Saturday, 12 August 2006

No courage in these convictions!

I've got some more natural history words and pictures to post—I'll do that later today. But right now I thought I'd share something of my background with you.

Don't panic. This is not a therapy session.

My father died when I was young. My mother didn't seem to have been terribly fond of him so there wasn't a great deal of discussion of the topic at home. Well, the occasional story about how he used to roll up at home with a case of beer and a bunch of mates and the odd dead kangaroo. (I don't know any more. Don't ask.) And the time that Mum shot him through the foot. Apparently, accidentally, but the nurses at the hospital weren't convinced. So recently, I thought I might make a small effort to find out a bit more about him. (And you'll see just how small the effort was.)

My mother and my father's sisters and brothers are all dead, so there was no opportunity to get the information from them. But Dad was born in 1918. (Before you ask, my parents were quite old when I arrived.) That meant he would have been the right age to serve in World War II.

Off to the Australian War Memorial web site to search through their database. I found him and his service number and requested a copy of his records. All this without leaving my chair.

The records are extensive. He enlisted in Prahran on 11th December 1941 at the age of 23. He was discharged on 3rd November 1943, having spent 598 days AWOL.

But that wasn't the reason for his discharge. Oh, no. He was out of the Army because he'd been 'sentenced to penal servitude by a civil court'.

The AWM had included his police record. Now, Dad was born in Tasmania and I'm not quite sure when he arrived in Victoria but I'd imagine it wasn't long before the 18th June 1937, when he was arrested for larceny in a dwelling. In 1938, he served time for possession of a pistol (three months) and garage- and shop-breaking (three years).

A period of calm followed. He'd kept his nose clean. Or maybe he just hadn't been nicked. Then, on 6th November 1942, he was sentenced to another two years for housebreaking. This seems to have been the last straw for the Army. Or it would have been if they had been able to find him.

Well done, Dad.

It doesn't end there. I'll tell you the second part of the story tomorrow.

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