Veteran reflects on cost of war
Artie Prentice didn’t get to see his first child, his daughter Lyn, until she was two years old.
Away at war on Morotai island in Indonesia, it wasn’t until the Second World War ended that Artie saw Lyn at Brunswick Heads where she was camping with her mother, Artie’s wife Joyce, and Joyce’s parents.
“When Lyn saw me for the first time she screamed because she didn’t know who I was,” Artie said.
“That really hurt, but we have since forged a great relationship and I believe I have been a good dad.”
Now 93 and living in Bangalow, Artie and Joyce (deceased) went on to have another two children – Christopher and Donald.
Born in Lismore in 1917, Artie moved to Bangalow when he was five.
He joined the 41st Battalion when he was 21 and did his training at Greta near Maitland.
“All I ever wanted to do was to be a wireless operator,” Artie said.
“To wear a white uniform and work on a ship, that’s what I wanted.”
But it was not to be.
However, Artie did become a wireless operator, but for the Army.
After he completed the course, graduating with an honours pass, Artie worked in Sydney before being sent to Darwin in 1942.
He was there when Darwin was bombed by the Japanese.
“We worked in eight-hour shifts operating the wireless and I loved the job,” Artie said.
“But I didn’t get the lovely white uniform, nor the ship nor the girls on the ship.”
Artie spent 12 months in Darwin before he was sent back to Sydney to regroup.
He then left Australia on a Dutch ship bound for several overseas postings.
Artie didn’t know it at the time, by his wife Joyce was pregnant with their first child.
Spending most of his service at Morotai, Indonesia, Artie said he was never really in the ‘thick of war’.
“The Japs did fire on us, but really, compared to the boys at the front, I had it easy,” Artie said.
“I felt a bit guilty about that, but I did get malaria and my nerves weren’t that good.
“At the time you don’t really think about the war, you just do your job.
“I would have laid down my life for Australia, the war was necessary, we had to stop the Japanese.
“But there are never any winners in war.”
Artie said the one thing that war did give you was lifelong friends.
His best friend was Tim Jordan of Murwillumbah, who is now dead, and Artie is the only one from his unit still alive.
Artie has been a member of the Bangalow RSL sub-branch for 60 years and is the branch’s oldest member.
“When I first got out of the Army, I didn’t march on Anzac Day,” Artie said.
“I just wanted to forget about everything, but now I do march and last year was the first year that I had to be driven in a car.”
Artie said he was looking forward to this year’s parade on Sunday.