Veteran Profiles

At 9.15pm on Sunday September 3, 1939 Australia’s Prime Minister, Robert Menzies announced the commencement of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War across every national and commercial radio station across the country.

“Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war”.

Robert Menzies Prime Minister WWII Announcement

Robert Menzies [Credit: National Library of Australia]

This signalled the beginning of almost 1 million Australians taking up the call to serve and defend this country.  To put this in perspective, Australia’s population at the time was approximately 7 million.  Little did these people know, how significant that decision would be in shaping the rest of their lives.

These short interviews and profiles provide a short introduction to some on the incredible men and women who served Australia (and its allies) during World War II.  The complete documentaries are available online at The State Library of Queensland (Research & Collections) where they have joined the John Oxley Library’s extensive WWII Collection Archive.

These are their stories….

Roy Atfield Arthy 

19/10/1919 - 07/02/2020 
Private – The Australian Army

Roy Arthy was born in Gympie, Queensland.  One Sunday, Roy dropped his mum at church and while waiting for her at the local hotel, signed up for the Army after meeting a recruitment officer.

Roy celebrated his 100th birthday in October 2019 in a special gathering surrounded by family and friends. He passed away four months later in February 2020.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Pubic Donations

Owen Kirk Benn

Owen Kirk Benn 

12/04/1920 
Private – The Australian Army

Owen Benn was born in Toowoomba, Queensland and spent his early years on a mixed farm property in Cambooya called ‘Newberry’.

He joined the Australian Infantry after getting ‘itchy feet’ to leave the farm and because simply, ‘we were at war’. Owen’s three brothers soon followed him with 2 serving in the navy and one in the air force.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Herbert 'Claude' Bleakley 

22/07/1924 
Leading Aircraftman – Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Claude Bleakely was born in Cedarton, Queensland.

He spent the majority of his service in New Guinea.

Claude is well known in the Woodford area (north of Brisbane) as Proprietor of Woodford Carriers.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Kenneth John Bridges O.A.M

Kenneth John Bridges O.A.M 

4/11/1926 
Merchant Marine – Royal Australian Navy

Ken Bridges was born in Narrandera on the Murrumbidgee River, New South Wales. As a youngster he joined the Sea Scouts and this path eventually led him to becoming a Merchant Marine during WWII.

After World War II, was involved with the occupation of Japan followed by service  in the Korean War.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

John Cyril Briggs 

10/07/1924 
Pilot – Royal Air Force (RAF)

John Briggs was born in Leicester, England. He joined the Cubs and Scouts at a young age and the skills he learnt served him well when he was recruited into the Royal Air Force (RAF).

Upon moving to Australia, John was employed as an Engineer with the Brisbane City Council.  

Proudly sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly sponsored by Queensland Government

Alan Brown 

21/03/1922 - 27/05/2019 
Flying Officer – Royal Australian Air Force

Alan Brown was born in Stanthorpe, Queensland. He joined the Airforce in 1941 with a mission to become a night fighter.  Alan and his co-pilot Vic ‘Possum’ Whitfield, a master of astro navigation were the first Australians to land in Greece after the German occupation.

Alan continued his love of flying after the war, founding gliding clubs across the Sunshine Coast area of Queensland.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Public Donations

Faye Clarke 

29/07/1918 
Nurse – Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Faye Clarke was born near Ulverstone on Tasmania’s northern Coast. Before she was deployed to a militiary hospital in Palestine, her father gave her some sound advice telling her if she wanted to be respected as a young lady she should never smoke or drink alcohol.

Faye talks about collecting gum leaves at Gaza Ridge to remind her of home to the horrors of mending the battered bodies and suffering minds of Prisoners of War in Borneo.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Cynthia Lorna Daphne Clifford 

16/10/1923 
Gunner – The Australian Army

Cynthia Clifford was born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.  This feisty, courageous woman didn’t want to join the services as an administration officer even though she was highly experienced in this field. Instead Cynthia decided to join the Artillery.

As a gunner, Cynthia was responsible for putting the  predictor and height finder data into the 3.7 inch Anti-aircraft guns at Leighton Battery on Buckland Hill, Mosman Park.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Public Donations

Bill Elliott 

19/08/1921 
Corporal – The Australian Army

Bill Elliott was born in Ayr, Queensland and joined the Armed Services in 1939 alongside his brother.  They were taken into the infantry full time when Japan entered the war in December 1941.

While working in Townsville (on an escapte route), Bill recalls hearing Tokyo Rose on the radio personally addressing the 31st Battalion saying they were wasting their time as Townsville was going to be bombed.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Ronald Haysom 

19/01/1925 - 24/06/2020 
Signalman 1st Class -The Australian Army

Ron Haysom was born in Northgate, Mebourne.  He joined the Australian Signal Corps after the bombing of Darwin in 1942.  Ron was looking for adventure and he thought it would be fun. He soon found out it wasn’t.

Ron was deployed to New Guinea, Borneo and Singapore and in his interview he shares some of the more vivid and tragic memories of his experiences Borneo along with accompanying over 2000 POWs from Changi back home to Australia.  

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Proudly sponsored by the Star Entertainment Group

Richard Trevor Martin 

15/03/1923 - 24/02/2020 
Flight Sergeant – Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Born in Malvern, Victoria, Richard felt it was the right thing to do to join the armed services. He originally joined the Army as he was too young to join the Airforce.

Richard Martin was a true gentleman and actively involved with Sunnybank Sub-Branch RSL up until his passing in February 2020.  

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

David Henry Mattiske

David Henry Mattiske 

22/05/1925 
Sailor – Royal Australian Navy

David Mattiske was born in Palmer, South Australia.  At 17 David made the difficult decision to forfeit an opportunity of becoming a projessional AFL player for the Melbourne Demons Football Club to join the Navy. He was drafted to the HMAS Shropshire.

David wrote the book,  Fire Across the Pacific highlighting the campaign of the Royal Australian Navy.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Arthur James McClure 

23/03/1918 
Sapper – The Australian Army

Artie McClure was born in Caboolture. He joined the war effort as a topographer due to the threat of Japanese invasion.

He went to Darwin immediately after the bombing as much of the Northern Territory coastline had not been adequately mapped.

Artie continues to live a simple life in Caboolture Queensland, not far from where he was born over 101 years ago.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Private Donation

Frank McCosker 

30/11/1922 
Lieutenant – The Australian Army

Frank was the ninth child to his parents and grew up on a dairy farm in the Glass House Mountains. Like many others Frank lied about his age to join the army. He saw action at Milne Bay and recalls in exquisite detail much of the campaign in New Guinea. Frank was discharged in the middle of 1949 and joined the Queensland Police force where he spent the next 33 years until his retirement in 1980.  

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Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Henry George Preston 

12/01/1926 - 19/04/2019 
Private – The Australian Army

Henry Preston was born in Rose Bay, Sydney. Henry joined the Army in late 1943 after dropping out of school due to complications from a burst appendix.

Henry talks about the infamous Cowra Outbreak by 1,104 Japanese POWs in the largest and bloodiest prison escape of WWII.

Henry passed away in April 2019.  

Proudly sponsored by Ripple Beach Media

Proudly sponsored by Ripple Beach Media

Richard Vernon Saunders

Richard Vernon Saunders 

14/10/1921 
Captain –  The Australian Army

Richard Saunders was born in Mortdale, New South Wales. Originally joining the Army, Richard transferred across to the Air Force in early 1940 much to his parent’s relief. However, after realising he had depth perception issues, Richard rejoined his orignial 45th Battalion.

Richard was one of the Intelligence Officer in charge when the Japanese shelled Rose bay and sent the three submarines into Sydney Harbour in June 1942.  

Proudly sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly sponsored by Queensland Government

Leslee Scott Tannock 

26/11/1923 - 25/04/2019 
Corporal – Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAFs)

Leslee Tannock was born in Brisbane.  She joined the WAAF in signals after learning morse code at the tender age of 15.  After initial training in Victoria, Leslee was stationed in Maryborough during the war, and has fond memories of the town.

Sadly Leslee passed away just  a mere six weeks after filming, on ANZAC Day 2019.  

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Barbara Krithia Thelander 

26/04/1923 
Telegraphist – Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF)

Barbara enrolled herself in a course on morse code and when proficient enough, enrolled as a trainee wireless telegraphist. Her first post was at RAAF headquarters in Melbourne before being sent to Townsville for two years and then onto Richmond air base west of Sydney.

Barbara has written some books on her experiences including A Stroll Down Memory Lane and This Nearly was Mine.  

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Proudly Sponsored by Queensland Government

Joe Treers 

28/03/1922 
Chief Petty Officer – Royal Australian Navy

Joe Treers followed in his father’s footprints and joined the Navy so he could experience cuisines from around the world.

Joe speaks about a little town called Wittenoom in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Wittenoom was known for asbestos mining which was ultimately linked to the deaths of many of the residents. The town was scratched from Australian maps in 2007.  

Proudly sponsored by Ripple Beach Media

Proudly sponsored by Ripple Beach Media

Terry Walker 

25/11/1923 
Trooper – Royal Hussars (RH) British Artillery Soldier

Terry Walker was born in Secunderabad, India.  He enlisted at Aldershot, England on the 30th May 1938 in the Calvary of the Line as a bugler.

Terry was the colloquial “Ten Pound Pom,” arriving in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1957 before moving to Redcliffe, Queensland. Terry was instrumental in the construction of the Botanical Gardens in Redcliffe.  

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Laurie Woods 

26/12/1922 
Pilot Officer – Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

Born in Deloraine, Tasmania, Laurie left school at an early age to provide financial support to his parents before joining the Airforce to improve his education.

Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, for valor in combat, Laurie has written numerous books on Australian Airmen who flew with the Bomber Command.  

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL

Proudly sponsored by the Queensland State RSL