Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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GAUNT, Desmond Clive (1917-2000)

GAUNT, Desmond Clive (1917-2000)

Desmond Clive Gaunt, 1935 (Football)

Desmond Clive Gaunt, 1935 (Football)

'Des' Gaunt, legal practitioner and grandson of Dr George Morrison, was born at Rangoon, Burma in 1917 and first was sent to Geelong College by his parents Clive Herbert Gaunt and Evelyn Hilda nee Morrison from 1927 until 1930. He returned for the last two years of his secondary education from 1933 to 1935. He was an avid sportsman playing in both the 1st Cricket XI in 1934 and 1935, and the 1st Football XVIII in 1934 and 1935 and a member of the cricket and swimming committees in 1935. Tennis was a particular favourite and in 1934 he became, with close friend Cedric H Sloane (1915-1992), the school’s open doubles champion. He was also a lance corporal of the Cadet Corps.

After leaving the College, he entered Ormond College to study law at Melbourne University. During one of the university vacations he and Cedric Sloane made a memorable canoe trip down the Murray River from Yarrawonga to the Goulburn River junction and up the Goulburn to Shepparton. World War II was to delay his legal aspirations however and he enlisted in the AIF on 18 July, 1940 after he completed his third year of university study. He served as a lance-corporal with the ill-fated 2/21 Battalion which was belatedly deployed to Ambon in an ill-judged attempt to defend the island. Easily overrun by the superior Japanese force the survivors became known as the ‘Legion of the Lost’ and suffered one of the most horrific death rates of any group of prisoners of war. Desmond Gaunt with many of the other prisoners were shipped to Hainan where he was held in at times brutal conditions until war’s end. By the time of his release his weight had dropped to some 5 stone due to starvation and deficiency diseases. He was discharged from the army in November, 1945.

After the war he returned to study and practised as a solicitor in Ballarat. He retired to Barwon Heads becoming a keen golfer with the Barwon Heads Golf Club and a stalwart of many Old Collegians’ golf days. He was a benefactor of the College donating funds for a scholarship and materials to the College archives.

Sources: James Affleck Geelong Collegians at the Second World War.
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