Surf race held despite the war

Name: BillĀ Grose
Date: 1940
Unit: 6th Division AIF
Location: Gaza, Middle East

The Mediterranean is not renowned for its surf carnivals at the best of times much less in the middle of a major war. Which makes the holding of an open surf race in 1940 all the more remarkable.

Members of the Australian 6th Division were stationed at Gaza Beach in the Middle East under the command of General Thomas Blamey.

Like all good Australians, they were keen on sport and came up with the idea of holding a swimming carnival as a distraction from the war.

General Blamey gave his full support to the idea and even donated a cup for the winner of the open surf race, which was held on 14 July 1940.

Among the contestants was a former active member of the North Narrabeen Surf Club, William Grose, by then aged 39. He took on all comers, most of who were much younger than himself, and ploughed through the warm waters to win the event and the trophy.

Having proudly won the event, Bill Grose then had to concentrate on the war. He had a number of narrow escapes, surviving the sinking of a ship which was dive-bombed during the evacuation from Greece.

Later, during the North African campaign, an army truck he was travelling in with fellow members of the Division struck a land mine near Benghazi. Several of the occupants were killed and Bill was left unconscious.

He later learned that a life saver from another Sydney club had saved his life by extracting his dentures which had become lodged in his throat.

Bill was a prominent surf competitor for many years with the North Narabeen Club. He was a member of the team which won the Australian Relay Team Championship with George and Wal Proudfoot and Scotty Black. He was also at various times appointed a beach inspector at Palm Beach in Sydney, Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast and Yepoon in Queensland.

Bill Grosse died on 28 December 1975 aged 75. The Blamey Cup was donated to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia by Bill's brother Sidney after his brother's death and is held at Surf House.

The material for this article was supplied by Mrs Jeanette Batcheler, of New South Wales, niece of Bill Grose
8/01/2002 10:23:00 AM

Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), Surf race held despite the war, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 21 January 2021,
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