A creased grainy photo travelled from WWII to Timor Leste: A grandson’s memories – lest we forget

On Remembrance Day we are often greeted with grainy, creased photographs of past generations, of times we can only begin to imagine. Then it struck me. I have one of those grainy photographs. I would drag it around from posting to posting during my career as an Army officer, in its gold rimmed frame, and set it on a bookshelf near the war stories. This is my grandfather, QX13484 Gunner John Phillip Hogan, or ‘Phil’ to his mates.

Gunner Phil Hogan

 

Phil was an anti-tank gunner with the 2nd AIF, who served in Africa and New Guinea in the Second World War. He survived the war but passed away when I was very young, and my family don’t know much of Phil’s story as my grandmother said he never spoke about the war. He was a member of the 2/2nd Anti-Tank Regiment and, while his service record doesn’t go into any detail, the Regiment saw action in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, New Guinea, Morotai and Balikpapan. My grandmother gave me his medals one ANZAC day to wear as I marched with the Air Training Corps. I didn’t really appreciate the significance at the time; I was finding it hard enough to keep in step with the other teenage cadets around me.

Fast forward to my own career as an Army Legal Officer and this is me.

Rufino Alres Correia last surviving former Timorese “Creados” with Major Damien Spendelove. Timorese Creados worked behind Japanese lines with Australian Commandos in WWII, each providing local knowledge on enemy positions, strengths etc. food and supplies. They also helped carry the Commandos equipment. Photographer: Petty Officer Kev Bristow Defence

I was in Timor Leste on my first deployment where I was photographed with Rufino Correia, who was the last surviving member of the ‘Criados’ (local term) from the Second World War. Criados were Timorese boys, with an average age of 13, who served as guides for Australian commandos on operations against the Japanese. The ABC was kind enough to put the photograph up on the internet, much to the amusement of my mates. In Timor Leste, I was in a role where I went to every part of the area of operations to brief soldiers on use of force, search and detention. I still tell people that the most challenging audience I have ever briefed is a company of infantry on rules of engagement. My lasting impression of my time there was ­seeing Australian soldiers doing what they are trained for, and doing it impeccably well, which included working with people of all nations to build and maintain peace in our region.

In my current role I work on Defence programs. In my own way I like to think that I am continuing to contribute to Defence, a department that I have spent a large proportion of my working life serving.

Remembrance Day allows us to stop and reflect, not only on the plight of past generations but on recent conflicts and how we pulled through, so we may heed the lessons for current global and regional security issues; it has evolved to become a deeply personal experience with individual meaning attached.

Thank you, Phil, for your service. The one constant of Remembrance Day, though, is commemorating those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and in the name of peace.

Lest we forget.

During his Army career, Damien’s service included postings to the 1st Military Police Battalion, Headquarters 3rd Brigade, Headquarters 1st Division, Army Headquarters and Headquarters Joint Operations Command. He deployed on operations to Timor Leste, Iraq and Afghanistan. Damien is a member of the Army Reserve.

Postscript.

At 11am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare. The allied armies had driven the German invaders back, having inflicted heavy defeats upon them over the preceding four months. For the first time in November 1919, prompted by a suggestion from an Australian journalist, Edward Honey who was working in Fleet Street, two minutes silence was kept as part of the commemorative service held at the new Cenotaph in London.

Today, at 11 am when you pause and remember the men and women who have served Australia in many conflicts, take a minute more to remember and support our wounded Australians as they adjust to the difficult task of coming home.

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3 thoughts on “A creased grainy photo travelled from WWII to Timor Leste: A grandson’s memories – lest we forget

  1. Just a wonderful remembrance for 11.00am on 11 November 2020. Thank you, Damien.
    Very moving to hear of your Grandmother and the more recent connection in Timor Leste – and so important to recall the sacrifices made, the hopes of individuals and a nation, and the importance of acts of kindness and peace.

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