Home' Phillip Island and San Remo Advertiser : November 11 2015 Contents PAGE 8 - THE ADVERTISER, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2015
THIS year's Remembrance Day marks 97 years since the First World War ended.
2015 is also the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
For some of our senior residents, these dates hold strong personal
memories, which come flooding back at this time of the year.
NOVEMBER 11, 2015
NINETY year-old Des Hutchins, a
Melaleuca Lodge resident, was serv-
ing on the Indonesian island of Moro-
tai when the Second World War ended
on August 15, 1945.
This island was a base for the Al-
lied forces of Australia and the United
States, and was the scene of a year-
long campaign (the Battle of Morotai,
1944-45) waged to liberate the Philip-
pines from Japanese control.
Des had enlisted in the RAAF as an
18 year-old in 1942 and he spent the
following three years as a steward in
the Sergeants' Mess.
He was part of an Australian force
that was camped within a US base
and can well remember when peace
was finally declared.
"Our tent was alongside the Ameri-
cans and when the call came over
that the war had ended, there was a
"It was great! I remember it was
daytime and our group of Aussies cel-
ebrated by catching a chicken (from
one of the neighbouring villages) and
handing it to the cooks to kill and
roast for us," said Des.
"There were about eight of us in our
little group. The RAAF didn't make
any provision for us to get home. We
had to find our own way!
"I don't know how we did it but we
somehow got on an old Douglas (DC-
3) aircraft which had no seats. We
had to sit on our packs. It flew us to
"But we had no money.
"So we sat in the railway station for
about a day, and finally got a train
down to Brisbane.
"We took refuge in the city some-
where, but we couldn't sleep as we
were covered in lice," Des said.
The next part of his journey is now
vague in his memory.
Des recalls he and two others ar-
rived in Melbourne ("most probably
by train") before making his way back
home to Mornington.
It was not the warm welcome that
he had hoped for.
"I caught the train to Frankston and
then a bus to Mornington. I went to
our house and walked in the back
door -- only to find a house full of
"What I didn't know was that my
parents had rented this house out
and had moved a few doors down the
road," Des said.
"These people told me where my
family lived. I went in the back door
and walked into the kitchen. My fam-
ily were all sitting at the table eating
"They had no idea that I was coming
home. My mother got such a shock!"
Des spent the next 12 months set-
tling back into civilian life before
seeking employment in Melbourne.
MELALEUCA Lodge resident, 96
year-old Joy Burgoyne, was a young
wife and expecting her first baby
when she heard the news that the war
(in the Pacific) had ended.
"I well remember 1945 as it was the
year my daughter was born. At that
time I was living in Western Australia,
at Victoria Park, with my mother and
sister, as my husband was serving in
the army on Thursday Island.
"I don't remember any great cel-
ebration (when peace was declared)
as I was at work sewing curtains. I
was employed as an interior designer.
"We just went home at the end of
the day," said Joy.
Her daughter was born the next
month, in September. She had to wait
until the following December for her
husband to return home.
REMEMBERING the war years are
these World War Two survivors Don
Spurway (left) of Griffiths Point Lodge
in San Remo and his partner Betty
Memories of his four years of service
in the Royal Navy (RN) come to mind
for 90 year old Don when he thinks of
this week's Remembrance Day.
Although it is 70 years since peace
came to his homeland of England,
Don can clearly recall his many hours
in the hold of his ship as a radio op-
Don was 15 years of age when he
signed up for the Navy but it wasn't
until he turned 17 that he was able to
start a 12 month training course for
this important role.
When he qualified in 1943 he was
posted to a tribal class destroyer,
For the next two and a half years this
ship plied the waters out of Plymouth
in its nightly quest to locate any Ger-
man ships that were entering the Eng-
The Eskimo was in a flotilla of eight
ships, consisting of four English, two
Canadians and two Polish vessels.
"Our job was to go out every night --
not a maybe -- but to head out into the
channel to see if there was any Ger-
man activity there," said Don.
"As soon as we heard the call 'action
stations' we'd rush to our posts and
head off. You slept whenever you could
and you'd sort of get used to it.
"I can remember one night when
one of my mates was asleep in his
bunk and we attacked five German
raiders. In amongst all that noise and
activity, my mate never woke up!" Don
"You never knew if it would be a
close shave or not. You could meet up
with minesweepers or big destroyers.
"Unfortunately we had a 'sweep
down' one night off the French coast
and ran into the back of one our
ships, the HMS Relentless. We didn't
see it and sadly they lost some lives on
board," he said.
Don and his crew were off the coast
of South Africa when peace in Europe
was declared in May 1945.
It was a date that he will never for-
"It was May 7 when the first of the
atomic bombs was dropped (in Ja-
pan). It was my birthday on the 9th
and on the 10th the second atomic
bomb was dropped -- and ended the
"We were heading down to (the port
of) Durban at that time and I remem-
ber how we all cheered. But we didn't
really celebrate. How could you on 30
shillings a day?" he commented.
"We weren't allowed to party -- we
were only allowed our usual rum ra-
tion in the morning," said Don.
It was a different story for Betty
Finnen who was a young girl of 10
when war broke out.
Betty and her family lived in the
north of England in the County of
Durham, on the River Tyne.
"I distinctly remember when war
broke out (September 3, 1939) and
the paper boy was running down the
street shouting 'war is declared'," said
86 year old Betty.
War for a young girl was both dis-
ruptive and exciting.
Betty recalls the fun she and her
younger sister had whenever the air
raid siren went off across town.
Their mother was an air raid war-
den and was required to don her tin
helmet and take to the streets to warn
people to go under cover.
This proved to be a fun time for
these young girls.
"Before my mother went out she
would put the two of us under the
stairs for protection.
"But when we heard the door slam
we'd get out and sneak upstairs to
watch the bombs dropping overhead.
The German planes would fly over to
look for ships in the river (Tyne). It
was a major waterway.
"When we heard mum coming home
we'd scurry back down and hide un-
der the stairs.
"My mother never knew what we re-
ally got up to!" said Betty.
On another occasion she and her
younger brother were walking up the
street when they heard two planes fly-
They were fascinated and stopped to
watch them in action. But this inter-
est was short-lived when a lady came
out of her house and told them to get
"We didn't want to -- and we didn't
know that it was a Gerry (German)
plane and a Spitfire (British fighter)
having a dog-fight!" Betty said.
The six long years of war for English
families often saw families separated
for various periods of time.
Because of the threat of invasion in
the early years, and especially in the
harrowing months of the Battle of
Britain (1940), young children were
put on trains and evacuated to safer
This was the case for Betty and her
two sisters. On two occasions they
spent time with families in Yorkshire.
"They were wonderful caring peo-
ple," said Betty who admits that she
was unperturbed by the disruption
and uncertainty of this time.
She was 16 years old when the war
finally came to an end. It was a day
that she remembers for its festivity.
"I was at work, as a window dresser,
when peace was declared. It was fun
as people were out in the streets with
tables laden with any food they had.
"We were all singing and cheering,
and celebrating the end of this long
war," Betty remembered.
SAN Remo Griffiths Point resident
Hugo Tabain (above) was a young boy
in Yugoslavia during World War Two.
"It's always in my memory. I feel sor-
ry for the children. It's something you
can't forget," said Hugo as this year's
Remembrance Day approaches.
The day is a very private affair for
this 80 year old, and is always a sad
"I don't want anyone to have to go
through what I went through," he says.
Hugo was one of 10 children -- nine
boys and one girl -- who lived along
the Adriatic coast in the village of Vela-
Yugoslavia had a chequered history
during World War II with invasions by
the Fascist movement (those who sup-
ported the Italian dictator Mussolini)
and then from Nazi Germany.
This unstable political situation
created a great deal of disharmony,
uncertainty and division amongst
its people, and even amongst family
It saw members of families like the
Tabains being taken away to join the
Hugo saw his father and three
brothers being forced out of the fam-
ily home by the Partisans, on April 22,
At that time the Yugoslav Partisan
Army, or National Liberation Army,
was experiencing a ground swell and
was Europe's most effective anti-Nazi
It was also anti-fascist in its ideol-
ogy and led by the Communist Party of
Yugoslavia. It sought support by force.
"My father wanted to remain neutral
but he and three of my brothers were
taken away by the Partisans.
"They were sent to Italy and then to
Egypt. One of my brothers was killed
(in the war), two were wounded and
my father survived," he said.
His father was never to return home
and migrated to Australia in 1948.
Hugo was reunited with him when
he also migrated here in 1959 at the
age of 24. It was not until 1963 that
his mother and only sister were able
to join the family.
While he lived through the misery,
violence and hardship of the war
years, Hugo was also able to take the
opportunity of learning other languag-
es, and became a fluent linguist in all
Slavic languages, as well as Polish,
Italian and Russian.
They are languages that he has re-
tained to this day.
The declaration of peace in Europe
in May 1945 was little cause for cel-
ebration for these people.
For many it was a time of sadness
for all the hardship and loss they had
suffered, at the hands of many.
LADIES Day at Flemington was
cause to dress up and celebrate for
these two ladies of Melaleuca Lodge
May Webster (right) and Margaret
Armitage (centre) enjoyed the oc-
casion with activities coordinator
Kerrie Barr (left) during last Thurs-
This year is also a significant
date for May and Margaret as they
remember when the war ended for
Australia, 70 years ago.
Now aged 96 years, Margaret
clearly remembers the day when
the news came through.
"I was at home in Camberwell
looking after my three small boys
when my husband rang me from
"He said that the streets of Mel-
bourne were crowded and everyone
was out celebrating.
"But he took a long time to get
home! He said that he couldn't get
through the crowds," said Margaret
with a smile.
It was a different story for local
girl May Webster who was 14 years
old at the time.
"I was sitting at home (on the
farm at Ventnor) and listening to
the wireless when the news came
over that the war had ended.
"The neighbours came over and
we all rejoiced! There were about
30 of them. Mum put the kettle on
and we had cups of tea and cakes.
The cows were all out at that time
so there was no milking.
"We kicked on for the rest of the
"Mum could play the organ, and
we sang all the old war songs. It
"People brought in big logs of
wood and stoked up the fire.
"I remember falling asleep and
waking up to find that they were all
still singing!" said May.
Although this was a happy occa-
sion, it was tinged with sadness,
for those who left for war and never
"It was sad, as we had lost one of
our Ventnor boys, Nip West. He was
killed in Malaya. He was a lovely
lad," May said.
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