HALLS, Archibald Thomas Roy
Halls was a World War I veteran (service number 10789), born in Broken Hill, New South Wales, on 3 July 1892 to Josiah and Charlotte Sarah Halls. He joined the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG) in 1907, aged fifteen years. In September 1915, he gave his occupation as Postmaster on enlistment in Adelaide and served as a Sapper Signalman in the 3rd Divisional Signal Company in France, where he was wounded in 1917; he was shipped to England for treatment before returning to battle. He returned to Australia in May 1919.
On 20 December 1919 Halls married Lois Katherine Treble Robinson in St. Augustine’s Church, Adelaide. They went on to have five children, though their youngest daughter died at five days old. The Halls family was living in Stirling, South Australia, before Halls volunteered to come to Darwin to assist with the withdrawal of all communications from Adelaide River.
Halls had gained valuable knowledge and experience by working at the Powell’s Creek repeater station and, in February 1942, took charge as the day shift telegraph supervisor at the Darwin Post Office. He arrived in Darwin on the day Singapore fell; he and his staff worked for four days and nights, never leaving the Morse Code key. Halls probably lived in the single-men’s quarters known as 'the Monastery' in the Post Office complex.
The Reverend E. K. Leslie, who knew Halls as 'Bro', wrote later from the 119th Australian General Hospital where he was stationed as the chaplain, that Archie had attended church on the Sunday before the attack. He had known Archie when he had worked at Powell Creek and said that 'he was one of the kindest and most hospitable men he had ever met'. (From Personal communication held on file by Parliamentary Education Section.)
A few minutes before ten o’clock on 19 February 1942, Halls was testing the telegraph circuit to Adelaide. The traffic was heavy and included priority military messages; there had been some technical difficulties in clearing it. Halls was 'speaking' in Morse Code on the circuit with the Chief Transmission Engineer in Adelaide, Frank O’Grady, who was later to become Director-General of Posts and Telegraph.
At two minutes to ten Halls broke off the conversation with this telegraphed message to O’Grady:
"Sec. (meaning wait a second)
There’s another air-raid alarm. I’ll see you shortly." (From Australia under attack p.88)
He never did. That was the last message sent from the Darwin Post Office. Within a minute Halls was dead. He was one of nine people who had sheltered in the trench shelter dug in the postmaster’s garden that received a direct hit; he was the last person to get into the trench.
Halls was later praised for his bravery for staying on the line:
"If it had not been for the goodness of this man to stay and pass the message along – we wouldn’t have known about the attack for a long time", said the Superintendent of staffing in Darwin much later.
(From Personal communication held on file by Parliamentary Education Section.)
Archie Halls was buried in a temporary grave at Kahlin Beach. He was then re-buried at the Berrimah War Cemetery, and his final resting place is the Adelaide War Cemetery.
Archie received a Civil Service Medal 1939-1945 posthumously, on 9th January 1998. This medal is for civilians who served in arduous circumstances in support of the war effort as part of organisations with military-like arrangements and conditions of service.
Archibald Halls has a street in the Darwin suburb of Alawa named in his honour.
Compiled with the assistance of Archibald Hall's grandson Hugh.
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