RIGHT: Bill and Edna Jarrett of Ballina. Bill served in the navy in the Second World War and his father served in both world wars.
RIGHT: Bill and Edna Jarrett of Ballina. Bill served in the navy in the Second World War and his father served in both world wars. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Bill's dad never came home from the war

ON HIS 15th birthday Bill Jarrett, now 80, walked his father to the old Ballina train station and watched him leave for war. It was the last time he would ever stand face to face with his dad.

Ballina canecutter Samuel Jarrett was already 40 when he enlisted in 1940, but pretended he was 38. It was his second war, and the second time he'd lied about his age to enlist.

"He put his age up two years for the First World War and down two years for the Second World War," Mr Jarrett said.

The Jarrett family were struggling to make ends meet at the time, as the Great Depression had lingered in rural Australia.

Mr Jarrett's father was a very hard-working canecutter, but in debt for rent - his pay being deducted by the landlord.

There's no such thing as a good war

 

"He used to work until he dropped," Mr Jarett said.

"You'd join the army and you'd have your pay secured," Mr Jarrett said. "You didn't think about what might happen to you."

He would see his father one more time, but only from afar, when he was standing on the back of a ship leaving Sydney Harbour for the Middle East.

A series of letters over the next 12 months promised a young Bill his dad was out of harm's way.

"But then they called for volunteers to reinforce Crete, and it wasn't long after that he was killed."

When he heard the news, Mr Jarrett said he remembered "howling my eyes out... I wanted all Germans dead".

He too would join the war at 18, enlisting in the Royal Australian Navy in 1943 and serving from Borneo to the Philippines on HMAS Gascoyne.

But he never stopped missing his dad.

"It was only after the war that it dawned on me there were a lot of German boys and girls crying their hearts out for their fathers as well."

"There's no such thing as a good war."

WARS' TERRIBLE TOLL

First World War 1914-18:

  • 415,000 men enlisted.
  • 60,000 killed
  • 156,000 wounded

Second World War 1939-45:

  • Almost a million Australians served, both men and women.
  • 30,000 killed
  • 25,000 wounded.


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