Memories of wartime flood back
By REN LANZONrlanzon@gladstoneobserver.com.au
THE most frightening wartime experience for Merv Windress was when he and six others were told to take up position against the Japanese then realised the officers had abandoned them.
Merv is one of the World War II veterans who will be attending the 60th anniversary of the ending of WWII medallion presentations at Yaralla Sports Club on Monday.
'I was 20 and I joined the army in Gladstone in Tank Street, Merv Said.
"We were in the militia battalion based outside of Townsville and from Townsville Wharf we were sent to Milne Bay.
"The place was a quagmire and there were snipers in the trees.
'We were told to get into position ? there were seven of us ? and we realised our officers had blown through.
'Anyway, we got back safely enough.'
Merv said he contracted malaria about that time and he was sent back to Australia to recover, then was sent to Port Moresby (in New Guinea) and eventually to Madang and Bougainville.
When the war ended he was one of 30 men designated to look after 300 Japanese prisoners at the former Japanese air force base at Balali.
He said the Japanese then were not so bad and one of them, a martial arts expert, taught him a few tricks.
Merv said because he was single, he and other unmarried men were kept in Bougainville while the officers and the married men were sent home.
'It wasn't because of the lack of transport because they sent back thousands of drums at that time.'
Merv said he first heard of the war's end from a friend at 11pm that night. The celebration was wild ? it must have been because he remembers nothing of it.
'We'd been drinking pure alcohol which we got from the ambulance mob that we mixed with a few things.
'The next thing I know is that I was about 30 miles away watching a football match being played by some enlisted men. I have no idea how I got there.'