Stirling Times

Mateship sustains veterans

- Lucy Jarvis

NORTH Beach RSL veterans have varied experience­s of conflict and service, yet share a sense of mateship.

Geoffrey Pope, 95, enlisted with the Royal Australian Army when he was 18, inspired by his father who served at Gallipoli in World War I and his brother who flew Lancaster bombers over Germany with the Royal Australian Air Force.

“I couldn’t go overseas until I was 19,” the Craigie resident said.

“In that time, I had acne all over me — they listed me as unfit for tropical service.”

Mr Pope served with the 2nd/13th battalion in Borneo and 66 Battalion British Commonweal­th Occupation Force in Japan before being discharged in 1947.

He said he used to march on Anzac Day and now spent the day – and most days – thinking about his old mates and a few of the officers he served with.

Wayne Koch, 73, said he could remember Anzac Day services as solemn events since he was in primary school in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, and going to town to watch the parade.

Mr Koch said commemorat­ions became more important after he was called up for national service with the army in 1968 and posted to Vietnam for 12 months.

His grandfathe­r was a WWI soldier who trained at Blackboy Hill before going on the second convoy to Egypt then took part in the Gallipoli landing.

After surviving various battles and rising through the ranks from private to second lieutenant, he was captured and became a prisoner of war.

“I had no verbal history of this; I only found out when I researched his medals,” Mr Koch said.

Peta Connelly, 44, became an army reservist when she was 17 then joined the Royal Australian Army at 21. Mrs Connelly served in peace-keeping roles for eight years full-time before being discharged in 2005 then did another eight years with the reserves.

The Trigg resident joined North Beach RSL about

eight years ago and said being part of the organisati­on had been her “saving grace” as she adjusted to civilian life.

“RSL offers a way back into the community — people to talk to who are likeminded,” she said.

“They can give you advice and introduce you to people that might help; people who

can help you get back to work.”

She said the branch helped her get health issues recognised and looked out for her, calling to check in if she missed meetings and motivating her to go to gym.

Brian Jennings, 76, served with the 3rd Battalion RAR based in South Australia with about 50 West

Australian­s.

The retiree has been with North Beach RSL about six years, having done his national service from 196668.

“I can’t say I enjoyed it – it was something that everyone had to do,” he said.

“We were discharged as they went to Vietnam, so we missed out thankfully.”

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 ?? Pictures: David Baylis ?? Clockwise from left: Brian Jennings, Peta Connelly and Geoffrey Pope.
Pictures: David Baylis Clockwise from left: Brian Jennings, Peta Connelly and Geoffrey Pope.

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