Thursday, 3 September 2020
Victory in the Pacific Day
On 15 August this year, we commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific. On this day, the Empire of Japan accepted the allies' demand for an unconditional surrender. For Australians, it meant the end of the Second World War. It was finally over. Almost one million brave Australians put their hand up to serve in World War II. This is a remarkable statistic when one reflects on the fact that our total population was just seven million at the time. Almost 27,000 gave their lives, including many of my fellow Tasmanians.
Tasmania, including the north-west, the west coast and King Island, has a rich history when it comes to the Second World War. Our very own battalion, the 2nd/40th, played a major role throughout the Second World War. My father, my grandfather and many of my ancestors served proudly in the 2nd/40th. In February 1942, whilst operating as part of Sparrow Force in Timor defending an airfield, this Tasmanian infantry battalion was attacked by a very much superior Japanese enemy force. Our Tasmanian battalion was forced to surrender by the Japanese, but not before losing 84 killed in action and 132 were badly wounded. My Great Uncle Jack, Jack Moles, was bayonetted through the leg during this tragic battle and would eventually spend three years of his life in various prisoner of war camps. This is where our Tasmanian service men were put to work on the famous Burma Railway. Uncle Jack would eventually—
(Quorum formed) Jack would eventually come home, but the trauma of those prisoner of war camps would live with him for the remainder of his days.
Other brave Australians served our nation in the far corners of the world, fighting in theatres of war from Europe to North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. The conflict also reached Australian shores. It was my privilege on the 75th anniversary to attend a commemorative wreath-laying service at Anzac Park in Ulverstone. It was a wet and cold day in Ulverstone, but that wasn't enough to deter 98-year-old Jack Eaton. He's a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He was in the RAF during the Second World War. He was employed as a radar operator and signaller. We share a lot in common, so we had a good yarn.
Later that afternoon I was honoured to visit 98-year-old veteran Ron Walters at his home at Coroneagh Park to present him his medallion. Ron was born in Smithton in 1921. He served in the Army and was in the Light Horse. He has three sons, all in the Defence Force—one in the Army, one in the Air Force and one in the Navy. His youngest son retired just a few months ago. It is, indeed, true that service truly runs in the blood.
I would also like to acknowledge the following World War II veterans who received the commemorative medallion: Brian Boney, Athol Brown, Stan Holloway, Jack Reading, Vic Webb, Wilfred Rogers, Doug Brooks and James Tyrrell. A grateful nation expresses our sincere thanks to those who served and contributed to the war effort and the freedom of nations.
I'd like to pass on my gratitude to Damien Griffin RFD, President of the RSL sub-branch in Ulverstone; Secretary—and legend—Bill Kaine MBE, OAM; and the members of the Ulverstone sub-branch. They have a fantastic commitment to the commemorations and did a fantastic job. You did Tasmania proud, and you reminded us all that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Lest we forget.