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Mary Ellen Fairbairn (nee McNamara) 1881-1955 by Ann Rackstraw

Mary Ellen and Henry Hunter Fairbairn’s children
   g. Thomas Gordon Fairbairn

Thomas Gordon Fairbairn
29 Oct 1919 - 11 Dec 2005

Married 1. 10 Jun 1944

Dorothy Jean Roy
1920 - 2 Aug 1961

Married 2.

Joyce Vivian May Simons
(nee Sullivan)
1917 >

g. Thomas (Tom) Gordon Fairbairn was born on 29 Oct 1919 at Flemington, Victoria. The family was living at Norwood St Flemington at the time (Great War Index Reg No 27347 & WW2 Nominal Roll and information provided by Tom's sister, Margaret Rackstraw).

In 1932 Tom contracted Scarlet Fever and was sent to Gulpa Siding, NSW to stay with his cousin Robert and his wife Emily (nee Ridge) Fairbairn. When he was well enough he went to Deniliquin to stay with Emily's family and went to school there. He returned home to his mother after two years (Notes taken by John Rackstraw, Tom's nephew, from conversation with Tom, 15 August 2005).

Tom enlisted in the Australian Army in WW2:
Service No VX35271
Date of Birth 29 Oct 1919
Place of birth Flemington, Vic
Date of Enlistment 3 Jul 1940
Locality on Enlistment Flemington, Vic
Place of Enlistment Royal Park, Vic
Next of Kin Fairbairn, Dorothy
Date of discharge 8 Oct 1945
Rank Rank
Posting at Discharge 2/8 Australian Infantry Battalion
(WW2 Nominal Roll, Commonwealth of Australia, website).

Thomas Gordon Fairbairn
Thomas Gordon Fairbairn
Photograph provided by John Rackstraw

Tom embarked from Melbourne on 29 Dec 1940 on H.M.T. Mauritania and disembarked in Palestine on 31 Jan 1941 where he marched out on 9 Feb 1941 to join the 2/8th who had arrived in the Middle East on 18 May 1940 and trained in Palestine and Egypt in preparation for its first campaign against the Italians in eastern Libya. The 2/8th had played a small roll at Bardia (3-5 Jan 1941) but suffered the heaviest casualties of any Australian unit during the battle of Tobruk (21-22 Jan 1941).

On 31 Mar 1941 the 2/8th embarked for Greece and fought a fierce battle with German troops at Vevi in the north on 11-12 Apr 1941 but, overstretched and assailed by a vastly superior force, was forced to withdraw. The battalion became disorganised, lost a great deal of its weapons and equipment, and many of the troops were separated. They were evacuated from Kalamata in two ships on the night of 26 Apr. Only 199 members of the battalion were taken straight back to Eqypt, while another 394 were landed on Crete after their transport Costa Rica was sunk. This party fought around Canea after the landing of German troops on 20 May (Extracted from Unit History of 2/8th Battalion, Australian War Memorial website and WW2 Service File, NAA Series B883, Barcode 6224788).

On 27 Apr 1941 when the troops were being evacuated from Greece, Tom was on board the Costa Rica, at 2.40pm enemy aircraft came out of the sun and bombed the ship, although there was no direct hit, the force of the explosion caused the engines to stop and by 3pm water was coming through gaps in the plates on port side. The British destroyers Hero and Hereward, who were already crowded with evacuating troops, took on board the troops from the Costa Rica. Tom claimed his feet never got wet (Australian War Memorial, website, Official Histories, WW2, Vol II, Chapter 7 and notes taken by John Rackstraw, Tom's nephew, from conversation with Tom, 15 August 2005).

Postcard Image Cairo – The Mosque of Ibn Tulûn
Cairo – The Mosque of Ibn Tulûn
Mrs H Fairbairn
8 Brighton Street
Flemington Vic Australia

Dear Mum and all at home

Just a few lines to
tell you that I am well
and happy have been ship
wrecked and feeling no
ill effect. Please excuse
me for not writing before
this as I have been on
the move ever since I have
arrived here did you
receive my card your loving son Tom

Postcard sent by Tom to his mother after the sinking of the Costa Rica 27 April 1941
Transcription of faded postcard provided by Raymond Fairbairn

The battalion was reunited in Palestine on 3 Jun 1941. On 2 Aug Tom was attached to Officer's School and on 8 Sep he rejoined his unit. On 29 Oct Tom was detached from his unit for Special Duty (Batman). On 2 Apr 1942 Tom embarked for home on Felix Rousell and arrived at Adelaide on 23 May at SA L of C Area. On 20 Jul 1942 Tom rejoined his unit from Special Duties and the next day was detached for Special Duty (Batman). In Jun the 2/8th was deployed to defend Darwin. On 20 Jun 1943 Tom entrained from N.T. to L of C Area Qld.

On 12 Apr 1944 Tom attended the First Aust Army AASC School and completed the Orderly Room Sergeant Wing Course No 16, his rank was recorded as Lance Cpl, he was recommended as ‘Competent to perform the duties of an Orderly Room Sgt, personal characteristics ‘Keen and conscientious, displayed interest throughout the course’.

On 28 Oct 1944 Tom embarked with the 2/8th for New Guinea on board USAT Mexico, they disembarked at Aitape on 1 Nov 1944 to undertake the 2/8th’s only campaign against the Japanese. It was involved in the Danmap river operations between Dec 1944 and Feb 1945, and then the advance on Wewak and clearance of the Prince Alexander Range between April and July 1945. On 6 May 1945 Tom was promoted to Sergeant. The capture of the dominating heights of Mount Shiburangu on 7 Jun was the battalion's greatest achievement of the campaign. Following the Japanese surrender on 15 Aug, drafts of 2/8th men began returning to Australia for discharge (Extracted from Unit History of 2/8th Battalion, Australian War Memorial website and WW2 Service File, NAA Series B883, Barcode 6224788).

Additional information obtained from Tom's service file:
Address after his marriage to Dorothy, 50 Smith St West Brunswick
Religion Presbyterian
Presbyterian 5ft 6 ½ ins
Complexion Dark
Hair Dark
Eyes Hazel
Scar on Right forearm
Occupation Metal Worker
Tom's next of kin was originally listed as his mother Mary Fairbairn, 8 Brighton St Flemington
(WW2 Service File, NAA Series B884, Barcode 6224788).







When Tom was serving in Greece in 1941, an old lady in a village gave him a small Greek bible, although he could not read it, he carried it throughout the war, and bought it back to Australia, later, after he retired to Queensland the bible went missing. On 13 March 1981 the Greek Consul presented Tom with a replacement bible as a token of gratitude from the Greek Nation (Notes taken by John Rackstraw, Tom's nephew, from conversation with Tom, 15 August 2005).

Tom Fairbairn
Tom Fairbairn at an Anzac Day March (date unknown)
Photograph provided by Raymond Fairbairn

He married 1. Dorothy Jean Roy, daughter of Arthur Roy and Elizabeth Mary Smith, on 10 Jun 1944 at Brunswick, Victoria (WW2 Service File, NAA Series B884, Barcode 6224788).

Tom was employed as a painter and decorator for over 20 years and worked for Dobsons, Tom and Dorothy also had a drycleaning shop and lending library in Footscray (Notes taken by John Rackstraw, Tom's nephew, from conversation with Tom, 15 August 2005). Tom and Dorothy later divorced.

Tom married 2. Joyce Vivian May Simons (nee Sullivan), daughter of Frederick John Sullivan and Ivy Adelaide Spence.

Tom died on 11 Dec 2005 at Caloundra, Queensland. His body was cremated on 15 Dec 2005 at Caloundra, Queensland, his ashes were collected by his son Raymond Fairbairn (Information provided by John Rackstraw who attended the funeral).

Tom and Dorothy had two sons.

1. Dorothy Jean Roy

Dorothy Jean Roy. Her married name was Fairbairn. She was born in 1920 at Brunswick East, Victoria (Great War Index Reg No 18813).

After Dorothy and Tom were divorced Dorothy reverted to her maiden name.

Dorothy died of Retro-peritoneal abscess and carcinoma of the cervix on 2 Aug 1961, aged 40, at Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria. She had been ill for 4 years. The informant was her sister Elsa May Mason (nee Roy). It was recorded on her death certificate that Dorothy had lived in NSW for 2 years and her usual address was 18 Hooper Cres West Brunswick. Her body was cremated on 4 Aug 1961 (Vic Death Certificate No 14636/61). Dorothy's ashes were scattered, by request, on 23 Mar 1962 at Fawkner Crematorium & Memorial Park, Victoria, (Email dated 18 May 2007 from Fawkner Crematorium & Memorial Park).

2. Joyce Vivian May Sullivan

Joyce Vivian May Sullivan was born in 1917 at East Melbourne, Victoria (Great War Index, 1914-1920, Reg No 5340).

Her first married name was Simons. She married 1. James Arthur Simons in 1938 in Victoria (Marriage Index Victoria, 1921-1942, Reg No 7728). Her second married name was Fairbairn.


Jessie Doreen Fairbairn


Jean Mary Fairbairn