IT’s just a hat – a Digger’s slouch hat – but the memories it stirs in Mornington veteran Laurie Hill go back 70 years to the dark days of World War II.
Mr Hill, 91, joined the Australian Imperial Forces in 1943 – a month after his 18th birthday – among five of six brothers who enlisted and who all returned home safely.
An infantry signaller in the jungles of Bougainville, Papua-New Guinea, he recalls daring escapades, including tying up a Japanese prisoner with signalling wire and tapping into Japanese phone lines to eavesdrop on enemy communications.
He fondly recalls the Japanese surrender in August 1945 and the celebrations for Victory in the Pacific Day, when UK entertainer Gracie Fields sang The Lord’s Prayer to thousands of troops and “it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop”.
Mr Hill was discharged in January 1947 and returned to work in an electrical store, rising to become manager. He then joined Myer as a department manager and retired in 1985 as a furniture buyer.
He and wife Jean, now deceased, were married in 1951 and had three daughters.
Approaching this week’s Anzac Day commemorations, Mr Hill was keen to replace the slouch hat he had lost during the fighting and contacted Flinders MP Greg Hunt for help.
Mr Hill’s daughter Julie said it was great news that Mr Hunt’s office was able to provide a fitting replacement in time. It was presented to Mr Hill at Benetas Corowa Court, Mornington, where he now lives.
He also received a letter from the Army, Certificate of Appreciation for his service in World War II, as well as a medallion, issued in 2005, commemorating the 60th anniversary of war’s end.