Home' Vetaffairs : Summer 2015/16 Contents 7 — Vetaffairs Summer 2015
Dr Stephanie Hodson CSC
Mental Health Advisor
Seeking families of
WWII Catalina A24-25
aircraft wreckage crew
mission the trip of a lifetime
Going back to a place you had
not seen for 70 years would be
an experience for anyone, but for
seven veterans who fought in New
Guinea during the Second World
War it was a memorable and mov-
ing trip of a lifetime.
In early September 2015, DVA’s
Commissioner Major General Mark
Kelly AO DSC led a commemo-
rative mission to mark the 70th
anniversary of Victory in the Pacific
and Surrender of the Japanese
forces in New Guinea.
The seven spritely members of
the mission party, who are aged
between 88 and 92 years old, were
veterans who served in or directly
supported the New Guinea cam-
paigns from the Battle for Wau
(January 1943 onwards), in either
the Royal Australian Navy, the
Australian Army or the Royal Aus-
tralian Air Force.
The mission party was proud
to represent all Australians who
served in the Pacific region, but
also all Australians who served in
the Second World War.
For members of the mission
party the services or commemo-
rations at Rabaul, the Bita Paka
War Cemetery, Lae War Cemetery,
Coast Watchers Memorial, Bomana
War Cemetery and the main com-
memorative ceremony to mark the
Surrender of the Japanese forces at
the Cape Wom Surrender Memo-
rial, were very moving and bought
back memories of lost mates.
For example, the service at
the Coastwatchers Memorial in
Madang was emotional for for-
mer coast watcher, Mr ‘Dixie’ Lee.
Mr Lee was one of the incredibly
brave civilians and military person-
nel who continued their work in
enemy held territory throughout
the war, at extreme risk to them-
selves and the local people who
The success of the mission is
perhaps best summarised by Mr
Norman Quayle from Ballarat in
Victoria who said, “It has left us
with great memories and we feel
we have made new friends.”
Photo: The veterans’ party at Bomana
cemetery, the final commemoration of
the PNG mission.
Tobruk in 2016
The commemoration of the 75th
anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk
will be one of the key events of the
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Century of Service commemora-
tion program in 2016.
The service of all Australians
who took part in the battles for
Tobruk in 1941 will be commemo-
rated. This includes those who
took part in the capture of Tobruk
in January and the Siege of Tobruk
between April and December, and
those who played a vital support
role on the sea and in the air.
Holding Tobruk and its harbour
was vital for the Allies’ defence
of Egypt and the Suez Canal, as
this compelled the enemy forces
to bring most of their supplies
overland from Tripoli, across
1500 kilometres of desert, as well
as diverting troops from their
advance. Tobruk was subjected
to repeated ground assaults and
almost constant shelling and
Nazi propagandist Lord Haw
Haw (William Joyce) derided the
tenacious defenders as ‘rats’, a
term that the Australian soldiers
embraced as an ironic compliment.
The 75th anniversary of the Siege
of Tobruk will be commemorated
at a national service to be held on
Sunday 10 April 2016, at the Rats
of Tobruk Memorial on Anzac
Parade in Canberra. Veterans of
the campaign who wish to attend
the national service and who are
experiencing difficulties in mak-
ing arrangements can contact the
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
on 02 6289 6146.
I get by with a little
help from my friends
In the lead up to the Christmas break, I have been reflect-
ing on how important it is to use this time to catch up
with family and friends. With three teenage sons, week-
end sporting commitments, homework, the garden
going wild and the need to get organised for the holi-
days, it is too easy to lose touch with the people who we
care about and who are our supports at difficult periods
in our lives.
Research with multiple generations of veterans tells
us that one of the most important factors in maintain-
ing or improving mental health and wellbeing is social
connection. People who have good social networks
have been found to manage stressful situations more
effectively, are physically healthier and even live longer.
As an ex-military family who moved every couple of
years, we have good friends all over Australia, but we do
not necessarily get to see them that often. I have real-
ised recently the importance of taking a little bit of time
and calling or visiting them over the Christmas break.
Sometimes that call can make someone’s day, especially
if they are going through a stressful period.
Social connection is not just about having a lot of peo-
ple around you, or friends on Facebook - it is about being
connected to these friends and involved in their lives.
Good social networks encourage you to be involved and
active in life, as well as getting out and doing something
As great as our military network was, on transition
from full time service and the realisation that we were
finally settled, our family needed to make the transition
to civilian social groups. Due to involvement in military
social clubs and mess life, serving and ex-serving per-
sonnel have great skills that are quickly put to use by
community groups. In fact the danger can be making
sure you do not always end up as the chair, secretary or
In a clinical setting, when a client wants to expand
their social network, we start with what interests they
have, what have they always wanted to learn or how can
they volunteer in the community. The best way to meet
new friends is to connect with other people with a simi-
lar passion or interest. Whether it is joining a local walk
or running club, a committee at your kids’ school or join-
ing an art class, it is a chance to meet people with whom
you have something in common.
Reestablishing social connection is an important part
of mental health treatment, as pulling away from family
and friends is a symptom of illness. This need to with-
draw not only impacts the individual but their family as
they start to avoid activities. Reaching out to someone
who is struggling with mental illness, or the carer of
someone with mental illness, can really make a differ-
ence to the recovery of the whole family.
Another great resource for anyone wanting to improve
their social connections is the High Res website and
smart phone app on DVA’s online mental health portal,
at-ease.dva.gov.au This resilience and wellbeing-build-
ing website includes a tool that allows you to map your
current connections and assist you to set goals to take
action to improve them.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish
everyone a safe and happy Christmas season and hope
that we all find the time to connect with old friends
while making some new ones as well.
The Royal Australian Air Force has confirmed that an aircraft wreckage
found in waters south of Cairns is that of RAAF Number 11 Squadron
Catalina A24-25 that crashed on 28 February 1943, killing all 11 personnel
on board. The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies AO, CSC, has
confirmed the identity of the aircraft as that of Catalina A24-25.
Air Force are currently attempting to contact relatives of the follow-
ing crew members:
Wing Commander John William Daniell 140 Age 26
Sergeant Keith Arnold Watson 22692 Age 23
Sergeant John Daniel O’Grady 5778 Age 36
Sergeant Alexander Eric John Elsbury 415378 Age 22
Corporal Douglas Giffen Shaw Russell 13970 Age 21
Corporal John Corbett Stain 2437 Age 32
Relatives are encouraged to contact the Air Force Wrecks & MIA Inves-
tigations Cell, either via email: AirForce.Wrecks&MIAInvestigations@
defence.gov.au or via phone: (02) 6128 7608 &/or (02) 6128 7519.
Photo: RAAF Catalina A2425 was lost on 28 February 1943 with 11 airmen aboard.
After 72 years, the wreck was discovered off Cairns in far north Queensland. Image
courtesy of Australian Defence Image Library.
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