Memories flood back for John
JOHN Blenkin can think of no better 80th birthday gift than a stroll down memory lane.
The World War II veteran returns to Papua New Guinea this weekend for the first time in 60 years.
He will be among 10 ex-service personnel to visit several locations where Australian forces fought the Japanese, during commemorations marking the end of the war.
"It's a great honour to be chosen and to be representing the Sawtell RSL sub-branch," John said.
He will attend a dinner tonight in Brisbane before flying out tomorrow for Port Moresby.
One of the highlights of his mission will be reading the prologue during a ceremony at the Coastwatcher Memorial at Madang.
He will also visit Cape Wom, where the final Australian campaign in New Guinea ended with the formal surrender of the Japanese 18th Army, as well as Bomana War Cemetery, Lae War Cemetery and Bita Paka War Cemetery at Rabaul.
John served in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and New Britain from 1943 to 1945 when he undertook crucial coding and radio work with Coastwatchers, also known as M Special Unit.
After the war, John was able to complete his schooling and then went on to tertiary study.
He was a pharmacist at Sawtell for 29 years.
More than 19,000 Australians lost their lives in the Pacific war, with 15,000 wounded and more than 22,000 becoming prisoners-of-war.
Of these prisoners, more than 8000 died in captivity.
Other Australian veterans are currently in Singapore for their own commemorations marking the end of the war.