Hervey Bay Second World War veteran Bob Larter shares his memories.
Hervey Bay Second World War veteran Bob Larter shares his memories. Carlie Walker

The story of one of our last remaining local WWII veterans

HIS dog tags hang around his neck and on his wall hangs the flag he served under.

In the table beside Bob Larter's bed are the medals he was awarded for his service during the Second World War.

The tale of how Bob found himself in Papua New Guinea at the age of 21 after he enlisted for the Australian forces in the war is a tragic one.

But sitting in his room at Baycrest aged care centre, Bob has no regrets.

Born in 1921 to a mother and father who were both gifted musicians, he would later find out he had inherited their talent when he discovered he could keep people entertained by playing the harmonica.

At just nine-months-old, his mother died after a short battle with a disease.

His father, while a talented musician and music teacher, had found himself out of work and was barely making enough to get by.

"My father was a musician and he ended up in pick and shovel gangs," Bob reminisced.

The flag that still hangs on Bob Larter's wall.
The flag that still hangs on Bob Larter's wall. Carlie Walker

Bob was placed in a Presbyterian orphanage in Parramatta and when he was old enough, his father would send him comic books every two weeks.

He says that the kindness from his father helped improve his reading and writing skills and inspired his own art, both in writing poetry and sketching.

When he left the orphanage, Bob went to work on a farm, where he was earning about $10 a week.

He was concerned about his future and was determined to learn a trade and educate himself.

It wasn't a hard decision to enlist in the armed forces when he learned he would earn $35 a week.

"My education more or less started when I got into the army," Bob said.

Bob also wanted to do his bit for the war effort.

He found himself in New Guinea serving with an artillery unit.

But a bout of malaria led to new opportunities.

Bob was at Milne Bay when he came down with the disease and while he was recovering at a convalescence camp, he was approached by a man who noticed him working on diesel engines.

"He said to me 'you ought to get into water transport'," Bob recalled.

"They are the only unit in the Australian Army that has a flag.

"The others have a banner."

Bob's knowledge of engines earned him a spot in the Australian Army Water Transport unit and at the conclusion of the war, he took home the flag that flew at the end of the stern of the ship he served on.

It hangs on his wall to this day.

Bob remained in New Guinea for a few years after the war, working for the civil administration and then for an oil company in Moresby, as well as taking photos on the side.

When he returned to Sydney in 1961, he met the woman who would become his wife, Jean.

They were married in 1969.

In 1972 the couple moved to Hervey Bay, where they ran several successful businesses before retiring.

Jean passed away in 2014.

Bob said Anzac Day remained an important day for him.

"Each year you see more of the young people taking note of it," he said.

He said it was great to see the whole town turnout for Anzac Day, to commemorate return service people and the fall.

"It does mean something," he said.