Anzac Day: George Frederick Drayton in front of the Riverstone-Schofields RSL honour board that also has the names of his two brothers and a cousin. Photo: Mike Sea
WORLD War II infantryman George Frederick Drayton, 88, of Riverstone wept when he recalled how he was wounded and his bren gunner mate was killed in a Japanese ambush in Papua New Guinea in 1945.
Aged 18, he was with a squad of 20 soldiers when he was shot in the thigh while Robert Biggs, 25, beside him, was killed instantly at Torricelli Mountains at 12.45pm on July 15.
“I heard several explosions of gunfire, then felt like a 50-tonne truck had hit and thrown me back about two metres,” Mr Drayton said.
“My mates attended to me as the squad from second 5th Battalion of 6th Infantry Division withdrew to safety when enemy firepower was too great.
“I was taken to the army hospital at Rabaul where I later learnt Robert was killed instantly and five mates who shared the same tent with me were wounded in the engagement.
He was hospitalised for about four weeks and waited for several weeks before he was transported back to Sydney and later sent to act as a guard at the prisoner of war camp at Cowra.
On his discharge, he returned to his former clerical work at Riverstone Meat Works and later married his sweetheart, Una. They had one daughter, Kay, and later a granddaughter, Jessica.
When asked what he had learnt from his war experience, he wept a second time and said, “Where’s the prize . . . it was a great waste of good human lives.
“But we have to do what we did to protect our country.
“I have lost many mates . . . the word ‘mate’ has now been misused.
“In wartime it meant bonded brothers as we looked after each other.
“Hence those who didn’t come back must never be forgotten.”
Mr Drayton will march with about 100 returned servicemen for about 500 metres from Riverstone-Schofields RSL Sub-branch centre at Market Street to the Riverstone Cenotaph dawn service at Riverstone Parade at 6am on Anzac Day.
In Blacktown about 200 people will assemble at the corner of Sunnyholt Road and Second Avenue at 5.10am for the Anzac Day march at 5.20am to Blacktown RSL Club.
Its dawn service will start at 5.40am at the Cenotaph at Blacktown RSL Club.
In the case of bad weather the dawn service will be conducted in the club’s auditorium and the march will be cancelled.