Long-lasting memories for Bundaberg’s World War II veterans

Bundaberg World War II veterans Fred Bainbridge and Neil Mooney enjoy Anzac Day at the Bundaberg RSL club. Picture: SHANE JONES

By Shane Jones

No matter where he goes, Bundaberg’s Fred Bainbridge always has a lasting memory with him of World War II.

Mr Bainbridge, along with Noel Mooney, are among only a handful of veterans remaining from the Second World War, fought from 1939 to 1945.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of Japan, Germany and Italy’s surrender to the Allies.

Mr Bainbridge, 96, along with Mr Mooney, attended the Bundaberg RSL Sub-Branch lunch to commemorate Anzac Day on 25 April and to spend time with those who also served their country.

Both also had their family and friends with them to honour the day.

Mr Bainbridge was 16 when he enlisted but raised his age to make sure he could join his brothers in serving.

He went to Dutch New Guinea, now Indonesia, and fought from 1942 until almost the end of the war in the army in the 26th Battalion.

He got shot in his left shoulder, ending his war and returning him back to Australia.

The bullet struck his shoulder blade, missing vital organs and helping him to survive.

“I still got a piece of bullet in his shoulder from back in the day,” Mr Bainbridge said.

He and his brothers all returned home from war, much to the relief of his mother, who got a medal in honour of having five sons serve in the conflict.

He told Bundaberg Today he didn’t know his brothers survived the war until everyone came back home.

Joining the Bainbridge family in coming home was Mr Mooney, who served in Papua New Guinea.

But his journey home was interesting to say the least.

“I was in the air force, I was in New Guinea,” Mr Mooney said.

“I was there when the war finished and it was three months before we were able to get home.

“There was that many (soldiers) up there.”

Mr Mooney, 95, was in a bomber squadron in the Royal Australian Air Force – the 8 Squadron, to be exact.

In the plane that got the soldiers home, one of the tyres blew off while the aircraft was rising.

And for the soldiers, there wasn’t any comfort to the flight, even when a new tyre was put on the aircraft.

“We had no seats, we were in the fuselage, we had no seat belts,” Mr Mooney said.

“You couldn’t survive if we did it today.”

Both Mr Bainbridge and Mr Mooney hoped generations to come would continue to commemorate and respect those that fought in World War I and World War II and focus on all campaigns the same.

Both are also hoping to be around for more Anzac Days to come and to celebrate their 100th birthday with a letter from the Queen.