A note from Ross Darrigan, re visiting Cec Driscoll:
Just an update from today. Cec is in fine form for a man who turns 99 in a few weeks (13th October). His memory is still quite good and we spoke about a number of interesting topics from his time during the war, for example:
-A young soldier in Cec’s platoon, Micky Davis admitted at Huggins Roadblock that he was only 15 years old and he had had enough of the army. Cec never saw him again after that, he must of turned himself in.
-Cec happened to met Brig Porter around the Buna/Sanananda area on a track. Cec was going for a wander with his new Owen gun and literally bumped into Porter who was making his way to the front by himself. Cec said “who are you”…I don’t know if Porter had his rank displayed on his uniform at the time. They exchanged pleasantries and moved on.
-Cec also mentioned that remnants of 39th after the beaches campaign were assembled and sent to Pt Moresby to be taken to Wau by plane to help with those actions, but they weren’t needed in the end (haven’t heard that one before)
-When Cec was in the 2/2 Inf Batt, he met a Mexican soldier called Pedro. Apparently he was captured in Syria as part of the French Foreign Legion and bought back to Australia. I don’t think he was bought back as a POW, anyway he somehow joined the AIF. Now that’s an unusual story!!
It was a great afternoon chatting to a soldier who was in most actions pre-Kokoda to Huggins
And also News from Alf Mallia:
(Sat 08 August; Kokoda Day Football Match at ‘Reid Oval’ 42 Cramer Street Warrnambool. )
I just wanted to let you know that the Kokoda Day match held in Warrnambool between Warrnambool Football Club and Hamilton Football Club was a great success. The game was played on the Saturday the 10th August, at the Reid oval in Warrnambool and was attended by over 550 people.
Around mid-July I invited the general manger of 3YB to lunch to put forward a proposal about replicating a Walk of Honour in Warrnambool for the 23 Veterans that I had identified who lived in the region and were part of the 39th Battalion. Once I showed them a panel they were hooked on the idea. At this meeting I also spoke about the possibility of having a match day dedicated to the Kokoda campaign we talked about the process and the AFL’s involvement as they manage the league in country areas and all came to a conclusion that we should look at it for next year.
As you all know I have clients in Warrnambool (Bool) which brings me here for at least 3 days every week and have made some very influential contacts here in the Bool. One of whom is an AFL contact and hence I sat down with Brad and we discussed the possibility of the game, he instantly said it’s a great idea and it took off from there.
Both football clubs were exited at the thought of playing a Kokoda Day Match so much so, that without my knowledge the players researched the Veterans who had played at their club, I could not have ask for anything better than this.
Just before the game I addressed both clubs and focused on the age of the soldiers who were sent to fight on the track. I deliberately pulled out a 16,17 & 18 year old boy and asked them how would they have felt to be sent off to Port Moresby with little training and in a short time after arriving there be ordered to cross the track and start fighting and killing the Japanese invaders to defend the shores of Australia. There was silence as they thought about it.
The local MP Roma Britnell was our guest speaker , I prepared her speech which spoke of the campaign and the 39th Battalion involvement, I also made mention of the 23 locals who were part of the 39th Battalion , this had a huge impact on the community here in Warrnambool.
The president of the RSL was immediately on board and recited the Ode, the Salvation Army supplied a bugler, the local paper wrote an article which I have enclosed please read what the Operation Manager Wally Steere said. We had 3 recorded interviews with 3YB one with Dennis Napthine and the other two with the local sports commentator speaking about the campaign and how important it was to Australia. These interviews were aired throughout the week leading up to Saturday 10th August and then I was interviewed for over 40 minutes talking about the campaign just before the game commenced.
It was originally agreed that the firsts would not come out until just before the Ode was to be recited as it was a cold wet day and the coaches did not want the players to cool down, so the seconds(reserves) who had just played a game formed a guard of honour. However, the first players had decided amongst themselves that they also wanted to be part of the service and against their coaches wishes went out with the seconds to form the guard of honour.
Even though it had been raining all day the weather cleared up for the service, the players then laid poppies on a table which held the trophy and went on to play the game.
The following Thursday night I was invited to address the Netball and Football Club at their presentation night. I spoke about the origins of the trophy, the Bren guns that were supplied to our soldiers and how it helped in the campaign. It was at this meeting that I was informed that the players had decided to strike a special jumper for the Kokoda Day Game, I was moved as the players have now taken ownership of the game and the history of the 39th Battalion and the Kokoda campaign.
I have been approached by companies in Warrnambool who now wish to sponsor the game, the same companies I had approached before our first game who did not hold any interest.
What is pleasing from my point of view is that by organising annual footy matches in honour of the Kokoda campaign we will get the message across to the younger generation and our Veterans will never be forgotten.
Wally Steere the Operations Manager of the Warrnambool Football Club compared the annual Kokoda Day match to the annual Anzac Day match held in Melbourne and speaks about the young generation and how they should never forget what happened on the track.
Finally, I have also been holding discussions with a Melbourne based club who would like hold an annual Kokoda Day match, I will keep you informed once I have meet with the club President which should be in the next two weeks.
That’s all for now.
Regards, Alf Mallia
39th Australian Infantry Battalion (1941-1943) Assoc.
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