Reflecting on service

By Abbey Flanagan

Long-serving veteran, Russell Eames, will be using the centenary of the signing of the World War I armistice as a chance to remember his mates, having served throughout most of the Second World War from 1940 to 1945.

The 95-year-old has spent his whole life in Deniliquin, with his father born in town in 1894, and his grandparents before that living in the north.

However, eager to try something different, he put himself up for enlistment during World War II when he was just 17.

With his mate, Mr Eames put his age as 18 to be eligible for recruitment, and being the only one of his siblings to enlist for service, he said his parents were quite understanding about his decision.

‘‘You could join up then but you could only get permission off your parents,’’ he said.

‘‘Another chap and I joined up together and he was about the same age as me but his father wouldn’t sign the papers, and my father did.

His first encounter with the offensive was his first overseas commission to Balikpapan in Borneo as a soldier in the 33 Guard Regiment, where he guarded army equipment and supplies.

‘‘When I joined up we went to Dubbo for training to be reinforcements for the 18th and 19th battalions. Once we finished our training we agreed to go away but then Singapore fell.

‘‘That’s when we went to the landing of Balikpapan for 12 months,’’ he said.

Mr Eames didn’t have much to say about his time during the war, however he did stress the importance of his duty, being just as important as that of any other of his mates.

‘‘Uh well it was alright. It was a job, we joined up to fight for our country and just did what we were told.

‘‘I enjoyed it, I mean I was only young then but of course we were frightened. I dare say there can’t be anybody who says they weren’t frightened when they used to go out at night time you know?

‘‘ knew danger was always close. But yeah, I had a good time, I mean I came home alive,’’ he laughed.

Coming home from the war Mr Eames left Maratua on the same boat as former Deniliquin veteran Russell Brown, who was an officer in the Navy.

He then served his final six months in the army at Seymour and Broadmeadows until he was discharged.

This year is especially special for Russell Eames as it marks 100 years since the signing of the armistice.

Like many others, he and his family will dedicate their day to remembering those who served before him.

‘‘This 100 years means a whole lot. I mean my father was over there in France,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s very significant just to remember them all. I knew a lot of World War I soldiers when I went to war, but even at home I remember all the old chaps who had retired, how we used to go down to the club (Deniliquin RSL Club) and mix with ‘em.

‘‘This year will be a bit more special, our daughter is coming down from Foster and our son will come from Bendigo and take us out to the 11am service.

‘‘I think it’s also important for youth to remember some of these people and how it has affected us today, those who fought for our country before I did.’’