Time to document stories of WWII as time marches on

With an average age of over 90, there are only a small portion of Australia’s World War II veterans, such as Ken Crawford, who are still alive.

The 94 year old who served with the Royal Australian Navy and currently resides at Bupa Aged Care in Queens Park said there are so many stories that deserve to be shared on ANZAC Day.

“I don’t think the younger generations of today are as patriotic as we were in the ‘30s and ‘40s or even aware of the sacrifices that went on in that war,” Mr Crawford said.

Pearl Harbor had been bombed, Hong Kong, the Philippines and New Guinea were occupied and I was a patriotic sort of bloke so I joined the Navy at 17 and did what I could to defend Australia.
Ken Crawford, resident at Bupa Aged Care in Queens Park

When the former radar operator who served on HMAS Launceston and Ballarat spoke of his time in areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the emotion of that time was still evident in his voice.

“The Japanese had created a lot of atrocities and people were frightened that Australia and our way of life would change.

“I served in Corvettes in the Navy and you are not hand to hand fighting, but mainly escorting convoys and sweeping for mines – it was a bloody hairy job.

“The Navy didn’t have men who went foot slugging like the army blokes did. I reckon those fellas’ did the hard yards. Mud and slush, lots of risk, no hot food and so forth,” the 94 year old said.

The cruelty of World War II is well documented, many of those held captive either died or starved. While Mr Crawford can never forget the harshness of the war, he can still reflect with some humour about his survival.

“Just before the end of the war, the Japanese figured they were not going to win and so they dumped thousands of floating mines willy-nilly into the sea.

“I got used to sleeping on the upper deck just in case we hit into a floating mine, we figured we’d have had a better chance of survival that way.

“I remember coming back from a mine sweeping mission off China's coastline and as we entered the harbour along our usual route, a magnetic naval mine went off under our stern. It did a lot of material damage to our officers’ quarters.

“We were thankful for strong steel and the dockyard workers who put the ship together – otherwise we would’ve all been fish food,” Mr Crawford said.

More than 993,000 Australians served in the armed forces during World War II. Of those on active service, 27,073 died, 23,477 were wounded, and 30,560 were taken as prisoners of war.

Bupa Queens Park General Manager, Suet Koh said World War II had been a major part of Ken’s life and had created many interesting conversations within the home.

“Ken is a stoic and inspiring role model to me, the staff, other residents and visitors. It’s so important for us as carers to celebrate the lives, sacrifices and achievements of people like Ken who live in our home and to help them live their best lives,” Ms Koh said.

“No one will forget World War I or World War II but the personal experiences and recollections of people like Ken will eventually go and all that will be left are books and stories like the one you’re reading right now to reflect on what happened,” she said.

Read more stories from Bupa Aged Care