Gympie character turns 100 and celebrates
HISTORY is often scripted away in books for only the curious to rediscover, however one Gympie veteran has lived it, and is keeping the memories alive for following generations.
Albert "Tab” Greber celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday with more than 100 people attending his party at the Gympie Bowls Club on the Southside.
The Second World War veteran has transcribed his life experience by writing a book.
Born in Tewantin on March 5, 1917, Tab, as he is affectionately known, was named Albert after his uncle, who died fighting on the western front just a month before, at the height of the First World War.
He spent his childhood in the Cooroy area, running around the family dairy farm at Happy Jack Creek.
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he married his sweetheart, Grace White.
He then joined the Australian Imperial Force when the Japanese threatened Australia with invasion, fighting at notable engagements, such as the Battle of Milne Bay, the Allies first major land victory over the Japanese.
His daughter Lyn Fleming, said it took a while for her father to open up about the war and had to convince him to write his memoirs.
"When we started writing his book, he really started to remember and talk openly about his experiences.
"He was there when the Japanese General Adachi signed his surrender in a ceremony,” she said.
Gympie RSL Sub-branch president Ivan Friske said Mr Greber had done a world of good for documenting his experiences.
"He would have seen that many changes in 100 years, as well as took part in a war which threatened our shores, he would have seen so much.
"I have to commend him for writing his book. So many individuals don't put it down on paper and those stories are lost to us.”
Mr Friske said the Gympie RSL received an official statement about Tab's service.
Official records say he was in three units, the 25th Battalion, 2/6th Battalion and the Army Reserves' 24th Construction Squadron.
It highlights his two stints in the Australian military, the first during the Second World War with the Australian Imperial Force , from February 20, 1942, to January 10, 1946.
His second stint was with the Regular Army Special Reserves' 24th Construction Squadron from February 27, 1952, until February 26, 1961.
It also detailed his two tours of New Guinea during the Second World War, the first tour from September 14, 1942 to September 21, 1943.
His second tour from January 21, 1945 to December 24, 1945.
Tab's time in New Guinea saw him stationed in Port Moresby, Wewack, Salamanua, Wau, Aitape, Maprik.
He counts the 1939-45 Star, Pacific Star, War Medal 1939-45, and Australia Service Medal 1939-45 among his collection of medals.
He also worked with the Australian New Guinea Administration Unit and with the beloved "Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels”, native New Guinean porters who hauled injured soldiers through the forbidding jungle.
"In Tab's book he was there in Milne Bay. He was on an anti-tank gun, and the Japanese had tanks there, another bloke was a gunner and got hurt, so Tab had to go out carrying the other gunner's gear, but luckily the Japanese tanks got bogged and were out of action,” Mr Friske said.
"He also got a dose of malaria, they didn't have a reliable medication to prevent it. Nine times out of 10 they couldn't get it. When they did it wasn't the right stuff, and they were sleeping without mosquito nets.”
In his book he mentions he had a nickname of Greenbottle.
"During the war he used to go out scrounging for fresh fruit and there was a show on radio at that stage called 'Greenbottle', and he was named after that,” Mr Friske said.
"In his book he details where some bad things go on, but there's a fair bit of humour going on in it too.
"He's got a wonderful sense of humour.”
His daughter, Lyn Fleming, said her dad has always been a joker and looked at the brighter side of life.
"And while his book talks about some terrible events, they are brief, but he spends a lot of time highlighting the good things, the bright side of life.”
After the war, Tab worked various jobs to provide for his growing family and at last count he had four children, nine grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
There have been three members of his family who have reached a century, two of them currently live with him in retirement care.
Tab's wife, Grace, sadly passed away on February 12, 2011.
They had spent more than 70 years by each others' side and her passing prompted Tab to sell his acreage home of 34 years and move into retirement care.
Lyn said her dad revealed the tough time he had during the war to her, but his humour always shone through everything, even to this day.
"At his party, he recited Dr Seuss' Golden years,” she said.
"In the final lines, it says the Golden Years have come at last.
"The Golden years... can kiss my ***.”