‘Respect. I definitely learned respect’

This year on ANZAC Day, we honour the sacrifice made by our residents who have been involved in active service. Holmwood Aged Care resident, Ray Cook, shares with us his service in the army and memories from his time in Japan.

Ray recalls one day walking down Burwood Road past the drill hall with his mate, Bobby, and said to him, ‘Look, they’re still looking for members.’ Ray tells us that at that time, he had one brother in the navy and another in their air force so after seeing the advertisement, and at the age of 19, Ray signed up to the army, and was deported to Japan in the occupational forces.

Ray worked as a motor mechanic in Japan and was eventually promoted to Lance Corporal. ‘While I was over there we were out walking, and this bloke yells out, “Hey Ray, I’ve got your money for you,”- it was Bobby,’ said Ray. ‘The last time he saw me he borrowed some money off me and he had ended up deployed over there too in another division. It was nice to see him.’

Ray recalls a tough time in Japan was when he fell ill and had to spend time in hospital. ‘Some illness got me, and I was in a hospital over there,’ Ray says. ‘Another guy in the next bed got pneumonia and got really sick. That was hard to watch.’

Ray also tells us about his hate for porridge while living over there. ‘One thing I remember, there would be 6 of us at table having porridge at the table for breakfast,’ he says. ‘We were sick of the porridge. I said I didn’t want it and so did 4 others at the table. This one guy went on and ate all 6 serves and got sick as anything. Made us laugh. He was always so hungry.’

When asked what he learned during his time in active service, Ray replied, ‘Respect. I definitely learned respect and determination to keep going,’ he says. ‘I didn’t stay in the service, I got out when I got married and went on to have my own trucks for transport and became a builder. I learnt to be self-sufficient and stay determined.’

Ray eventually moved back home to Victoria, later married and had four children.

Now living at Holmwood Aged Care and at the age of 96, Ray recalls a special memory following his service in Japan. ‘I went back to Japan many years later,’ he says. ‘I was looking for the house of a girl I met over there. We were looking around and I asked for her name and address. I took an album with me with – photos I had taken on my service and I met some officials in the museum and they were excited about the photos and kept the album for a few months and sent them back after copying them and enhancing them and blowing them up.’

‘I ended up with a letter of thanks from the Mayor of Hiroshima thanking me for my contribution to the museum and their history and knowledge,’ says Ray. ‘That was nice.’