20 Apr 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.
“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.
“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.
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