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Robert Noel Ebbels (1918–1952)

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Robert Ebbels, n.d.

Robert Ebbels, n.d.

Robert Noel Ebbels (1918- 1952) law clerk, student, naval officer, Communist and historian 

Birth: 13 August 1918 at Swan Hill, Victoria, son of native-born parents Alfred Thomas Ebbels (1892-1966), school teacher, later headmaster of Wangarattta High School, and Katie Agnes, née Wood. Unmarried. Death: 7 February 1952, near Gundagai, New South Wales. Religion: Presbyterian or Methodist. 

  • Enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces, Carlton, Melbourne, on 5 January 1940 and trained with the Melbourne University Rifles. Discharged on being appointed as a paymaster sub-lieutenant, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve, on 13 June 1942 and beginning full-time duty on 2 July.  Posted to HMAS Huon, the naval base in Hobart, for cypher duties. In March 1943 he transferred to the Special Branch and was posted to HMAS Moreton, Brisbane, from which base he performed intelligence duties in Australia and overseas in the South and South-West Pacific areas. He was promoted to lieutenant in August 1943.  Demobilised on 5 March 1946.
  • Returning to the University of Melbourne, he was secretary and president of the University Labor Club and secretary of the Students’ Representative Council in 1948. He graduated LLB 1947 and BA 1948.
  • Secretary of the National Union of Australian University Students 1948-49. Secretary of the International Union of Students 1950-51. President Australian Student Labor Federation, 1951-2.
  • Attended the 2nd World Youth Festival in 1949 on behalf of the ASLF.
  • Shortly after he returned to Australia he was killed in a road accident on the Hume Highway when he fell off the back of a truck. Funeral was conducted by Rev Alfred Dickie.
  • Communist, peace and youth activist ‘but never so intellectually arrogant as to assume that truth and happiness were the exclusive preserves of the Communist Party’.
  • His The Australian Labor Movement, 1850-1907, a documentary history, was published posthumously in 1960 with much editorial intervention by L. G. Churchward.

, 2 April 1952; John Playford Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962; Tribune (Sydney), 13 February 1952, p 10.

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Citation details

'Ebbels, Robert Noel (1918–1952)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Robert Ebbels, n.d.

Robert Ebbels, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


13 August, 1918
Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia


7 February, 1952 (aged 33)
Gundagai, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Organisations
Political Activism