Lest we forget

Last man standing: World War II veteran Cecil Weekes will be among six from his contigent in next week's Anzac Day march. Picture: Geoff Jones

Last man standing: World War II veteran Cecil Weekes will be among six from his contigent in next week's Anzac Day march. Picture: Geoff Jones

World War II doesn’t get the public recognition it deserves on Anzac Day, according to Cecil Weekes.

“Personally, I think it doesn’t rate with the media’s application of Gallipoli or Vietnam,” he told the Sun.

“People don’t realise that World War II was the greatest war this planet has ever seen. Australia was in a bad situation, where the Japanese had a strong possibility of invading Australia. There should be more empathy and a greater appreciation of what happened.”

Now 92, the South Wentworthville resident served from 1943 to 1947 in the Australian Water Transport RAE AIF as a landing craft signaller.

“I was keen to go when I turned 18 as my brother was already involved in New Guinea,” he said.

“Any young man would have served.”

Mr Weekes was involved in a 20 craft convoy of 66 feet ALC40 landing craft, which proceeded from Brisbane to Cairns to Milne Bay and then east to Bouganville, Torokina, a distance of 2000 miles.

“I was part of the original operation, which was the first time over that distance,” he said.

“The craft were designed to carry 40 tonnes of logistics, which is why there was a convoy. It was an epic journey. There were horrific conditions and angry seas at all times. In some instances, we were living like cave men. Seasickness was a problem. Out of a crew of 10 sappers, you would be running on five or six due to seasickness. So everyone had to do more than their fair share to keep the convoy going. The seas were so rough, I had people holding me stationary so I could send the signals.”

Mr Weekes vividly remembers when the war ended.

“We were delighted but it was a quite a shock,” he said.

“Being a signaller, I got a curt message to say that the war was over. Not long after we returned to Australia, I was discharged and went back to work in Parramatta for a building supplier.”

Mr Weekes still lives in the home he and his father and brother built when he returned home from the war.

He’s a regular face around Parramatta RSL. He was on the board of directors for 21 years and on the executive committee for 12. “It’s always been a second home for me.”

Next Tuesday, he will attend the Parramatta dawn service and will go back to the RSL afterwards to have breakfast with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mr Weekes will then head into the city for the Anzac Day march.

“I’ve missed one march since 1948 and that was because I was on a business trip overseas,” he said

“At our age, it takes a lot of willpower to march. It’s not easy. When the march used to go down Bathurst Street, the crowd were closer to you and you could see people’s reactions. On occasion your eyes meet someone’s in the crowd. Twenty years ago, there were 160 from our contingent marching. This year, there will be just six of us.”

He will continue marching for as long as he can.

“I’m still active in life and stable in the mind,” Mr Weekes said.

He hopes the Anzac legacy will continue for generations.

“It’s about respect and remembering those who served,” he said.

“You also look back on the camaraderie developed with your mates.”

  • More Anzac Day coverage and services on page 3.
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