Jack looked after his Aussie mates

WHEN he meets someone from New Zealand, Jack Iredale tells them: "I looked after your joint during the war".

The cryptic comment only makes sense when you realise that Jack was part of a special crew aboard the DEMS Mernoo (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship) that recovered, laid and mended undersea telecommunications cables during World War II.

"When I was 24 years old we laid anti-sub screens across Auckland Harbour in 1942, and we connected the islands north of Australia and across Bass Strait as well," Jack said.

"We were civilians but we did it because no one else could."

Jack was a line foreman for the Postmaster-General, and although he was called up for duty in 1939 and completed his Army training, he was in a 'reserved occupation' so he didn't serve.

But he still did his bit for the war effort.

"One time we didn't reckon on how deep it was and we got about 60 miles out to sea off Cape York and the cable broke of its own accord," he said.

"We had to heave to and buoy the cable, there was nothing else to be done.

"I reckon there's miles of that cable still out there."

Jack's cable crew was disbanded in December 1944 but he still remembers the mates he made in those days.

"Some of the blokes on our crew were ex-Navy from the first war and we used to have a bit of fun."

The 89-year old retired to Sawtell in 1977 and always attends the local Anzac Day ceremony, and while he spends the day with new friends at the RSL, it's his old mates that are never far from his thoughts.

"I think about my mates, always have.

"Anzac Day makes me remember."


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