3 Sept 2015
I have started to get involved in the AIPP WWII Veterans Reflection Project. Here are the highlights:
Meet William Skinner who is 94 years young. Suffered cracked skull and near miss leg amputation near Dutch New Guinea. A member of Goldfish Club (association of war veterans whose aircraft crashed in the water and survived). Goes on 4 leisure cruises a year with his girl friend 10 years junior.AIPP Reflections
This is Norman West, 88, who joined the army at 17. Showed me a picture of him at Walsh Bay, Westralia (no typo) escorting Japanese war criminals on way to Singapore. He was a Chief Superintendent of NSW Police Force when he retired. AIPP Reflections
Ronald McKenzie, 91, served RAAF as a Leading Aircraftman at New Guinea. Was #3 at Sydney Water Board when he retired. Still very sharp and agile at his age. He loves his grandchildren very much as he has gifted them all his war medals. #WWIIveterans AIPP Reflections
Meet John Craig, 91, enlisted at the age of 18 (he claimed himself 19 so he could be enrolled), was the Signal Man with the British Army. Three years and seven months as Prisoner of war (POW) on Burma Thailand railway; and afterwards taken to work in a Japanese copper mine near Osaka until the war ended. He is 6’2” tall. At the time of the release, he weighed at a mere 4 Stones (56 lbs or 25.5 kg). Image the hardship he had gone through. He told a story a young Japanese lady from that Osaka village travelled to Britain after the war ended searching for all 286 POW survivors to tell them that a shrine had been built by local villagers to commemorate those who could not make their way home. A beautiful gesture that successfully defused the hatred of British POW’s toward the enemy. He had since returned to the cooper mine village twice funded by the local village community.
He told yet another amazing story of humanity. One night when he stood sentry for his fellow POW camp, he was quietly reading his bible his mum gave him just before his service (a rarity as all bibles would have used to roll cigarettes). A Japanese soldier came checking out on him. The next morning, this same Japanese soldier pushed past all other soldiers and POW’s, and handed John a bunch of steaming hot potatoes, that could have saved his life. Praise God for that!
He has never worn the ribbons (medals) since they were presented to him post war. It is my great honour to pin those to his jacket pocket after sitting in a tiny box for more than 60 years.
He drove himself and his wife for 64 years to my studio in a brand new Japanese 4WD, after just returning last week from a cruise around Britain/Northern Europe. #WWIIveterans AIPP Reflections
At 95, Arthur Sinclair is the most senior veterans I have photographed thus far. Joined Westpac Bank at the age of 18. Enlisted to fight on shore and at New Guinea with the rank of Corporal. Retired after 48 years of service with Westpac as their area accountant. Also a very devoted Scout leader, he felt very excited about the portraiture session. He had his jacket dry-cleaned yesterday. #WWIIveterans AIPP Reflections
Mrs Tempe Merewether, 92, was a Corporal of the Australian Airforce (WAAAF) responsible for signalling. Served at Airforce bases in Sydney, Darwin and Canberra. Fascinated, and still do, by the thrill of being onboard of aircrafts and bombers, like Avro Anson, Lockheed Hudson, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, DC-3 Australian National Airways. the predecessor of Ansett Airline. She described one night flight over Canberra with a view of the city lights arranged in such a way that looked like a crown! Tempe is special to me as she is my first lady WWII vet. #AIPP #Reflections#HonouringourWWIIveterans
You would hardly come across a WWII veteran as lively as John Mitchell, 91, Able Seaman of the Royal Navy. His campaigns include the Russian Convoy and Normandy Invasion, or better known as the D-Day on 6 June 1944. “The movie Saving Private Ryan is as real as it gets”, said John. He was once a gunner onboard of HMS Arethusa. A German Bomber blew a large hole in the hull. 350 onboard but luckily with only 1 casualty.
After the war, he got married, obtained his degree and then started a career with Cadbury as a cocoa buyer spending most of his time in PNG, helping the farmers to grow cocoa. Sadly his wife passed away 51 years ago and he raised their two children.