

Below: Syd Kinsman with an Anzac Day tribute he built for fallen comrades and veterans and their families, during the 2020 COVID lockdown. (Photo: Moogie Curtis)

Old man next to timber post with poppies and boards with the Ode of Remembrance inscribed on them