RSL is mate­ship, says Jim

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Jessica War­riner

CLOVERDALE res­i­dent Jim Sy­mons has been a proud RSL mem­ber since 1946.

The 91-year-old was in the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force in World War II, and is one of the RSL’s long­est-serv­ing mem­bers with a whop­ping 71 years of ser­vice to his name.

Com­ing of age dur­ing the war, Mr Sy­mons joined the RAAF as soon as he could, mov­ing to Perth from his Nar­ro­gin home.

“I joined a day af­ter I was 18, went into air crew down at Clon­tarf, a school out there for a cou­ple of months. We learnt morse code and nav­i­ga­tion, things like that,” Mr Sy­mons said.

He was sta­tioned with 85 Squadron, un­til he was sent for jun­gle train­ing just out­side Syd­ney.

Mr Sy­mons soon boarded the Amer­i­can troop ship Evan­ge­line, des­tined for Moro­tai in In­done­sia and the Western New Guinea cam­paign.

“There were a few anx­ious mo­ments. Like go­ing up on the Evan­ge­line, there was a sub­ma­rine scare, which got ev­ery­body’s heart rac­ing.

“We had a naval es­cort and it went around like a mad per­son drop­ping depth charges and good­ness knows what,” Mr Sy­mons said.

On ar­rival at Moro­tai, Mr Sy­mons boarded the Aus­tralian troop ship Manoora, headed for Labuan off the coast of Bor­neo.

“When we ar­rived at a makeshift jetty, we were off­loaded, about 20 or 30 troops, mostly air­force, and the ship dis­ap­peared pretty quickly. I was taken to my unit, which was 2 P.D., an am­mu­ni­tions sup­ply de­pot, and we sup­plied am­mu­ni­tion to the fight­ers and bombs to the bombers,” Mr Sy­mons said. Anzac Day stirs a lot of mem­o­ries. “There were some very brave peo­ple. One of my friends – he passed away not so long ago – was NZ Force and at 19 years of age he was parachuted into Bor­neo be­hind the Ja­panese lines where they joined the head-hunters. And there weren’t too many of them, nine or 10 over­all.

“You can imag­ine, at 19 years of age, drop­ping out of a plane into unknown coun­try,” Mr Sy­mons said.

Anzac Day means a lot. A lot of peo­ple lost their lives.

Mr Sy­mons moved back to Nar­ro­gin af­ter be­ing dis­charged in 1946, where he met wife-to-be Norma.

“I don’t think we ever re­ally had an ar­gu­ment, to be per­fectly hon­est,” Mr Sy­mons said of his late wife.

The pair had two chil­dren, San­dra and Greg, and moved to Perth in 1966.

Mr Sy­mons’ ex­ten­sive ser­vice at the RSL, par­tic­u­larly the Bel­mont RSL Sub-Branch, is tes­ta­ment to the power of shar­ing sto­ries and mate­ship, through the good times and bad.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son­mu­ni­ d468243

There’s a lot of cam­rade­ship still in the RSL, says Jim Sy­mons.

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