Anzac Day: Melville WWII veteran says military service served him well

Applecross RLS member and Royal Australian Navy veteran Greg Hunter. Picture: Jon Hewson.
Applecross RLS member and Royal Australian Navy veteran Greg Hunter. Picture: Jon Hewson.

GREG Hunter has always loved a bit of banter.

Chatting to Community News the Melville resident joked that – even having just celebrated his 90th birthday – his memory was “still sharp in corners”.

His love for a laugh was something he retained throughout his time with the Royal Australian Navy, but also something he had to manage when his service began in 1945.

While the 17-year-old was not used to being on a tight leash, he said a strict regime was something that ultimately served him well.

“Discipline was one of the things we gradually learnt, that you had to do as you were told,” he said.

“For me, as an individual, it was one of the best things that happened – I had to learn to bite the bullet and not get myself into more trouble.

“If you didn’t like it, it was hard luck.

“Some people buckled down very quickly, others didn’t.

“It taught me a hell of a lot.”

Mr Hunter, an Applecross RSL member, put himself forward to join the Navy in July, 1945.

Just weeks later the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively bringing an end to World War II.

Mr Hunter, still a teenager, had a choice: he could leave or stay on.

He decided on the latter, going on to record more than a decade of service with Australia’s maritime defence and reaching the position of chief petty officer.

“When the Americans dropped the atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki they said ‘do you want to pull out – you can if you so desire with no commitment – or go for 12 years?’ So I went for 12 years,” he said.

Mr Hunter said he entered at a time of transition.

“We were the first of the permanent service personnel after the cessation of the hostilities,” he said.

“We were learning things were changing so damn fast because the training they have for war is to give you the knowledge and get you out to sea as fast as they could.

“Now we were going as the peace-keepers up into Japanese waters.

“We had to learn a lot in a very short time.”

Mr Hunter’s Navy career saw him travel to the world transporting food parcels, monitor Australian and Pacific waters, and carry out rescue missions.

He was drafted to HMAS Cerberus to be a chief instructor and promoted to chief petty officer in 1956.

Through it all he said he still enjoyed a laugh, recounting how rain sent dye streaking down their uniforms during an important ceremony and how British soldiers had been caught skiing in their birthday suits.

Mr Hunter was discharged in January, 1957, before going on to work as a rigger in the oil and gas sector, including on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

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