Updates from the Ryman community

Resident stories

Remembering 'our boys'

Written by Margot Taylor
on April 23, 2021

For Nellie Melba Retirement Village resident Judy Caithness it was trenches rather than a playground that she walked through to get to school.

Born in 1936, and growing up in Albury, Judy says the war effort dominated the first nine years of her life.

“It’s what my life, and everyone else’s in Albury, was all about,” she says.

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Despite being a town of about 16,000 in the 1940s, Albury was believed to be a prime target for invasion due to the Hume Dam, the largest dam in the Southern Hemisphere at the time, being only 16km away.

“It was thought to be a key target for the Japanese,” she says.

“If the dam had been bombed it would have flooded Albury and caused devastation.”

Judy’s father built a large air raid shelter in their backyard in preparation for an invasion, while guards stationed at the dam walls would check the cars of anyone entering or leaving Albury.

“It certainly made World War Two seem very real, but I always felt safe.”

Adding to the sense that the war was never far was the fact Albury had the longest railway station in Australia at the time, making it a key interchange location for soldiers.

“All of the soldiers would get out to change trains and all the ladies of Albury would have their cakes and sandwiches and parcels ready for them to take,” she says.

“My mum always said ‘they are our boys and they are fighting to keep us safe’, and I think we all felt that way, it was a collective effort and the whole town banded together to support our soldiers.”

While Judy and her family took great pride in supporting the soldiers at home, their thoughts were never far from Judy’s uncle Warrant Officer L.N. Lance Hickey (Blue) Warrant Officer Disciplinary, No. 79 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF who was serving in Papua New Guinea.

“Uncle Blue left Sydney on June 6, 1943 for Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea,” Judy says.

“When Blue came back, he was largely unscathed, and he had a grass skirt as a gift for us.”

4026439 (Medium)             Warrant Officer L.N. Lance Hickey (Blue) Warrant Officer Disciplinary, No. 79 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF

After Blue’s return Anzac Day became a day almost more significant for the family than Christmas.

“Towards the end of his life he was leading the 79th Spitfire Squadron members in the Melbourne March,” she says.

For Judy Anzac Day is a time to reflect on the community of Albury coming together, and the service of her uncle Blue, and later her younger brother John, who served in Vietnam.

“Sadly, with Vietnam many were almost ashamed to say they had been,” she says.

“But John was a conscript, he literally had to go, or go to jail.

“Anzac Day is about remembering all of our boys who served, and it will always be special.”

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