1901 – 1971
Who was Maurice Ashkanasy?
Ashkanasy was born Moses Ashckinasy at Mile End Old Town in London to Palestinean-born tailor's cutter Solomon Ashckinasy and Annie, née Cohen, who was born in Russia. They emigrated to Australia in 1910 and lived in Melbourne, where Solomon worked as a scholar and Annie sold clothes. Maurice attended state schools including Melbourne High School before studying law at the University of Melbourne, receiving a Bachelor of Law in 1923 and a Master of Law in 1924. Admitted to the bar in 1924 having read with his lifelong friend Robert Menzies, he took silk in 1940. He married Heather Helen Epstein at East Melbourne Synagogue on 29 June 1927.
Ashkanasy was transferred to the Australian Imperial Force from the Reserve on 2 July 1940 as a lieutenant and embarked on 3 February 1941 for Singapore with the 8th Division. He was the deputy adjutant-general and legal officer for the AIF in Malaya and in October was promoted major. Following the fall of Singapore in February 1942, Ashkanasy led a small group in an audacious escape, ultimately reaching Fremantle in Western Australia via the Netherlands East Indies. Now a lieutenant colonel, Ashkanasy served in New Guinea and was mentioned in dispatches. He retired from active duty in September 1944 and returned to the reserve in February 1945 as an honorary colonel.
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