Strong bonds . . . (from left) Ron Benjamin, Paul Bamford, Ray Suiter, Don Green and Hank Duchateau at the Coffs Harbour RSL
Strong bonds . . . (from left) Ron Benjamin, Paul Bamford, Ray Suiter, Don Green and Hank Duchateau at the Coffs Harbour RSL

Remembering our war heroes


THEY are heroes, each and every one of them. The many men and women from the Coffs Coast who served this country with distinction during war time will be honoured today in Remembrance Day ceremonies throughout the region.

Ron Benjamin, 79, served during World War II with the Air Force in the 2nd ADS infantry-trained guards, and was sent to North Borneo in 1945.

"Remembrance Day means a lot to me, the same as Anzac Day," Ron said.

"You think about your mates, some I didn't serve with, good mates who served our country who aren't with us, and mates I did serve with.

"You form a bond, even with their children."

Paul Bamford, 80, was sent to Darwin in early 1944 with the No. 2 Airfield Defence Squadron and later that year went to Morotai, part of the then Netherland East Indies during the build-up of Allied forces.

He was only a kid when Armistice Day, as it was then known, was commemorated.

"A lot of kids had fathers who didn't come home from World War I," Paul said.

"As kids, it was quite an important day for us and was commemorated in all the schools. It petered out when World War II came around, but built up again to become Remembrance Day.

"World War I was the worst war in history. Imagine what it meant to the Diggers sloshing around in the mud in Flanders Fields."

Don Green, 88, served in New Guinea and Bougainville during World War II in the 7th Australian Bomb Disposal Unit with the AIF.

"It was a small, mobile platoon which could be attached to any division in the Army. We dealt with explosives," Don said.

"For me, Remembrance Day is a time to remember the mates that were with me that got killed."

Ray Suiter, 60, was in Vietnam during 1966-67 with the 5th Royal Australian Regiment (infantry), known as the Tiger Battalion.

"I ended up as a mortarman," Ray said.

"I was born in Ireland and lived in England before migrating to Australia in 1961. I was called up for the Army in 1965 during the first intake of national servicemen."

"My granddad was in World War I and when I was a kid at school, Armistice Day was like Anzac Day over here. It's still a big thing."

Ray, a welfare officer with the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-branch, will be laying a wreath at today's Coffs Harbour service.

Hank Duchateau, 56, the sub-branch secretary, helped train troops for what would await them in the Vietnam conflict.

He was at the Army's jungle training centre at Kanungra in Queensland from 1969 to 1971.

"We gave them a hard time," Hank said.

"They learnt survival skills, ambush drills, how to move in the jungle, how to set up positions and how to build a harbour.

"On Remembrance Day, I remember all the guys I pushed through training. Some of them didn't make it back from overseas.

"During Remembrance Day, the nation is reminded of the debt that is owed to all Diggers from Federation right through to those serving today in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We owe these blokes a debt in looking after their families."

n Veterans will assemble outside the Coffs Ex-Services Club at 10.45am today for the march to the cenotaph, followed by silence at 11am and the Remembrance Day service. Army vehicles will be on display and there will be fellowship in the Ex-Services Club.

n The Woolgoolga RSL sub-branch will have its Remembrance Day service at the war memorial in the forecourt of the RSL Club at 11am today.

The address will be given by RSL president Greg Jackson.

All members of the community are invited to attend.

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