Veterans share war stories

VETERANS: Former RAAF wireless operator Kevin Coughlin, former RAAF Sergeant Jack Fay, former Army Private Norm Smart. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHYFOLLOWING the Remembrance Day ceremony, old friends shared stories of years gone by in the halls of the Bendigo District RSL.
Nanjing Night Net

Jack Fay and Kevin Coughlin served indifferent areas during World War II, but together they represent the Remembrance Daylegacy.

Mr Fay, aFormer RAAF Sergeant,served in the Pacific from 1943 to1945.

He served in the Pacific, asa member of the Air Force ground crew,and used explosives to clear trees and create landing strips.

“We had to build the air strips to get them up in the air, day and night,” he said.

The reason Mr Fay, now 90,went to war wasdifferent to most.

He became an orphanat five in Ballarat, after his father was killed during World War I.

“Things were tough in the 1930s,” he said.

All of MrFay’s friendsenlistedduring World War IIand he wanted to join them, but was underage.

“My mates were a bit older than me. They joined up and left me on my own,” he said.

“So I decided I’d put my age up a little bit.”

Mr Fay was only 17, but he was put in charge of people older than himdue tohis eagerness to learn.

“Theywent out on the booze and I stayed home and did a bit of study,I got a few stripes,” he said.

Mr Fay’s medals,including aDutch Medaland aPacific Star,are stilla source of great pride.

Kevin Coughlin, 88,spent 18 months inthe Peron Islands near Darwin.

He was a wireless operatorand he arrived at his post in 1943,after the Darwinbombings.

Mr Coughlin’s role was todetectair traffic and his badge, afist holding several lightning bolts, signifies his important role.

He worked in a group of 20 men,called the radar unit.

They detected incoming and outgoing planes, and whether they were friend or foe.

“The radar used to follow the planes in and out, when the planes were going out, doing their bombing runs,” he said.

“The radar operators would also follow the planes until they reached their destinations.”

During his stint in the Northern Territory,Mr Coughlin bonded with the locals.

Hesaid the Aboriginal chief and his offsider brought himtins of water every morning,so he could wash himself.

Hewas grateful and shared what he could with the locals.

“Iused to give them a piece of Mum’s cake in return,” he said.

Mr Coughlin said Remembrance Day was “more psychological than anything else”.

“You’re remembering what has happened and the number of men killed in action,” he said.

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