RSL all about mateship, says Cloverdale veteran ahead of Anzac Day

Jim Symons (91). Picture: Jon Hewson
Jim Symons (91). Picture: Jon Hewson

CLOVERDALE resident Jim Symons has been a proud RSL member since 1946.

The 91-year-old was in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II, and is one of the RSL’s longest-serving members with a whopping 71 years of service to his name.

Coming of age during the war, Mr Symons joined the RAAF as soon as he could, moving to Perth from his Narrogin home.

“I joined a day after I was 18, went into air crew down at Clontarf, a school out there for a couple of months. We learnt morse code and navigation, things like that,” Mr Symons said.

He was stationed with 85 Squadron, until he was sent for jungle training just outside Sydney.

Mr Symons soon boarded the American troop ship Evangeline, destined for Morotai in Indonesia and the Western New Guinea campaign.

“There were a few anxious moments. Like going up on the Evangeline, there was a submarine scare, which got everybody’s heart racing.

“We had a naval escort and it went around like a mad person dropping depth charges and goodness knows what,” Mr Symons said.

On arrival at Morotai, Mr Symons boarded the Australian troop ship Manoora, headed for Labuan off the coast of Borneo.

“When we arrived at a makeshift jetty, we were offloaded, about 20 or 30 troops, mostly airforce, and the ship disappeared pretty quickly. I was taken to my unit, which was 2 P.D., an ammunitions supply depot, and we supplied ammunition to the fighters and bombs to the bombers,” Mr Symons said.

Anzac Day stirs a lot of memories.

“There were some very brave people. One of my friends – he passed away not so long ago – was NZ Force and at 19 years of age he was parachuted into Borneo behind the Japanese lines where they joined the head-hunters. And there weren’t too many of them, nine or 10 overall.

“You can imagine, at 19 years of age, dropping out of a plane into unknown country,” Mr Symons said.

Anzac Day means a lot. A lot of people lost their lives.

Mr Symons moved back to Narrogin after being discharged in 1946, where he met wife-to-be Norma.

“I don’t think we ever really had an argument, to be perfectly honest,” Mr Symons said of his late wife.

The pair had two children, Sandra and Greg, and moved to Perth in 1966.

Mr Symons’ extensive service at the RSL, particularly the Belmont RSL Sub-Branch, is testament to the power of sharing stories and mateship, through the good times and bad.

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