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Memories from the frontline - a resident's story

For all Australians, ANZAC Day is a day in which the nation remembers all who served and died in war and operational service. Hundreds and thousands of Australians gather to commemorate the spirit of ANZAC ensuring the tradition and legacy continues for future generations.

Across Catholic Healthcare’s residential aged care services, there are a number of ex-serving men and women who have a personal account and experience. The qualities of courage and sacrifice continue to have meaning and relevance in our society today and behind every service man and woman, there is a unique story of service and experience during wartimes.

John Barry is a resident of Catholic Healthcare in Surry Hills, who served in the British Royal Naval Special Reserve during the Second World War. Originally, from Glasgow, Scotland, Mr Barry enlisted on August 17, 1939 when he was 19 years of age as a Petty Officer on a naval ship.

"Once our basic Navy training commenced, the 500 of us men had all been divided up and appointed to three naval bases. One particular day various ships had been sent out for naval exercises and the following day, war broke out. I went in for six months of training and spent six years in war,” Mr Barry said.

After the war, John married his ladylove Irene, who he had convinced to wait to marry when and if he returned from war. Irene and John married and went on to have children. He became a teacher and migrated to Australia 1974, and has previously participated in the marches with help from his two children.

Last year’s Centenary saw record numbers attend services Australia wide, now 101 years on we commemorate the Centenary of the Somme where almost 300,000 Australians served on the Western Front in France and Flanders, taking part in every major British offensive between 1916 and the Armistice in 1918. More than 46,000 lost their lives, of whom some 18,000 have no known grave.

“I recall seeing very small crowds gathered for ANZAC Day and these days, it is crammed full,” he said excitedly. “The great thing is you see young people and married people with children attending the services. The crowd’s love it and I think it’s wonderful,” Mr Barry said.

Valerie Grace Love, also a resident of Catholic Healthcare’s, Gertrude Abbott Aged Care served in the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA), which had been formed during the Second World War to address the rising labour shortages in the farming sector. She fondly remembers her time in AWLA and marching with the Land Army girls in Sydney.

Born in 1927, Mrs Love lied about her real age in order to enlist. “I lied about my age to get in. I was 15 years old and like a good Catholic girl I lied about my age, Mrs Love said jokingly. It was very satisfying work and I travelled all over Australia, picking fruit, pruning and working on the land while the men were away at war. I never regretted my time spent with the Women’s Land Army,” she said.

In addition to Mrs Love story, with it comes a great sense of pride for the people who served and for those who were lost in the war. “I have a great sense of pride, very much so for the people who were lost during the war. It’s very sad. War that should never be, half the time,” explained Mrs Love.

Know someone who may need residential aged care services or help within the home? Please contact Catholic Healthcare Ph:1300 103 418