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Edward Willis

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Kevin Stanley Curran (10 December 1920 – 20 April 1978) - VX47342

I was attracted to the story of Kevin Curran by a former friend (since passed away) who grew up in post WWII Melbourne and one of whose favourite memories was watching Kevin Curran play for Hawthorn.  My friend knew about Curran’s wartime heroics because they were well publicised in the press; and he thought that the way Curran played football epitomised his fighting spirit.

This narration of Kevin Curran’s life has been prepared from material in the public domain – newspaper reports (some quoting his own words), articles and correspondence from the 2/2 Commando Association’s Courierand books on the Timor campaign that describe Curran’s activities and actions.


Gordon and Kevin Curran

Pte. Curran, Gordon Thomas VX47360 11 Platoon, B Company, 2/40 Infantry Battalion KIA Baboe 21/2/42 (DVA lists 22/2/42).  Cpl. Curran, Kevin Stanley VX47342 No.2 Section, A Platoon, 2/2 Independent Company. [1]


Kevin Curran played just 85 games for Hawthorn, but his story from recruitment to captaincy was so remarkable and full of incident it could be mistaken for a movie script.

Curran was just a raw 18-year-old playing for Traralgon when chairman of selectors and former great Albert Hyde visited to see another player called Jones.  He wasn’t impressed with Jones, but definitely was with Curran, and asked him to join Hawthorn on the spot.

Kevin was less than enthusiastic.  He was happy on his farm hunting rabbits and foxes, and it was only after his local team had a bye and getting permission from his father he travelled to the big smoke to join the ‘Mayblooms’ as Hawthorn were then popularly known.

Hyde asked the selectors to give Curran plenty of time in the reserves to acclimatise to league football, but his performances were so good he was eventually promoted for the Round 7 match against Fitzroy at Brunswick Street.

However, the vice-president at Hawthorn, Jim McGuire, was unhappy, as the player Curran had replaced was one of his employees.  Amazingly, McGuire took out his anger on Curran – abusing one of his own players, an 18-year-old making his VFL debut no less, before the ball was even bounced.

Not surprisingly, Curran was overawed and struggled.  Hyde quit the selection committee in disgust the following week, and Curran, possibly disillusioned with the treatment, enlisted in the army.


Kevin and his brother Gordon enlisted on the same day, 23rd July 1940.  After being assigned to the same training battalion, they went their separate ways in March 1941 with Kevin, by then an Acting Corporal, volunteering to be tested for a special assignment at the 7th Infantry Training Centre, Foster on Wilson’s Promontory and Gordon being transferred to the 2/40 Battalion.

Kevin proved his worth in the commando training cadre at Foster and was taken on the strength of the 2nd Independent Company on 14th July 1941 becoming a member of No. 2 Section of A Platoon.

The brothers were temporarily reunited in Darwin on 8th December 1941 when their two units embarked on the troop ship Zealandia for transport to Koepang in Dutch West Timor as part of the ignominiously named Sparrow Force.  They separated again a few days later when the 2nd Independent Company departed by sea to occupy Dili in Portuguese East Timor.


Curran’s Section under the command of Lieutenant Gerry McKenzie was assigned to the defense of the Dili airfield:

“As the Australians grew more comfortable with their surroundings, they soon joked and skylarked their way through local settlements along the hills.  They were making an effort to learn the local languages, which was avoided by the Portuguese.  Corporal Kevin Curran employed a novel technique for breaking the ice with the locals.  Pulling back his ears with both hands, Curran's false teeth would emerge from his mouth and then drop into his hands.  The villagers would yell and laugh and come from all around to see Curran's magic”. [2] 

Doig gave a good description of the defensive preparations at the airfield and Curran’s role in preparing them:

“… McKenzie returned to the drome and set about constructing his own defences.  A Bren strong post forward, reached by a tunnel from the deep storm drain, camouflaged by ‘sling nets’ off the grounded Japanese Nanyei Maru freighter.  A Bren post held back on the rough apex where diagonal runways met, to cover our demolition post and signal pit and give depth and also flank protection to our forward post.

Sub-section weapon slits supporting the Brens, the whole system linked by crawl trenches, controlled from a deep command post, centrally sited.  The whole earthworks being revetted by the large quantity of hewn foot square 40 ft. lengths of hardwood (the Portuguese had conveniently brought there to build a modern hangar) and which was ‘taboo’ thereby making it a sheer delight to the hefty Curran and crafty Delbridge and their subsections to axe into suitable sizes with competitive glee.

Having thrilled the adjutant with their ‘fire power’ and convinced him of their marksmanship, No. 2 Section was given a 40 deg. arc of responsibility on the drome perimeter and permitted to cut fields of fire.  This turned into ‘wails of misfire’ when shortly it was discovered that a considerable acreage of ‘valuable palms’ were swiftly felled and placed to roof over pits and posts, now bending under the weight of sand and bristling with cactus and carefully transplanted clumps of tussock, kunai grass and the like, for camouflage”. [3]


Wray provides an excellent account of the defence and demolition of the airfield on the night of the 19th February 1942 and Curran’s key role in what happened:

“At the aerodrome McKenzie was not satisfied with Van Straaten's contention that the shelling was coming from a Japanese submarine and that it was only part of a minor raid.  From his position McKenzie could see a destroyer in the harbour and the silhouette of a tramp steamer standing off shore opposite the aerodrome. The rattle of chains as the ships unloaded could be heard clearly across the harbour.  He again telephoned Dutch Headquarters, but Van Straaten insisted that the shelling was coming from a submarine and that, at most, the Japanese would land a raiding party to attack the aerodrome, then withdraw.  Still not satisfied, and preferring to believe the evidence of his own eyes and ears, McKenzie sent out a further patrol under Corporal Kevin Curran (subsequently captain of Hawthorn Football Club in Victoria) to check for enemy movements between the aerodrome and the Comoro River.  The patrol made its way across the Comoro River through a darkened, white- walled Arab village and onto the main Dili road.  The men waited until 2 a.m. and as all seemed quiet they returned to the aerodrome.

Back at the aerodrome McKenzie sent Corporal Curran out to check all positions and ensure that his troops were ready for action.  In the dark it took Curran about an hour to make the circuit of the defensive positions, ever watchful for Japanese infiltrators, and to satisfy himself that all was well.  McKenzie's section - a small number of men in fixed positions faced by a well-equipped, numerically superior foe - was in a difficult position.  Once the sun rose the Japanese would be able to blast the defenders out with mortar and machine-gun fire.  However, McKenzie had his orders.  The aerodrome was to be held as long as possible.  If McKenzie's small force had to withdraw, the aerodrome must be destroyed.

There were constant skirmishes as the Japanese probed the Australian defences looking for weaknesses.  Then fighting flared near the main defensive positions around the hangars.  At one stage Corporal Curran and the remaining members of his subsection were cut off from the rest of the Australians by the Japanese attack but they fought their way back at bayonet point, Curran killing five Japanese, including an officer.  With concentrated rifle and machine-gun fire the Australians fought off parties of Japanese attackers repeatedly, but shortly before dawn McKenzie decided that he could hold the aerodrome no longer.  The Japanese were pushing down on the defenders, the Dutch reinforcements had not arrived and with the coming of daylight the Japanese would overwhelm the Australians who would be trapped within a small defensive perimeter.  The small force was cut off from the Dutch force and from Independent Company Headquarters and could get no orders from above.  In view of these insurmountable difficulties McKenzie decided to blow up the runways, demolish the stores and withdraw his troops by fire and movement through the craters, which would be left by the demolition.

To cover the withdrawal, McKenzie arranged a dawn diversion using privates Poynton and Thomas, armed with tommy-guns, and privates Hudson and Hasson, who had rifles.  Corporal Curran was to lead the demolition party.  At this time Curran's subsection was in action using grenades against Japanese parties attempting to force their way into the Australian positions along a large drain near the hangars.  Just before dawn Hasson was forced from his position.  The other three members of the covering group counter-attacked, their intense machine-gun fire creating havoc among the streams of Japanese trying to force their way across a plank over the drain by the hangar.  Under cover of this counter-attack the sappers fired the demolition charges.  They had arranged several different means of detonation, so despite the Japanese attempts to cut the wires the charges all went off.

As the aerodrome exploded in clouds of dust and smoke the Japanese machine-gun fire reached a crescendo.  Despite the concentrated fire most of the Australians managed to take advantage of the confusion to escape into the half-light.

In the final withdrawal it was every man for himself, and the section split up, men making their way individually or in small groups through the Japanese fire, moving from crater to crater across the aerodrome.  The main body reformed at a pre- arranged rendezvous point in a recently abandoned Dutch artillery position some distance from the aerodrome.  Lieutenant McKenzie, accompanied by Private Hooper, set off for Dili in an attempt to join up with Captain Callinan, while Corporal Curran, believing correctly that news of the Japanese landing was not known to Company Headquarters, set off with his remaining subsection and the sappers for the camp at Three Spurs.

After leaving the aerodrome early on 20 February Corporal Curran, sappers R.S. Richards and R. Williamson had gone only about a kilometre when they almost walked into a Japanese unit headquarters. They went to ground and had to lie all day under the blazing tropical sun, without water and only metres from the Japanese.  After nightfall they continued their trek, … By day they had to keep under cover, hiding from low-flying Japanese planes, and by night move on as best as they could.  They finally arrived at Three Spurs on 27 February to find preparations for the abandonment of the position under way”. [4]


In an amazing parallel to Kevin’s exploits in Dili, his brother Gordon performed similar heroics in the Australian defence of Koepang a couple of days later, but tragically did not survive.

“A number of veterans retell the story of the action of G.T. Curran, who was killed by a sniper as he single-handedly wiped out two enemy machine-gun posts by deliberately walking straight into their line of fire”. [5]

Gordon service record shows that he was originally posted as missing then as a Prisoner of War (POW).  It was not until the end of the war that released POWs from the 2/40 revealed his fate and his wife and parents were notified.

“Private Gordon Curran, a soldier from Traralgon, who had been posted missing in Timor for a lengthy period, has now been officially declared killed in action.  He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Curran of Argyle Street, Traralgon.  A sister, Mrs. J. Turnbull, resides in Morwell.  The young soldier was a smart footballer prior to joining the services, and was employed at the Traralgon Gasworks.  A young wife and son are the chief bereaved”. [6]


Kevin Curran made significant contributions later in the Timor campaign as Wray records:

“Any advance of the Japanese force from Dutch Timor - the more immediate of the two threats - would doubtless be through Memo and Maliana and from there to Cailaco, Marobo or Bobonaro.  Dexter had to ensure that each possibility was covered: 1 Section, under Corporal Doug Fullarton at Cailaco, was to watch the approaches to the craggy fortress; 2 Section, under Corporal Kevin Curran at Maliana, was to keep contact with the enemy; and 3 Section, under Lieutenant Clarrie Turner, was to watch the Bobonaro track.  Dexter and Curran had reconnoitred beyond Memo to the border on 8 August when arrangements were made with the Dutch about the appropriate action to take in the event of an enemy advance.

On 11 August Curran made contact with about 400 Japanese soldiers crossing the Malibaku River to Memo.  Next day he opposed their move to Maliana before withdrawing to Lone Tree Saddle where Dexter's ambush delayed the enemy later that night.  The Japanese turned towards Bobonaro with 3 Section on their flank.  Laden with command of the Dutch, Dexter led his charges through a mountain pass; they were on their way quickly and took no further part in proceedings”. [7]


The Australian force was re-organised in November:

“In November Callinan took over the command of the force from Spence, with the ever-reliable Baldwin as his second-in- command.  For reasons of military security the name of the force was changed on 18 November 1942 from Sparrow Force to Lancer Force.  Laidlaw was promoted to major and appointed Commanding Officer of the 2/2 with Turton, now promoted to captain, as his second-in-command.  At the same time Dexter, Nisbet and McKenzie were also promoted to the rank of captain - Dexter leading A Platoon, Nisbet assuming command of B Platoon and McKenzie taking over C Platoon from Boyland.

After Captain McKenzie was detached from 2 Section to his new role, and Lieutenant Turner of 3 Section retired sick, corporals Fullarton (1 Section), Curran (2 Section) and Palmer (3 Section) took over the sections and commanded them during the final months of frequent fighting.  In B Platoon Sergeant M. Morgan was posted to higher duties.  Largely as a result of their actions during the Timor campaign Smyth, Denman, Fullarton, Curran and Palmer all received commissions [as lieutenants]”. [8] 


On his return to Australia, Kevin Curran was awarded a Mention in Despatches for “Exceptional services in the S.W.P. [South West Pacific] Area”; it could reasonably considered that he deserved more. [9]


After being evacuated from Timor in mid-December 1942, the 2nd Independent Company were in a period of hiatus before being given a new assignment.


Men of the 2/2nd A Troop are pictured at Larrimah after their return from Timor – Kevin Curran in the centre of the front row [10]

Eric Smyth says that one ‘irregularity’ which appeared to stick in the Army’s craw was that some 2/2nd men had received field commissions in Timor without going through an officers’ training school.  Smyth, who was one of them, said when word went out that they would be required to do the course at Canungra, there were serious rumblings of discontent.  However the Army insisted – no course, no commission.

The first to be called in was Kevin Curran, a Victorian footballer who weighed a hundred kilograms and who was a good fighter, to boot.

Eric Smyth: “He was a clumsy sort of bloke but he had very good reactions.  A staff sergeant was teaching him how to use a bayonet, which was rather ironic given that Kevin had used one in the fight for Dili Airfield.  The staff sergeant made the mistake of telling him that as far as the bayonet was concerned, he was too clumsy to be any good.  This must have been too much for Kevin to swallow because he dropped the staff sergeant on the spot.  He was placed on a charge and they sent him back to the unit while it was decided what to do with him”. [11] 


The 2/2 spent some time in Canungra re-training.  Doig did his best to lighten proceedings using Curran as his straight man:

“As a training centre Canungra was a thorough heap of bastardry, peopled by a bundle of diced officers from the Middle East campaigns.  Food was poor, and generally living conditions damnable.  It seemed that they were trying to approximate the conditions of the Kokoda Trail.

The Company was divided into three Cadres, namely Officers, N.C.O. 's and O.R's.  We officers were being instructed by a professional Captain who had been to Duntroon, but with no overseas service.  I'm afraid we were inclined to treat him as some sort of joke.  The weather was warmish and to sit down in the shade of a tree after a lunch listening to boring lectures by a bloke who wouldn't know shit from honey, was sleep inducing.  One afternoon, Lt. Kevin Curran, who was a terrific reactor to a good joke was playing with a piece of stick, and I said, ‘I'll tell you a yarn on that stick.  It went like this.  A bloke was boasting in the bar that blindfolded he could tell any piece of timber just by its smell.  Bets were made and the blindfolded chap was tried out on different pieces of wood, which he accurately identified.  Then the barmaid took over, got a used match, wiped it on her private parts, and handed it over for identification.  This chap took about three deep sniffs and said, 'I'm absolutely sure it's either pussy willow or a splinter off the outhouse seat’.  Kevin went into his usual paroxysm of laughter with tears streaming down his cheeks.  The instructor wanted to know what was going on.  Nobody said a thing and he stalked away mumbling under this breath about uncouth animals.  We never saw him again”. [12] 


The 2/2nd then campaigned in New Guinea; Doig described a particular incident in which Curran again paid a lead role:

“Another' patrol to go out on New Year's Day was the Transport Section under Lt. Kev Curran, This was the longest patrol, to Japa and beyond.  It took two canoe loads to cross the river (Lt. Curran couldn't swim and after donning a couple of Mae West lifejackets his instructions to the canoe gang which included three top grade swimmers was to save him first and bugger the weapons).  They safely made it over the river and headed in the direction of Topopo on the way to Japa.  They reached Topopo on January 3rd and onto Japa the next day, returning to Topopo on the 5th January.  On the night of 5th-6th January the Japs returned to Topopo, perhaps led by natives who had been seen in the area and the Australians were stranded on a knoll in Topopo commanding all the approaches.

At dawn when the patrol was about to stand to the Japs opened with heavy fire from rifles and machine guns at about ten yards; as usual their shooting did not measure up to their fieldcraft and all the encircled men made their escape by doing a back flip over the side of the ridge through the Japs and into the surrounding jungle where several fired on the enemy from vantage points.  Sgt. Cash who was in charge of the natives on a knoll further back fired his Bren gun into the Japs and got many.  The Australians then rendezvoused at Damaru, except for five who were missing for some days.  The Jap had achieved complete surprise and had superior fire power but had wounded one man and slightly wounded four others.  The patrol later reported that the distance they had to travel to Japa plus the fact that they had to use the same track on the return journey had enabled the Kanakas to inform the enemy of their movements”. [13]


Ramu River, Faita Area, New Guinea. 1944-01-07.  Corporal K.J. Monk Of Gippsland, Vic (1) And VX47342 Lieutenant K. S. Curran Of Glenferrie, Vic (2) Of The 2/2nd Commando Squadron being ferried back to camp by natives in their dugout canoe after an eight day patrol into Japanese territory towards Bogadjim. [14]

Curran told what happened in his own words:

“The Jap whistle was the signal and then all hell broke loose.  The Nips used grenades – there seemed to be hundreds of them – a woodpecker [medium machine gun], machine guns, rifles and sub-machine guns.

Our men jumped up half-dressed and hurled grenades.  There were squeals from the Japs.

The natives who had spoken to our boys kept calling ‘White fella him come over this place’.  It was just as well our boys did not get at them.

We have no idea of the Jap casualties, but from the fire we sent out in those wild few minutes they must have been heavy.”

In circumstances much the same as what occurred after Dili aerodrome fire fight:

“… Lieutenant Curran lay in a hole within earshot of the Japs for more than eight hours.  The rest of the men had dispersed”. [15]

Curran’s service record states that he was ‘Wounded, remained on duty’ in this incident.


Lamarien, Henry Reid Bay, New Britain, 28 July 1945.  A group of officers of 2/2 Commando Squadron.  Kevin Curran can’t be missed in the centre of the back row [16]


In quieter times towards the end of the war, football became a prime leisure time activity:

“The Unit got together a very good looking Aussie Rules footy side under Lt. Kevin Curran who was a Vic. League player with Hawthorn.  They thumped most of the units in our area very comfortably.  The news of our successes spread to Wau and we got a challenge from 7th Inf. Bn. to play them on the Wau strip.  Their sports officer's first remark was how much did we want to back ourselves for.  Kevin Curran made a few enquiries and found out that this 7th Bn. mob were hot stuff and had trounced nearly every unit while in Australia.  Their coach was their C.O. who was an ex V.F.L. player and his team had been all allocated good jobs such as batman, drivers etc. so they were always in a position to train together and fed well.  They had never had malaria whereas half our mob was still suffering the effects of this debilitating disease.  We smartly cried off any punting.  It's just as well we did.  When we played they ate us without salt.  I counted their side a dozen times to see that they didn't have at least twenty men playing, they seemed to have so many loose men all over the field”. [17]


After joining Hawthorn from Traralgon in 1940, Kevin Curran managed just one senior game before embarking on five years of military service, much of it abroad.  When he resumed in the VFL in 1946, by this time aged 26, he immediately impressed as a follower who combined an almost recklessly rugged approach with considerable skill; he became known as the ‘foundation stone’ of the Hawthorn team. [18] 

In 1946 he made a return to Hawthorn and the following season represented Victoria at the Hobart Carnival, the first on 9 interstate appearances during his career.  He won Hawthorn's best and fairest award in 1948, also winning the Simpson Medal for his performance against West Australian in an interstate game.  Curran captained Hawthorn for the 1950 season and his appointment saw a disgruntled Alec Albiston leave the club feeling he should have got the job.  When he retired at the end of the following year he had played a total of 85 VFL games and booted nine goals.


Keith Shea returned to coach the Hawks again in 1946, but this time in a non-playing role as Jim Bohan was formally appointed captain.  Confidence was also boosted by the return of Col Austen, Kevin Curran and Wally Culpitt with the end of World War II.

The season ended with another loss to Fitzroy in front of just 6,000 at Glenferrie Oval, and another wooden spoon, the 7th since Hawthorn had entered the league in 1925. The new recruits struggled and not one of the 14 players to debut would go on to play more than 50 games.  Jim Bohan and Jack McLeod played well enough to represent the Big V, and Kevin Curran won the most determined player award, but it was a bitterly disappointing season that saw Shea sacked at season's end.


Hawthorn Football Club – season 1946 – Kevin Curran is in the middle of the back row [19]


1947 was another lack lustre year for Hawthorn and they again just avoided the ‘wooden spoon’.  Curran played well enough to retain his spot in the Victorian team that won the mid-season interstate carnival in Hobart.  Kevin’s predilection for a beer or two after the match was recalled many years later by Geelong legend Fred Flanagan:

“At one carnival - I think it was 1947 in Hobart - a Hawthorn player named Kevin Curran got stuck between his door and the wall one night after a few too many.  I was rooming with Leo Turner in the next room and Curran's roommate, Wally Culpitt, woke us up with his yelling.

It was quite unusual.  But he was a terrific bloke, Curran, and a commando in the war”. [20]


Victoria’s team for the 1947 Hobart Carnival – Kevin Curran is in the back row as usual [21]


The Hawks began 1948 full of hope and confidence, but with a list short on height and big bodies.  Alec Albiston knew he would be forced to use players out of position and hope that teamwork would get his side through.

War hero Kevin Curran was superb, winning the club champion award as well as the Simpson Medal as best player for Victoria against the Sandgropers.  Wally Culpitt was also selected for the state game, whilst mates and leaders Col Austen and Albiston finished 2nd and 3rd in the best and fairest. [22]

Doig recalled Curran’s visit to Perth with the Victorian football team:

“Perhaps one of the most outstanding early social events was, the visit of Kevin Curran to W.A. in 1948 with the Victorian State Football team.  Big Curran was one of the younger members' of the team, which included oldsters like Jack Graham and Jack Dyer (Capt. Blood).  Kevin reckoned the fitness level was much below average and most of them had to use the lifts in the old Shaftesbury Hotel where they were housed, as the stairs were beyond them.

A special evening was arranged by the Association for him to meet as many of the boys as possible.  It was held on the Tuesday evening after the second game between the Vics and W.A.  Kevin had won the Simpson Medal for fairest and best player of the Saturday match but was injured in the Tuesday game when he had a confrontation with a goal post.  The turnout was nothing short of amazing with over sixty present, as well as many members of the Press”.


Left to right: Jack Denman, Tom Nesbit, Jack Carey, Bruce Dooland, Kevin Curran, Joe Poynton, Colin Doig

“We also welcomed Bruce Dooland who was playing for South Australia in the baseball carnival at the same time.  Tom Nisbet was an outstanding member of the W.A. side also.  To add a further dimension to our sporting prowess Jack Carey had been selected in the W.A. Amateur Football side, which was playing in an Australia-wide carnival.  What a line up for our Unit Association!  A lot of the Victorian players accompanied Kevin to this night out which was well catered for in the way of eats and beer.  Kevin was like a king holding court with his courtiers.  The boys made a big fuss of him and he lapped it up.

Probably the best part of Kevin's visit was the night he arrived at Perth Airport when a lot of the boys were there to welcome him, whisked him away and headed for an old haunt of ours on the Esplanade foreshore. Battles were fought and football matches replayed until the early hours of the morning when we poured him into bed at the hotel.  The vigorous night out did not seem to affect the big man's footy ability next day as he was kicking the ball about 60-70 yards every boot”. [23]



Hawthorn entered 1949 with Alec Albiston at the helm as captain-coach for the third year in succession.

Hawthorn was thumped by Geelong by over 14 goals the following week, and then trailed the lowly Saints by 39 points at half time.  Albiston finally lost it, telling the players to hand in their jumpers unless they started performing.  He also read out a telegram from champ Kevin Curran, who was in hospital with a broken jaw.  Inspired, the Hawks rallied for a sensational 8 point victory, kicking 10 goals to 3 in the second half.

Lack of forward options was killing the Hawks - they failed to kick above 100 points all season, and on seven occasions didn't even get above 50.  However, individuals such as Albiston, Col Austen and Curran continued to shine.  All were selected in Victoria's 87 point win over Western Australia, in which Coleman kicked 7 goals. [24] 


A change of jumper, a change of coach, a former captain and the best player quitting the club, threats of player strikes, supporter outrage and not a single victory.  1950 is remembered by Hawthorn supporters for all the wrong reasons.

At the end of 1949 Alec Albiston was told he would not be coaching the club the following year, but was still very much required as a player.  This was fine with Albiston, and the board, led by new president David Prentice, eventually settled on Bob McCaskill as a replacement.  McCaskill had played for the Tigers in the 1920's, and after a successful spell with Sandhurst in the Bendigo League had managed to coach North Melbourne to the finals for the first time.

McCaskill immediately set about changing the club, starting with the jumper.  The guernsey was changed from brown with a gold V to brown and gold stripes to make the players look more physically imposing. McCaskill also said in an interview he believed the Hawks could make the four, and the club had a 'splendid leader in Alec Albiston'.

Certainly on reading that last quote it would seem pretty clear Albiston was considered the leader and captain for 1950.  Indeed, Albiston swore he was promised this role by the board when he was told his services as coach were no longer required.  Despite several tempting offers to captain-coach in the country, he ignored his good mate Col Austen's advice and decided to stay at Glenferrie.

Albiston missed the early practice matches due to cricket commitments, and in that time McCaskill was greatly impressed by the tough play of Kevin Curran.  A former war hero, Curran was a big man who threw his body around, a very different style of play to the fast roving of Albiston who loved a goal so much he was nicknamed ‘Hungry’.  The new coach believed Hawthorn needed a more imposing figure as captain, and so it was announced on April 11 that Kevin Curran had been appointed captain by unanimous vote of the selection committee.

To say the manure hit the fan would be the understatement of the century.  Albiston and Austen immediately asked for clearances, Alec coming out the following day and slamming the selection committee in the press, calling it 'one of the dirtiest things I have ever had put over me'.

Players threatened to strike in support of Albiston, and many supporters called for the board to resign.  The selection committee issued a statement saying Albiston and made a mistake and no promise had been made.  Hawthorn, a club that had maintained a low profile since it joined the VFL, was suddenly all over the papers.

Albiston and Austen turned up to the final practice match on April 15 and were told they were no longer required.  McCaskill had said his position was untenable with his players making statements in the press, and either they went or he went.  That night there was the sad sight of Austen and Albiston standing outside Glenferrie Oval in tears.  Two of the club's greatest players who genuinely loved the club had been told they weren't wanted - a tragic series of events.

Just whether Albiston was ever offered the captaincy is still a matter of debate.  Indeed, some people put his demotion down to religion.  Albiston's father Walter had founded the Victorian Protestant Federation in 1918, whilst Curran and McCaskill were Catholic.  The allegations have never been proven, although sectarian difference did exist within the club at the time.

Albiston and Austen were cleared to North Melbourne and Richmond respectively, and all of a sudden the club was without its two best players just a week before the season started.  Given its reliance on so few already, the team was always going to struggle.

The club lost its opening three games by a combined margin of 258 points and only 7.25 from Collingwood in Round 4 prevented another caning.  The side was nothing short of pathetic, getting smashed every week and suffering real embarrassment when The Argus suggested other clubs give Hawthorn financial assistance.

New captain Curran was already on the sidelines, suspended for four weeks for attempting to kick Tom Miller of Footscray.

New captain disqualified

MELBOURNE, Wed: Kevin Curran, Hawthorn’s newly appointed captain and interstate follower, was disqualified for four matches last night by the Victorian League tribunal.

Curran was found guilty of misconduct in attempting to kick Footscray ruckman Tom Miller during the final quarter of the Footscray Hawthorn match on Saturday.

Before the charge against him was sustained, Curran said in a statement to the tribunal: ‘I would rather get out of the game then be found guilty of kicking anyone’”. [25]

His former 2/2nd comrades sprang to his defence against this charge:

Former W.A. commandos up in arms

Former W.A. members of the famous 2/2nd Australian Commando Squadron are up in arms again.

This time they are fighting a verbal battle  - in defence for of a former officer of the unit, interstate footballer Kevin Curran.

Curran now captain at Melbourne League football club Hawthorn was recently outed for two months [sic] for kicking an opponent.

Instantly, Curran’s Army comrades in all states took up the cudgels on his behalf.

One of the most outspoken was Western Australian Archie Campbell - a fellow officer of Curran’s – who is currently living in Melbourne.

Campbell who roved road for West Perth during seasons 1933 to 1940 said that he had played in many Army games with Curran over several years and had never seen him do anything unsporting.

He described it as ‘unbelievable that such a scrupulously fair player as Curran would deliberately kick an opponent.

Campbell’s sentiments echoed in Perth today by another squadron officer, Colin Doig.

Other W.A. members of unit have written letters of protest on Kev Curran’s disqualification”. [26]

His first game back was against Austen's new side Richmond.  Austen had expressed doubts about Curran's tactical ability in the lead-up to the game, and Curran decided to take matters into his own hands.  Kevin lined Austen up from 40 metres away and flattened him after kicking the footy away, resulting in another 4 week suspension.  Although contact was apparently minor, Curran probably didn't help his chances by stating ‘If I was going to do something, I would pick a place - not in the open’”. [27]

The Age report of the tribunal hearing where Curran was suspended makes interesting reading:

Curran Suspended for Four Matches

The V.F.L. Tribunal suspended hawthorn captain, Kevin Curran, for four matches last night for charging Richmond back man, Col Austen, in Saturday's Hawthorn Richmond game.

After the Tribunal has announced its decision on Curran, Austen, who played with Hawthorn last year, shook hands with him and said, ‘Bad luck, Kev'.

During the hearing Austen said he had been good friends with Curran while at Hawthorn, and there was no reason why they should not be good friends now.

Curran refused to comment on the disqualification.

The game on Saturday was Curran’s first after a four weeks term of suspension attempting to kick Tom Miller (Footscray) on May 6.

Last Saturday he was reported by field umpire Hogan and boundary umpires Cranch and Lee for charging Austen in the centre of the ground after Austen had disposed of the ball in the last quarter.

Announcing the tribunal’s decision, the Chairman (Mr T. Hammond) said Curran had ample opportunity to slow down before colliding with the Richmond player.

Field umpire Hogan said Austen had kicked the ball from the centre of the ground and taken for five paces when Curran ran in and bumped him to the ground.

He said Curran could have stopped colliding with Austen.  He was about seven or eight yards away when the ball was kicked.

Hogan said he himself was about 15 yards away when the incident occurred.

‘Other players converged on the spot and I ran in between them’, he said.  ‘I had not the slightest doubt what had happened’.

Boundary umpire Cranch said after Austen kicked the ball Curran kept on running at him and crashed him down.

Boundary by Lee said Curran had deliberately charged Austin from about 10 yards away.

Austen said the only thing he could remember about incident was kicking the ball and then getting bumped from the side and going down.

He was slowing down at the time and did not travel more than a pace or two before being bumped.

The bump was not hard enough to hurt, Austen added.

The player’s advocate, Mr. Dan Minogue, then asked permission to ask Austen if there was any personal feeling between the two players.  Mr Hammond said the question could be asked if it had any bearing on the case.

Asked the question, Austen said he had been the best of friends with Curran while he was at Hawthorn and there was no reason why they should be anything but the best of friends.

Curran said he was moving to intercept Austen when that player had the ball and after he had disposed of it could not pull up and ran into him.

‘If I had wanted to do something, I would not do it while everyone was watching me.  I have nothing against Austen’”. [28]


After the disastrous winter of 1950 only two changes were made to the to the senior list, which, not surprisingly, subjected the club to a fair amount of criticism.  But coach Bob McCaskill had faith in the team and stuck to his guns.

Peter O'Donohue was formerly appointed captain, Kevin Curran choosing to concentrate on playing after his turbulent reign as skipper the previous year.

John Kennedy Snr won his second Best and Fairest from as many starts, starring along with fellow second year player Roy Simmonds.  Kennedy and Curran represented Victoria against both South Australia and Western Australia. [29] 

“Bulldozer ruckman” [30] Curran was Victoria’s best player in a narrow defeat to South Australia in heavy conditions in Adelaide:

“South Australia gave Victoria a five-goal start from the end of the first quarter at Adelaide Oval today, then sailed in to outslug, outplay, and finally defeat them by six after one of the comebacks for many a year.

[Kevin] Rose, Victoria’s high powered dynamo at centre began the third term as if he intended to win the game on his own efforts.  But he and ruckman Kev Curran were the only two in the team who looked as if they would still be kicking on at the finish.

Curran’s goal gave the lead back to Victoria – four points – just before the end of the third term, but the Victorians had had it.

Victoria’s best was ruckman Kev Curran.  So burly he looked above himself in weight, he was going on at the finish when others were run into the ground”. [31]


Ex Hawthorn captain Kevin Curran left the club to accept the position of playing coach of Sandhurst and to take over the Athenaeum Hotel in Bendigo, robbing the team of one of its best players.  Ironically, Sandhurst was where McCaskill [the new Hawthorn coach] had honed his coaching technique, winning nine premierships, six of them in a row.  Sandhurst would also be where Hawthorn recruited Graham Arthur and Brendan Edwards a few years later, with no small thanks going to Curran. [32]

Curran won the 1952 Michelsen Medal, while playing in Bendigo for the Sandhurst Football Club.  But after the glory came heartbreak, when Sandhurst suffered four consecutive grand final defeats from 1952-55, the most gut-wrenching a one-point loss to South Bendigo in 1955.

The 1950s are widely considered the golden age of Bendigo football.  In the days before car ownership and television began diverting attention to Melbourne, the Bendigo grandstand would heave and crowds would pack six and seven-deep to watch heroes such as Noel McMahen, a Melbourne premiership captain who went to Rochester.

In 1955, spectators saw arguably Bendigo's greatest individual performance in the grand final between the Queen Elizabeth Oval co-tenants, Sandhurst and South Bendigo.  Kevin Curran was still playing-coach at Sandhurst.  South Bendigo burst ahead early and led by nine goals to one at half time.

Teeming rain seemed to rule out Sandhurst's chance before Curran imposed his will on the game.  Like a “bullock dragging a stump”, he hauled the Dragons within sight of victory before South Bendigo held on to win by a point.  In the grand final two years later, Eaglehawk defeated Kyneton by five goals before 16,600, an attendance that remains the record. [33]

Curran was also later inducted into the Bendigo Football League's Hall of Fame. [34]


A letter to the Courier from 2/2 compatriot ‘Blue’ Sargent in March 1967 summarised Curran’s life after football:

“I haven't seen any of the old mob for a long time now apart from the old Curran.  I call in every now and again to hear the latest on who has passed this way.  He's usually got some news regarding someone from the Unit.

I've never seen a man do so much for others as does this Kev Curran.  He's a very active Bendigo City Councillor and always off to do something or other for one of his ratepayers.  He's also very active with the Scouts, Legacy and every other damn worthwhile organisation in Bendigo.  He's standing as a Labor candidate for the Upper House in the forthcoming State elections.  Bendigo Province, which covers a large section of central Victoria includes the Shires of Haywood, Marong, Strathfieldsaye, Maldon, Carisbrook, Castlemaine, Maryborough, Daylesford, Kyneton, Woodend, Gisborne, Lancefield, Heathcote, Avenel, Seymour and Kilmore so if the lad should happen to get elected, as he richly deserves, he would have quite an area to look after and believe me he's just the boy who could handle it.

Kev Curran and I have talked about the grand Safari and are eager to participate.  Perhaps Bendigo could be a night stop either to or from Sydney.  Good accommodation is available and an excellent barbecue could be arranged”. [35]


Col Doig recorded the sudden and unexpected passing of Kevin Curran in April 1978: [36]



[1]     http://www.sparrowbook.com/#!gordon-and-kevin-curran/zoom/c50a/i22211jt

[2]     Paul Cleary. – The men who came out of the ground: a gripping account of Australia’s first commando campaign, Timor 1942. – Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2010: 35.

[3]     Colin Doig. – A history of the 2nd Independent Company and 2/2 Commando Squadron. – Perth: [The Author], 1986: 38.

[4]     Christopher C.H. Wray. - Timor 1942 : Australian commandos at war with the Japanese. - Hawthorn, Vic. : Hutchinson Australia, 1987: 65-67.

[5]     Peter Henning. - Doomed battalion: mateship and leadership in war and captivity: the Australian 2/40 Battalion 1940-45. - St Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 1995: 95.

[6]     Morwell Advertiser, Thursday 4 October 1945: page 6.

[7]     Wray, Timor 1942 : 118-119.

[8]     Wray, Timor 1942 : 149-150.

[9]     https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/R1569666

[10]   Cyril Ayris. - All the Bull's men : No. 2 Australian Independent Company (2/2nd Commando Squadron). - [Perth, W.A.] : 2/2nd Commando Association, 2006: 387.

[11]   Ayris, All the Bull's men : 390.

[12]   Col Doig. – The ramblings of a ratbag. – [Perth: The Author], 1989: 109.

[13]   Doig, A history of the 2nd Independent Company … : 215.

[14]   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C19074

[15]   “Betrayed patrol fights off Japs” The Daily News Tuesday 11 January 1944: 3.

[16]   https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C71280

[17]   Doig, Ramblings: 123.

[18]   “Curran will lead Hawks” The Argus Thursday 5 April 1951: 11.

[19]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/article.aspx?articleid=2238

[20]   “Footy doesn't get any bigger than the Big V” http://www.heraldsun.com.au/afl/more-news/state-of- euphoria/story-e6frf9jf-1111116286143

[21] The Mercury Hobart 15 July 1947: 23.

[22]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/article.aspx?articleid=2240

[23]   C.D. Doig. – A great fraternity: the story of the 2/2nd Commando Association, 1946-1992. – [Perth: The Author], 1993: 3.

[24]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/article.aspx?articleid=2241

[25]   “New captain disqualified” The Daily News Wednesday 10 May 1950: 21 22.

[26]   “Former W.A. commandos up in arms” Mirror Saturday 20 May 1950: 9.

[27]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/printarticle.aspx?articleid=1038

[28]   “Curran suspended for four matches” The Age Wednesday 15 June 1950: 22.

[29]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/article.aspx?articleid=1065

[30]   “Curry on the menu” Mirror Saturday 30 June 1951: 1.

[31]   “A mud patch, S.A. outplay Victorians, comeback fight in hard-hitting wet-day game” The Mail Saturday 7 July 1951: 6.

[32]   http://www.hawkheadquarters.com/article.aspx?articleid=1072

[33]   “Sandhurst lost through the wind and toss” The Argus October 3 1955: 15.  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71699109

[34]   Luke West “BFNL to hold Hall of Fame night” Bendigo Advertiser February 27, 2014 http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/2117305/bfnl-to-hold-hall-of-fame-night/

[35]   2/2 Commando Courier March 1967 : 9.

[36]   2/2 Commando Courier June 1978 : 1.


Ed Willis

Revised: 14 May 2024

© 2/2 Commando Association of Australia




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