Anzac Day has always been an easy day for John Flynn Resident, Howard (Clem) Robinson to remember, not least because it is his birthday. Clem was born on 25th April 1938.
Clem’s father, also named Clem Robinson, fought in the trenches of France during the First World War, and while the Robinson family avoided fighting in the Second
World War, Clem was called for national service when he was 18.
“I passed the medical, so there was no getting out of it,” Clem said.
“I can’t say that military life appealed to me all that much as an 18-year-old, it was not really my cup of tea, but I must admit, it prepared me for a lot of things later in life.”
Clem completed his national service training at Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne, in Perth, Western Australia, during the summer break between his undergraduate and postgraduate Biochemistry studies at the University of Western Australia.
“After that basic training I joined the Western Australia University Regiment of the Citizen’s Military Forces,” Clem said.
“I was in it for the next three years, which was good fun, we went on annual camps and I’ve got lots of happy memories of those.
“We were fortunate that we did several weeks of basic training at Kingston Barracks on Rottnest Island [those Barracks are now a holiday resort]. We spent a good few weeks there training jungle warfare in what were not jungle conditions.”
But there were also challenging aspects of the training, including using equipment already well-used in two world wars.
“In one exercise we had to run and stab our bayonets into a big bag full of straw and I thought ‘can I really imagine doing this to another human being?’
“That was not a happy moment.
“I thought this was pretty horrifying.”
In 1960 Clem was awarded a Hackett scholarship from the University of Western Australia which enabled him to undertake further study at the University of Oxford.
“I went off to England and that cut my military training short by a couple of months,” he said.
“But I was very lucky and privileged to also meet my wife Ida there (Oxford).
“Being there was certainly a world changing experience for me.”
His time in the national service and Citizen’s Military Forces was formative.
“Whether it be military, or some other form of national service, I think the training is probably beneficial for many young people, Clem said.
“It was certainly good for me
“I look back on it now with some fondness.”
The Ryman Stories of Service tribute book is now published in time to commemorate Anzac Day.
The special commemorative books recall the wartime memories of 62 of our Ryman residents. We thank them for their contribution to the freedom we enjoy today.
The collection of residents' stories are remarkable and diverse and can be read online here.