‘People have warmed towards us now’: Veteran’s post-war tale
HIS back aching from carrying wounded soldiers, Donald Shaw will never forget what happened in Malaya.
The 86-year-old veteran, who served with Australian forces during the Malayan Emergency between 1959-61, will proudly don his uniform and grandfather’s WW1 medals for this morning’s Remembrance Day services in Hervey Bay.
It’s a time to reflect on his hard-earned efforts for the ex-stretcher bearer as he celebrates turning 87.
But what Mr Shaw doesn’t celebrate is the reception he endured when returning to Australia after his time in the bloody guerrilla conflict.
He was conscripted to serve in the Malayan conflict that began when Commonwealth forces began fighting communist forces in the 1940s.
He said war service runs deep in the family, explaining how his grandfather was awarded medals for serving in Gallipoli and France.
As a bandsman stretcher bearer, Mr Shaw was tasked with transporting injured soldiers through the jungle.
“The patients were big, solid, heavy men and I’m only of little stature. I struggled, but we got there,” Mr Shaw said.
“When you see a footballer injured, there’s. always six men for the stretcher. In my case, it was only myself and another fellow on the other end.”
Expecting a hero’s welcome for his unit on return to Australia, Mr Shaw couldn’t express his disappointment at the reality that awaited them.
“There was no welcome home, no marches … I just went home on leave in civilian clothes.
“We just carried on as if nothing had ever happened, there was no welcoming committee.”
At the time, he struggled to process the situation but has noticed how much attitudes have changed over the past few decades.
“People have warmed towards us now … most people hated us and thought we were warmongers,” Mr Shaw said.
FRASER COAST REMEMBRANCE DAY SERVICES
Burrum district: Corner William and Steley streets, Howard, 10.50am
Hervey Bay: Freedom Park, Pialba, 10.45am
Maryborough: Queens Park, 10.40am
Tiaro: Memorial Gardens, 11am
Toogoom and district: Toogoom Hall Wall of Remembrance, 10.45am