Ron Feld is the patron of the Ramsgate RSL sub-branch, but his journey begins years ago.
In 1944, he sat down with his parents to discuss following in his brother's footsteps and enlisting in the Army. At just 18 years old, he embarked on a journey that would see him serve for two years and nine months.
On 5 August, 1944, just four months after he enlisted, Ron was an Army Private stationed in the Central West when the Cowra breakout occurred. It was the largest prison outbreak during WWII, with more than 1,100 Japanese prisoners of war attempting to escape. The outbreak took place over nine days and Ron was part of a search team that helped to recapture 334 prisoners. During the ensuing manhunt, four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed.
In February, 1945 Ron left Australia to begin his overseas assignment in New Britain, an island next to Papua New Guinea.
“I did several weeks of jungle training at Canungra, Queensland before I left. So I knew I would be based in the Pacific in a hot, tropical environment. It’s different to ordinary training. It was more severe and focused on drills that would prepare us for the frontline.”
He landed in Jacquinot Bay in New Britain and was still there when he first heard the war was over in the Pacific months later.
“I think we were asleep and I remember loud sirens went off. We were raised from our quarters by our superiors and told the war had ended.”
Ron headed into Rabaul in New Britain where there had been 80,000 Japanese soldiers during the war. The atmosphere had shifted as the Australian Army were preparing a camp and taking over from the Japanese soldiers.
“We might’ve been socialising a little bit knowing the war had ended and it would just be a matter of time before we came home.” Ron and an Army friend took advantage of the change in mood to run a Starting Price (SP) bookmaking business in New Britain.
“It was a light hearted thing.” Ron says. “We used to get information from Radio Australia – it would give us the rundown on the horses and racecourses. So we decided to run the SP amongst the troops as a bit of a laugh.”
Just on the verge of returning home, Ron was struck down by malignant malaria and admitted to hospital. He said he was worried he wouldn’t be well enough to go back to Australia, but luckily he recovered in time to join the troops on the transport ship back to Australia.
The day Ron Feld returned home
With the knowledge the war was over and home was close “the journey on the ship home was very, very relaxing and comfortable.” To pass the time on the trip, Ron recalls “the boys and I were playing a bit of Two Up.”
But the most memorable event was seeing his parents again at the LTD Depo in Marrickville.
After returning home in June 1946 and prior to discharging on the 20 December in 1946, Ron was again struck with malaria and hospitalised at the military hospital in Herne Bay.
Once he was home, and after taking a leave of absence, Ron transferred to Army Headquarters where he did administration duties, a part of a defence career he's very proud of.
Reflecting on his time in the Army, Ron says the major thing he learnt from the war was discipline.
"You respect your senior people. Not senior in age, but senior in authority."
Ron also says the war helped put things in perspective.
"Having three years in the Army, made me look at the world in a different way and enabled me to work hard to create a secure future for me and my family. I think if the same thing happened again, I would do the same thing."