Constituency Statement: The 75th Anniversary of VP Day
Fifteen August was an important day for Australians, as we commemorated the 75th anniversary of VP Day and the end of World War II. Victory in the Pacific marked the end of that awful war Australians endured for almost six years. For the first time in our modern history as a nation Australia faced the threat of invasion. The bombing of Darwin and the midget submarine attack in Sydney Harbour brought the war into the cities and homes of Australians. This was no war in distant foreign lands; this was on our doorstep.
From 1939 to 1945, Australia played a significant role fighting in Europe, and then against the Japanese, alongside our allied forces. They fought in places like Papua New Guinea, Malaya, Bougainville and New Britain, and at battles like Kokoda, Rabaul and Buna–Gona and at Milne Bay, which was of such strategic significance. Fighting against a numerically superior and battle hardened force, Australia’s young troops proved themselves to be highly effective, formidable and tenacious. Tragically over 17,000 Australians would lose their lives fighting the Japanese or in the horrific prisoner-of-war camps. I was proud to attend the North Sydney Cenotaph on VP Day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of Australia at a moving service organised by the North Sydney RSL Sub-branch.
Of the one million Australians who served in the war, there are just 12,000 who are still with us. But, whilst their numbers have dwindled, the importance of recognising their service has not. So it was an honour to meet some of the World War II veterans who live in my own electorate and present them with the special commemorative medallion struck by the Commonwealth to acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the end of the war. There were veterans like Allan Willoughby of Cammeray, who only turned 100 this month and who served in New Guinea. Allan is an amazing fellow and still lives in the home that he was born in—and six months ago he was still driving a car and doing his own shopping! Peter Comino, aged 94, of Lane Cove, is a real character. He is the son of Greek migrants who settled in Guyra in country New South Wales and who, following a well-beaten path, established a milk bar. Peter served in the 79 Spitfire squadron and witnessed the famous Japanese surrender at Morotai in present-day Indonesia. There was also Norman Hunter, aged 97, of Castle Cove, who gave up his accountancy studies to serve in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Bruce Scott, also aged 97, of Greenwich, served in Merauke, also in Indonesia, and helped to defend the air base there from repeated Japanese attacks. Mr Scott later ran a newsagency here in Canberra, in Deakin, which is still there, and has fond memories of Prime Minister John Gorton picking up his newspapers when he couldn’t wait for them to officially be delivered to the Lodge. Listening to their stories was an amazing experience and an opportunity for me to say thank you on behalf of our community. Our gratitude will endure for all times.