Memory of war still lingers for Coast’s veteran diggers

LIKE so many other young men from the Coast, the three Hanson brothers, of Spreyton, were just teenagers when they enlisted in Word War 2.
HangZhou Night Net

As each brother went overseas, their family knew none might come home.

Their father served in World War 1 before them.

His sons said on Anzac Day this week that their father didn’t ever want to talk about his own war service until they were going.

“He didn’t want us to go through what he went through. He wouldn’t let us enlist in the army,” Henry Hanson, now 91, said.

The Hansons served in the navy, two on the same boat, which was not permissible but happened.

Thankfully all managed to survive, but they lost mates.

Des Hanson, 94, and Henry sat together at the Devonport Anzac Day service, their many service medals glistening in the autumn sun.

Younger brother, 86-year-old Peter Hanson, was not well enough to attend.

Next to the Hansons was World War 2 veteran George Doran, 89.

“Look at those medals – I’ve never seen anyone wearing as many as Henry,” George said.

“This is our day of remembrance – it’s a time for us to remember our lost mates.” George served in the Pacific in World War 2.

The haunting Last Post still hung in the air as the diggers observed the minute of silence.

Thoughts were with fallen comrades who did not get to grow old as they have.

Also among the distinguished World War 2 foursome was 97-year-old Don Fenton, the oldest veteran at the Anzac march who had served at El Alamein in the Western Desert Campaign and Syria.

Mr Fenton’s hearing is not as good as it used to be.

He struggled to articulate how much Anzac Day meant to him but didn’t really need to speak as his eyes brimmed with tears.

Mr Fenton squeezed his daughter’s hand tightly as she explained what he told her.

“It’s a big day for Dad. All his brothers, all his mates are gone and he’s the one left,” she said.

Later it was time for memories to be recalled at the Devonport RSL Club – and there were plenty of stories told.

Hundreds went back after the march to share a few beers during the catch-up that ran well into the afternoon.

Games of two-up were played on the only day it is legal.

George and Henry hinted at some of the mischief that went on during the war to help the Australians get through, but the men wouldn’t reveal details.

“That’s what we’ll talk about today – all the good times we had. We don’t talk about war on Anzac Day,” Henry said.

George let slip a little more.

“I was a bit of a villain,” he laughed.

“I used to have a few beers while on shore leave; actually I enjoyed myself quite a lot. You never knew when the next torpedo would arrive – it was a good idea to have a good time while I could.”

The Hanson brothers nod.

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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