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Veterans Swap War Stories

Story: Renee Mckeown
Published On : Mar 20, 2024
Veterans Swap War Stories
There are many stories of teenagers faking their age to join the army and John Caruana has one of them. 

It took him 12 weeks to grow a mustache in an attempt to fight with his country but he could not fool those in charge.

The Sandgate RSL Sub Branch veteran will be one of many people who will commemorate ANZAC Day on Thursday, April 25.

The dawn service will be held once again at Sandgate War Memorial Park just before 5am and followed by a parade along Brighton Road, with form up at 8.40am to march at 9am.

Veterans, their families and the community will get to share tales of mates and loved ones who served in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

“I actually tried to join the army when Korea was on,” John said. “It took me about 12 weeks to grow a mustache and my dad signed a paper for me to join. I was 14 or 15 I suppose.

“Unfortunately the recruiting sergeant realised I was only a young bloke.

“He had me on for about six weeks… Eventually he said, ‘I know how old you are! Thank you very much.’”

It took John a few extra years to join the army and he went on to serve for 21 years from 1956 to 1977 in the 1 RAR, 3 RAR, 6 RAR and 42 RQR.

There were also two years at jungle warfare school with the British Army, multiple trips to Malaya and time in the Vietnam War including the Battle of Coral-Balmoral.

“I was the smallest bloke in the battalion, they made me the policing sergeant,” John said. “I looked after my blokes, particularly I worked with the premise that I was pretty hard on people but if they weren’t there I wouldn’t be there to command.

“I broke my back when I was in Vietnam, I didn’t know that at the time but the cold used to get to me when I went to dawn services.

“But now it seems to be warmer so I am looking forward to it, for the comradery.”

John eventually retired from the Australian Army as a warrant officer class two to spend time with his late wife Dorothy who he met at Enoggera and their three sons.

He is now a proud great grandfather and war veteran who is a familiar face at Sandgate RSL Sub Branch events including monthly morning teas, meetings and social nights held on the first Friday of each month at 4.30pm.