August 17, 2020
One of Alf Purser’s strongest memories of World War II was picking up Australian prisoners from a Japanese POW camp and flying them back to Australia soon after peace was declared.
“I never saw such thin men with such big smiles,” Alf said.
“Some of them cried when they saw Australia again through the windows of the plane, but no one criticised them for it.
“I think the overwhelming sense of relief they felt that the war was finally over was felt by everyone at that time.”
Alf joined the war as an electrician and spent the first half of the conflict in North Queensland.
But mid-way through his service, Australia’s war effort began to run short of pilots, so Alf put up his hand for flight training.
He emerged as second pilot on a DC3, a role he held for the rest of the war and afterwards during demobilisation.
During his time in the skies, Alf and his crew saw action from New Guinea to New Britain, and travelled as far afield as Indonesia.
Looking back on those turbulent times, his strongest memory is the POW repatriation flight.
Alf also believes that Australia’s luckiest day occurred when the Japanese bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941.
“That attack brought America into the war and they were vital in turning back the Japanese advance,” he said.
“If America hadn’t come into the war I think Australia would have been invaded.”
Alf, 97, is Murgon RSL’s oldest surviving World War II veteran.
He was an honoured guest at the RSL’s commemoration service for the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific, held at Murgon’s War Memorial at 11:00am on Saturday.
The small service was compered by RSL president John Drew and attended by Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington, Cr Kathy Duff, Eric Law AM and other representatives from the RSL and general community.
Because of the pandemic, the commemoration was not widely advertised and proper social distancing was carefully observed throughout.
In his address, John reminded the gathering only 12,000 Australian World War II veterans now survive.
The war was one the largest international conflicts the nation has been part of, and brought Japanese attacks to Australian soil.
John said more than a million Australian servicemen and women took part in the conflict. The total population of Australia at the time was just seven million.
Twenty-two service people from Murgon paid the supreme sacrifice in that war, and their names are listed on the town’s memorial.
John said it was important to recall these things to help ensure such a conflict never arose again.