Remembrance Day 2012: 'We were only a bunch of kids, we knew nothing'

Painful memories: WWII Veteran Brian Clare will never forget his fallen comrades.
Painful memories: WWII Veteran Brian Clare will never forget his fallen comrades.

SILENCE will fall across Australia on Sunday as we remember those who have paid the ultimate price for peace, almost a century since the end of the first World War.

At 11am on the morning of November 11, 1918, the last guns would fall silent, but the “war to end all wars” would not, in the end, live up to its name.

Still today, wars are waged across the globe and innocent blood continues to be spilt.

But Remembrance Day honours those whose lives have been lost, and whose memory will continue to live on forever, in the hearts and minds of a nation.

Community members are welcome to join the Returned & Services League Port Macquarie Sub-branch for Remembrance Day on Sunday, November 11, at 10:45am.

“We’ll never forget it, will we,” said Brian Clare who served in the 57th - 60 Infantry Battalion in the Solomon Islands during World War II.

 “We remember all those poor chaps, it’s a terrible thing isn’t it. We’ve lost thousands of lives.”

A young and adventurous Mr Clare decided to join the army at the age of 18.

“We were only a bunch of kids,” he said. “We knew nothing. We just thought it was a bit of fun, we didn’t really know what was going on.”

From there Mr Clare and his mates were in North Queensland dodging live ammunition and explosives as part of their month-long training.

“Five chaps were killed in the training,” he said. “We quickly realised what we got ourselves into. We went to the Tablelands and next thing we knew we were on trucks roaring down to Townsville and on a boat, and away we went.”

In the middle of the night they crossed the ocean to Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. Some of them would never return home.

“When we got to the islands a young man stepped outside, and he shot himself,” Mr Clare said. “Whennhe saw the place, he lost his nerve.”

That would be the first time Mr Clare would see a man lose his life on the Islands, but not the last.

“One night we were on patrol, there were two in front and four at the back,” he said. “The Japanese scouts came out of nowhere, they opened fire and killed him. Blew his stomach out and it was hanging there, there was no chance of saving him.”

That night Mr Clare would lose his best friend, and for the rest of his life would be haunted by the images of watching 19-year-old Harry Collins die.

“It still plays on my mind, I can still see it,” he said. “We were only just turned 19, we were only boys.”

The soldiers spent five days trying to retrieve the bodies of their comrades – through the mud and rain and the open fire of the Japanese Army.

Mr Clare spent 487 days slogging through the tropical jungles of the Solomons, constantly fearing for his life and fighting for his country.

“We practically lived under ground, we were like rabbits,” he said. “I’ve still got crook feet from it now. Some people had to get the socks cut out of their feet.”

All the while his sweetheart Cathryn Joyce Clare was writing her man letters from across the sea, waiting for him to come back to her.

“Oh, it was great getting the letters,” Mr Clare said. “But the censors would read your mail and if you said anything you shouldn’t have, they’d cut it out.

But their love lasted the war and to this day, the pair are happily married.

Mr Clare said Remembrance Day will always be a very important day for him. War, he said, was a “necessary evil”.

“I suppose they just fight between themselves, why can’t we just leave ‘em be?”


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