When World War II veteran Oscar ‘Ozzy’ Garland was completing his training in northern Western Australia, he said his patrol discovered caves and underground caches of rice.
“There was five-tonne of rice in a cave up there. The official word was the Japanese weren’t coming, at around the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
“But I can tell you, they were coming. They had food here ready for when they landed,” Mr Garland said.
“When the rice was tested, to make sure it was good and not poisoned, we ate rice. So much rice. The cooks cooked it up nice. I still don’t mind rice, as long as it’s well-cooked.”
This was just one of the stories he shared.
The Courier sat down with Mr Garland (AIF), Bill Walsh (RAAF), Les Thompson (AIF) and Vic McGlone (AIF) to broadcast a live video via Facebook.
Mr Garland served in the Australian Army, enlisting on October 28 1941 at the age of 20. He was discharged in 1944 as a Lance Corporal.
Mr McGlone served in the Australian Army in 1941 at the age of 22 and was posted in the 2/1 Australian Composite Anti Aircraft Regiment when discharged in December 1945.
Mr Thompson served in the Australian Army from 1945 to 1947.
For some of the men, their wartime recollections are a little hazy. When you’ve lived a full and long life, it is understandably difficult to recall certain points, on the spot.
Mr McGlone holds the record for most rounds fired – although how, where and when this happened he couldn’t recall.
If there was a prize for the ‘cheekiest letter home to mum award’, Mr Garland would earn it.
While serving in Papua New Guinea Oscar posted a coconut home to his mother in Gloucester.
“I don’t think his mum had seen one before so he sent her one,” Oscar’s wife Doreen said.
The story goes that Oscar carved his mother’s address on the coconut, took it to the post office and asked if he could send it home.
The post master said if he could put a stamp on it, it could be posted.
The coconut now stands as a polished doorstop in Oscar and Doreen’s house in Kew.
Watch the video on our website, search for the headline: Cuppa with the Courier – Bill Walsh, Oscar Garland, Les Thompson and Vic McGown | Video.
There are a few golden moments they share that we can all take away and apply to our own lives, such as “you didn’t complain about it, you just got on with it,” and about the importance of not going through life on your own – “you need a mate, everyone needs someone to rely on them and someone for them to rely on.”
We will have more on these men in coming weeks.