As I mentioned in my last post, here are the people I was privileged to meet and photograph as part of the AIPP Reflections project. Most shared their stories with me, but I wasn't able to record them all. Below are a few I did manage to take down, though I apologise if the details are not completely accurate, journalist I am not! Again, more information can be found at http://www.aipp.com.au/reflections
WWII veteran Gunner, Jeffrey English lost his mother at the age of 7 and his father at the age of 14. He was made a ward of the state and taken to Bayswater children’s home.
He had a “hell of a time” there, so at the age of 15, made his escape by doing a runner whilst on laundry duty. To avoid the guard dogs, who were fast approaching, he dived into a blackberry bush, and by some miracle they didn’t find him.
With blood all over him from the bush and no shoes (he could run faster with out them), he approached a gentleman and asked for 2 shillings for food. The man kindly obliged, but instead of getting the food, Jeff headed straight for the bus stop and got on the next bus to Melbourne.
He marched straight into the army office and volunteered to sign up, declaring that he was 21 years old. Naturally, the officer queried this, and went to get his superior.
Jeff was backing back to the door, fearing he was about to be carted back to the home, when a major appeared and took him into his office. “I told him all about it. He asked me, “Where do you live?” I said “under the bridge where all the trams go” (Swanston st) He said “you can’t live there” and he took me to his home in the state car and gave me some clean clothes. He said “Don’t worry about it, I’ll get you into the army.” So I sailed to the Middle East on the Queen Mary in 1941.
Mr Heinrich was a Photographer in the RAAF. (which of course is of particular interest to me!) Photos were taken in the nose of the plane at 18,000 feet after the photographer took control of the plane to find the correct position. The carefully lined up images were used to map Australia after the war. Mr Heinrich was asked to continue overseas, but declined to stay in Australia.
Mr Pearce drove transport from Alice to Darwin after the Japanese took control of the Indian Ocean. He was asked to go overseas, but after 3 of his 6 brothers were killed in action, he couldn't do it to his mother.
Mr Disher recalled a story from his brother in law. On a dark night a group of men were 10 metres to his right near a shovel. Needing to use it, he went over and grabbed the shovel, only to discover the next morning that the shovel was German!
Mr Kemp was a warrant officer in the Air Force stationed in Gibraltar. They used radars to find German subs, flying at only 30 feet above sea level to detect the targets and drop the charges. "The navigators were excellent, sometimes using the stars on a clear night to confirm our location."
"As frightening as the fighting was, the ferocity of the storms in New Guinea could be equally frightening" Mr Crawford