The last of a dif­fer­ent breed

Gayn­dah’s only liv­ing Sec­ond World War vet­eran

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE ANZAC DAY - Adam McCleery adam.mccleery@cnbtimes.com.au

SEC­OND World War vet­eran and Gayn­dah res­i­dent Keith McGil­very will be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing his first Anzac Day as the last sur­viv­ing vet­eran in Gayn­dah.

Mr McGil­very joined the Aus­tralian Air Force in the early 1940s to play his part in the war ef­fort af­ter be­ing re­fused ad­mis­sion into the Aus­tralian Army.

“I was liv­ing in Monto at the time and I didn’t get into the army be­cause I had flat feet,” Mr McGil­very said.

“So I vol­un­teered for the Air Force as a ra­dio

❝ You would think how they must have had de­cent blokes on the other side too, with fam­i­lies wait­ing for them at home, that is the stupid part of war.

tech­ni­cian.”

What fol­lowed for Mr McGil­very was a non-stop 24 month tour of duty in South East Asia.

“We lasted 24 months while the 24th squadron was only able to last six months,” Mr McGil­very said.

Mr McGil­very trained in Mel­bourne af­ter en­list­ing.

He was even­tu­ally mo­bilised against the Ja­panese ad­vance in South East Asia.

“We were mainly with the Amer­i­cans and General MacArthur and had to move up the coast,” Mr McGil­very said.

“I was ground staff in ra­dio and they sent a force to face 100 Ja­panese sol­diers who weren’t ex­pect­ing the Amer­i­cans.”

The war ex­pe­ri­ence for Mr McGil­very is one he can still re­mem­ber vividly.

To this day he car­ries lessons he learned in the theatre of war.

“I didn’t fear not com­ing home, I could never say that there was no fear of that, but we weren’t on the front line,” Mr McGil­very said.

He said the hu­man as­pect of war was hard to ig­nore.

“You would think how they must have had de­cent

— Keith McGil­very

blokes on the other side too, with fam­i­lies wait­ing for them at home, that is the stupid part of war.

“I think some of the dive bombers used to miss on pur­pose.”

Mr McGil­very played a part in the ma­jor ad­vance of Amer­i­can General and Field Mar­shal of the Philip­pine Army Dou­glas MacArthur.

“His sys­tem for tak­ing is­lands was good, they would grab an is­land and go from one to the next,” he said.

“That sys­tem came about be­cause of the two other big land­ings, one be­ing D-Day and the other was the D Plus 1 land­ing.”

For the most part Mr McGil­very was lucky not to have to face the front lines as a ra­dio oper­a­tor.

“The few that were killed in my area were mostly ac­ci­den­tal,” Mr McGil­very said.

“Be­cause the bombs stopped drop­ping when I got there in Oc­to­ber 1944, they were pum­melling the cap­i­tal of New Bri­tain at the time.”

Mr McGil­very said it was this ad­vance­ment of al­lied forces that caused a bit of a stir amongst the Ja­panese.

“The Ja­panese knew they had to act quickly or not at all be­cause they were be­ing spread too far,” he said.

Af­ter the war Mr McGil­very re­turned to the North Burnett to con­tinue the rest of his life.

“I came back to Am­ber­ley in 1946 and got out of the ser­vice then I moved to Eidsvold,” Mr McGil­very said.

He would go on to marry his wife of 68 years, Phillis McGil­very, be­fore mov­ing to Mun­dub­bera and then set­tling in Gayn­dah.

Their son Bruce McGil­very said the type of men that went off to war form that gen­er­a­tion were a dif­fer­ent breed.

“When they came back, as an­other vet­eran once said to me, af­ter the Sec­ond World War most of them came back and got straight back into work to got their mind of all that stuff and found some nor­mal­ity again,” Bruce said.

“My un­der­stand­ing is that the Amer­i­cans were short of ra­dio me­chan­ics so that’s the main rea­son he was off shore for so long as they kept mov­ing to­wards Bor­neo.”

Mr McGil­very said the train­ing he re­ceived was cru­cial to him be­com­ing a part of that ad­vance to Bor­neo.

“The Amer­i­cans only had six weeks of train­ing on some­thing and that was it, but our train­ing in Mel­bourne was ex­cel­lent,” Mr McGil­very said.

Mr McGil­very has re­mained in the North Burnett and is present at ev­ery Anzac Day cer­e­mony he is able to at­tend.

As Gayn­dah’s last sur­viv­ing Sec­ond World War vet­eran Mr McGil­very de­serves more than ever to be hon­oured for his ser­vice to this coun­try.

PHOTO: ADAM MCCLEERY

LONE SURVIVOR: Keith McGil­very is the last sur­viv­ing Sec­ond World War vet­eran in Gayn­dah. This Anzac Day will be the first time he has been the only Sec­ond World War rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Gayn­dah.

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