Baycrest veteran reveals Aus Day's personal significance
FOR Bob Larter, the high-flying blue of the Australian flag symbolises the country he enlisted to defend in World War II.
The Hervey Bay 97-year-old joined in bush ballads with his trusty harmonica during early Australia Day celebrations yesterday at the residential aged-care community at Bolton Clarke Baycrest.
Sydney-born Mr Larter was sent to a Parramatta orphanage with 500 other children after his mother died when he was just nine months old.
After living in an institution for most of his life, Mr Larter said joining the army at 21 wasn't that much different to his old life.
"I trained at Sydney's north end barracks right at the time the Japanese submarines came into the harbour," he said.
"You would always know when troop carriers were coming in because they had to dredge the shallow areas for the boats to fit."
He found himself in New Guinea serving with an artillery unit.
Mr Larter was at Milne Bay when was recruited to a water transport unit after someone noticed his knack for diesel engines.
"I worked as an engineer on a small river boat which we used to carry troops up along the coast from Milne Bay to Lae and Madang," he said.
"I learnt so much while there. It was definitely an education. In fact I wanted to help the locals so much I decided to stay after the war."
Mr Larter turned down the opportunity to go to Japan after the conflict to stay in New Guinea, eventually scoring work for an oil company.
After 11 years with the Australasian Petroleum's Port Moresby branch, he returned to Sydney in 1961, he met the woman who would become his wife, Jean.
They were married eight years later.
In 1972 the couple moved to Hervey Bay, where they ran several successful businesses including a souvenir shop in Main St before retiring.
Jean passed away in 2014.
"Australia Day takes me back," Mr Larter said.
"I think the Australia of today is good considering if you look at our history and how far we have come since the beginning in the colonies.
"I am an avid follower of Australian history and everything in my life has taught me Australian's go with the flow.
"We take everything as it comes and this makes me proud to be Australian and celebrate Australia Day."