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Veterans honoured

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Five Deniliquin men have been honoured for their service in World War II as part of a special project.

Leo Pearn, Max Gunn, Russell Eames, Jack Moores and Bill Gordon have each been sent recognition certificates to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VP Day tomorrow — marking Victory in the Pacific and the end of World War II.

They are believed to be the only surviving World War II veterans attached to the Deniliquin RSL Sub-branch.

The certificates have been coordinated by the NSW Department of Veterans Affairs, in lieu of being able to host official ceremonies to celebrate the veterans.

The Commonwealth Government will also formally recognise the country’s surviving veterans with the presentation of a World War II commemorative medal in coming weeks.

More on each of the veterans is provided below.

Leo Pearn – Army Private, 64 AA S/Light GRD Workshops

Mr Pearn was 20 when World War II broke out, and he served in the Australian Army for  four years.

‘‘Any red blooded soldier boy felt a duty to serve but the army was a challenging life,’’ he said.

‘‘I could serve in Australia, which was better than being in the front line and being shot at. That is what war is all about, men killing men.

‘‘I was a driver mechanic. We were questioned the first morning if we had a driver’s licence and any mechanical knowledge and when you could answer yes, you were a driver mechanic in the army. I enjoyed it.’’

While Mr Pearn was serving as a driver mechanic on the American air base Brennan in Charters Towers, Queensland, his skills in irrigation farming were discovered. 

He was ordered south to Cowra to lay out and manage the irrigation system for the ‘‘largest vegetable garden in the southern hemisphere’’ to provide food for the war effort.

While he was there, Mr Pearn witnessed the Cowra Japanese prisoner of war breakout.

When the conflict ended in 1945, Mr Pearn headed straight for home (Deniliquin).

Russell Eames – Army Private, South West Pacific

Mr Eames was so eager to help his country he enlisted for World War II when he was just 17, falsifying his age up one year to be eligible for recruitment.

Mr Eames’ first encounter with the offensive was his first overseas commission to Balikpapan in Borneo. As a soldier in the 33 Guard Regiment, 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.

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

‘‘I was only young then but of course we were frightened . . . you knew danger was always close. But . . . I came home alive.’’

Max Gunn – RAAF  Leading Aircraftman, 7SFTS (Deniliquin)

Mr Gunn enlisted in World War II when he was just 18 years old and served from 1944 to 1945.

‘‘My job was to fix the aeroplanes from the No 7 Service Flying Training School at the Deniliquin Aerodrome,’’ he said.

‘‘After the war was finished, I stayed to work there until the training school was eventually closed.

‘‘I was a young boy who just wanted to help Australia get out of trouble.’’

The No. 7 Service Flying School operated from June 1941 until April 1948, and was where Max worked until he was drafted out of the RAAF in late 1945.

Bill Gordon – RAAF  Leading Aircraftman (radar operator),  South West Pacific

Mr Gordon joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942 and was sent almost immediately to active service.

‘‘Darwin had just been bombed and 233 people were killed when I was 18,’’ he said.

‘‘I had five or six good mates with me, and we decided that we wanted to try and stop the Japanese from invading Australia.

‘‘And so I suppose we were a bit foolish being so young, but we decided to join up together to protect our country.’’

Mr Gordon attended ‘‘rookie training’’ for six to eight weeks where he said ‘‘you learn to do what they say’’.

Just a few weeks later he was called to New Guinea to operate the radar systems.

‘‘In those days the radar system was a very early tool we would use to see where the Japanese were coming from, or whoever the enemy was.

‘‘This radio frequency could pick them up. We would send out an alarm and the soldiers would get their artillery prepared, it was especially useful when they were coming to bomb a town or whatever else.

‘‘I was there for about 15 months and then we had a bit of leave and we returned to Australia. But because we were trained to do navigational assistance, we were sent to several little islands around Australia to keep our eyes open, our mouths shut, and to use the radar to keep an eye out for the Japanese.’’

Mr Gordon served an additional six months after the end of the war, making him eligible for the 1939-45 Star.

Jack Moores – British Army Sapper, D Day Landings and Burma

On June 6, 1944 Mr Moores was one of more than 150,000 troops storming the beaches of France while being shot at by German soldiers.

A member of England’s Royal Engineers, he didn’t know what to expect when they landed at Normandy.

More than 10,000 men were killed on that first day, historically referred to as D-Day.

Just 18 years old and conscripted into the army only six months earlier, Mr Moores said he spent most of that fateful day in tears.

‘‘I watched it all from there (the beach) and I was crying most of the day,’’ he said.

‘‘I have never seen as many ships as that since — you couldn’t even see the sea.

‘‘We landed at Gold Beach about two minutes to six (pm), after leaving Northampton, England at 2pm.

‘‘We left on a troop ship and about one mile off shore we transferred to a landing craft.

‘‘About 50 yards out from the beach, the front of the landing craft dropped, and we went into about four feet of water.

‘‘The water was up to my chin and I had to hold my rifle above my head — we were told that even if we drowned we were not to get our rifles wet.’’

Jack was lucky to survive when a vehicle in his convoy ran over a mine on the road to Falais, and after a period of recovery from injuries in this accident served in India, Burma and Singapore.

He has lived in Deniliquin for more than 20 years.

■ More stories commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific will appear in Tuesday’s edition.