If there was one thing 93 year old Geoffrey McGregor would do differently if he had his time again, it would be to avoid going to the Second World War. The Bupa Aged Care resident and former sniper shares his story ahead of a special ceremony at the home for Remembrance Day.
It took immense courage for then 15 year old Geoffrey McGregor to put his life on the line for Australia, but looking back now, he says there’s no glory in war.
At the time, the teenager felt ready to fight for his country. He even lied about his age so he could join. But still to this day he has trouble wiping the memories of World War II from his mind.
“When we boarded the ship, we were young boys looking for adventure. When we came back, we were old men looking for a life again in society.”
Geoffrey served as a sniper. He doesn’t like discussing details of his specific role, except to say that “it wasn’t pretty.”
In the years which followed, Geoffrey experienced flash backs, the smell of blood, the sound of bullets firing all day and all night, and the dread that he may never make it home alive.
It was 1939 when he signed up with the Australian Army and first set sail on board the Queen Mary.
Over the coming years, Geoffrey saw the world through the eyes of a soldier.
His first posting was in India where he was trained in the chemical infantry. He was then sent to Israel for more training, and then posted to Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Guinea, and surrounding islands.
“Life in the army was very different to being at home. I would sleep on the floor, we had to live on rations because that was the best they could do for us. We did get to like them over time.”
All up he spent more than five years serving in the Australian Army, before he was deemed medically unfit.
During the war he met his first love. The young couple married in 1942 and had three children, two boys and a girl.
“It wasn’t just me who suffered. My wife would also suffer, always worrying she would receive a call about whether I had been injured or killed in action.”
But instead it was his wife who was struck by tragedy many years later when she passed away in 1989. He found love again, and re-married a woman named Carol in 1991.
Geoffrey is now living at the Bupa Aged Care home in Toowoomba, Queensland. His friends and carers at the home are preparing to hold a special ceremony ahead of Remembrance Day on November 11, to pay tribute not only to those who served in World War 1, but everyone who has served their countries since.
It’s provided an opportunity for Geoffrey to talk about his difficult past and connect with other servicemen and women.
Bupa Glenvale Acting General Manager Gail Ryan says it’s an important day to pay our respects to the Australian men and women who put on a uniform and served our country, and acknowledge the incredible history of the residents.
“We proudly commemorate Remembrance Day to say thank you to the Veterans, like Geoffrey, who live in our home and also remember those soldiers who bravely fought in the Great War,” Gail said.