Many proud memories of war service were revived for a group of Ozcare residents following Remembrance Day last week, including the remarkable journey of one of Queensland’s last surviving WWII veterans.
Arnie Nunn, who turns 96 next month, was amongst a group of men from Ozanam Villa Clontarf Aged Care Facility, touring the Brisbane headquarters of global aircraft engineering company Standard Aero at Eagle Farm.
Mr Nunn, a former aircraft radio operator, was surrounded by what he loves most – plane engines – in the lead up to his birthday, which is coincidently the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour on December 8 (December 7 in the US).
He was joined on the Standard Aero visit by seven other residents, including Alf Elmes, whose dad fought in WWI, and Jack Higginbotham, who was just 14 when the war ended. Jack went to work for Avro as an instrument fitter on the Sunderland Flying Boat at the end of the war.
More than 70 years on from WWII, Nr Nunn and his fellow residents took part part in Ozcare’s reminiscence therapy, which takes places across the state to give people living with memory loss the chance to relive experience from their past.
The Clontarf facility residents’ visit was filmed by Channel 7 and appeared on the 6pm news bulletin.
Mr Nunn said he was surprised to see so many engines on their tour.
“I thought ‘Oh well we are just going to have a look at an engine’, but there are engines, and engines and engines…. thousands of the buggers,” Mr Nunn told Channel 7.
In a truly remarkable tale, the airforce veteran retold his story of surviving a bombing attack during his stint in Papua New Guinea during WWII.
He was aboard a plane that was hit in a Japanese bombing raid.
“Five of my friends died…they couldn’t get out of the plane….It was on fire… and I got out the window,” he said.
Along with some sad memories, he also recalled some of the fond moments of his service years.
A keen sense of humour, he retold how he flew aboard the plane that dived underneath the Storey Bridge in a daring end of war celebration in 1945.
“My mate was with me…Bob… and he said to me ‘You are not going to fly under there are you?’ and I said ‘Yeah…I’m halfway there now’,” he told Channel 7.
Arnie, who was born in Rockhampton and helped establish Rockhampton Aero Club at the end of the war, was thrilled to have a chance to be shown through the headquarters of Standard Aero.
The facility is part of a global operation, with Brisbane responsible for maintaining Australia’s fleet of RFDS aircraft, as well as other aircraft outside the major airlines.
The tour was organised by Ozcare’s Diversional Therapist Annamarie Garrood and Standard Aero Operations Co-ordinator Gemma Fellows to provide a chance for the men, including some living with dementia, with an opportunity to remember their proud service years.
“They were thoroughly engaged during the entire visit and it really brought back some of the memories they have of their childhood and service years, especially for Arnie who served in WWII,” Ms Garrood said.
The group enjoyed a delicious cream tea and each visitor took away a souvenir cap from the aviation giant. They were taken on a tour and followed the flow of how an engine is repaired/overhauled from induction through to the test and dispatch to the customer.
They also compared stories with staff from Standard Aero about their experiences in aircraft engineering during the war and beyond.
Mr Nunn was 18 when he enlisted for WWII. In fact, his 18th birthday was on December 8th 1941, the day Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese (of course still December 7th in the USA).