ANZAC tribute: Uniting WW2 veterans share their stories with current servicemen

ANZAC tribute: Uniting WW2 veterans share their stories with current servicemen

Anzac Day is a day of gratitude for the service men and women who have risked – and lost – their lives to serve Australia.

Here at Uniting, we are lucky to have had the chance to be of service to many ANZACs as part of our aged care. This year, we joined forces with the Royal Australian Air Force to arrange for two of our Uniting veterans to sit down for a conversation with some current service men. Here are their stories:

Meet our Uniting Anzacs

Flying Officer Douglas Victor Sandow

Douglas was a WWII bomber pilot. He is 95-years-old and lives in Uniting The Garrison, Mosman.

In a special conversation with RAAF Corporal Douglas Strauss, Doug remembers the first moments he flew an aircraft.

Corporal Douglas Strauss and Doug Sandow stand side-by-side and smile at the camera.

RAAF Cpl Douglas Strauss with Doug Sandow.

“I thought it would be wonderful to fly an airplane, irrespective of war,” he says. “I was 18-years-old.

“It was very exciting. It was. It’s a big thing in your life to get up there and you’re all on your own. You’re only one who can live or die.”

“And that’s what you do. You put your whole heart in it.”

The horrors of war

Despite this youthful enthusiasm, Doug would go on to experience a great deal of tragedy as part of his service to Australia.

“You’re taking on a very serious business becoming a soldier in a war,” he reflects. “I said I would go out and I might get killed – and too bad. That was my approach.”

“I witnessed some horrible events. When you see 11 men in a bomber die… there was a lot of horror in the damn business. But nonetheless, you were there to do a job and you had to do it.”

But it was bringing home the prisoners of war that remained his most memorable mission.

“That was the thing I felt the most. And still do to this day.”

For Doug, the life-long mateships forged in the line of duty are some of his most treasured.

“The friendships made during the war stayed with me until most of them died,” he reflects. “I went to their funerals and I conducted their funerals in a lot of cases. You’re just like a family.”

And the spirit of ANZAC mateship still lives on for Doug who marches in Anzac Day each year.

“I lead a team on ANZAC Day and I’ve marched our squadron for about 10 or 15 years now and we’re all good mates.”

Flying Officer Robert Duncan Marshall

Robert Marshall of Uniting Illowra is 96-years-old and served as a Flying Officer in WWII.

Robert Marshall is seated looking through his scrap book as Sergeant Michael Commorley looks on.

Robert shows RAAF Sgt Michael Commorley some of his mementos.

“I chose the Air Force because the uniforms were better,” Robert jokes. “I’m very glad I did though.”

Robert, who had no prior flying experience, was 16 when the war started.

“At 18, you were called up for service,” he remembers. “But everyone wants to be a pilot. I still find it amazing that I was chosen.”

“They put about 500 of us in a hanger and told us, ‘Go and choose your crew’. So, you’d go up to someone and say, ‘Would you like to be my navigator or bomb aimer?’, which I thought was very clever.

Courage in the face of tragedy

For Robert, it was one mission in particular that stuck with him.

“There was a town called Pforzheim which had never been bombed,” he remembers. “And I swear the Germans knew we were coming. So, I consider myself lucky that I was in the first wave. I saw 15 planes go down that night.”

“It was more or less normal to expect some disaster to occur.

“I don’t remember feeling fear, but I must have.”

Happy to tell their story

Having the opportunity to meet current servicemen and to tell their story has been a dream come true for our veterans.

“After Robert met the RAAF servicemen he was very happy and excited,” says Uniting Illowra Leisure and Wellness Coordinator, Irina Krasovitsky.

“He had an incredible feeling of being wanted, being needed and having someone who wanted to hear his story.”

“We are so happy that we had a chance to organise this for Robert.”

In thanks to our ANZACs

This Anzac Day, we would like to give thanks to Douglas, Robert and all those who serve and have served with valour for our country.

Get in touch

Find out more about Uniting aged care services and how we can help meet your lifestyle, health and care goals. If you would like to speak to our team of experts call 1800 864 846.

Find an aged care home near you.

Leave your messages of thanks in the comments section below.

14 Comments
  • Barbara Sandow Trappett
    Posted at 00:27h, 27 April Reply

    As a pilot myself, I am terribly proud of my uncle, Doug Sandow. Wonderful to share his experiences with both the older and younger generations. His memory is amazing !

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:32h, 29 April Reply

      Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for commenting. Our team had a great time working with Doug and Robert, both were bright as buttons.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team

  • Meredith Goodsell
    Posted at 21:17h, 25 April Reply

    I would firstly like too thank those gentleman for saving our country and wanting too keep us free.I Wonder if they Know or remember my father Howard Good sell (flt sergeant with Lancaster’s bomber and Halifax’s trained on and on a occasions flew Wellington’s) I would love to talk too them if they remembered 466 and 464 squadron.

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:52h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Meredith,
      Thank you for your thoughts. We’ll pass your question on to the teams at Uniting The Garrison and Uniting Illowra.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team

    • Claude Lafleur
      Posted at 11:42h, 07 September Reply

      Hello Meredith.

      My father-in-law was Robert E. Toomey of the RCAF. He was the only survivor of Lancaster Bomber KB751 when it was shot down on August 17, 1944.

      He knew a “Howard Goodsell” while at POW camp Stalag Luft 7.. If your relative was a POW, then that’s him.

      Robert Toomey drew some insignia of the various air forces of RAF Bomber Command. Howard Goodsell signed a drawings of the RAAF insignia.

      See website: “Wartime Diary of Robert E. Toomey”. and search for the name Howard Goodsell (use magnifier icon) or go to Scrapbook menu and “Drawings of Allied Insignia”

      • Paul Hemsworth
        Posted at 10:56h, 10 September Reply

        Hi Claude,
        Thanks for your comment.
        Kind regards
        The Uniting team

  • Jan tasker
    Posted at 15:58h, 25 April Reply

    Omg

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:48h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Jan,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team

  • Wendy Sewell
    Posted at 15:51h, 25 April Reply

    Thank you so much for these interviews.An absolute pleasure and honour to listen to these wonderful men representing so many others .

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:40h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Wendy,
      It was our pleasure to be able to bring it to you.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team

  • Dianne Samuel
    Posted at 15:09h, 25 April Reply

    Thanks and much gratitude to all who serve and have served our country.

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:39h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Dianne,
      Thank you for your thoughts.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team.

  • Maureen Thomas
    Posted at 08:04h, 25 April Reply

    Thankyou for your service and sacrifice of your youth. Lest we forget

    • Paul Hemsworth
      Posted at 10:38h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Maureen,
      Thank you for your thoughts.
      Kind regards
      The Uniting team.

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