Sunday, 1 November 2015

Wow, that's me in that old photo! Ron Jennings, then and now.


Ron Jennings and Family, 2015.
Ron Jennings shows his old photo to his family
(L to R) Libby, Andrew and daughter-in-law Sherryl.
Photo source: Barry Clark
This is a delightful story of a man being surprised to see a photo of himself taken 72 years ago, and being reminded of a memorable Christmas past.

Ron Jennings grew up in country Victoria and as a young man was keen to join the Army and serve his country. He joined the Army in 1942 at age 17 spent a short time at the Military Training Camp at Toorbul Point, the site of what is now the new Sandstone Point Hotel.

Last week he was taken to the Hotel by his family and looked at the many historic photos on display....when he suddenly spotted himself in one of the photos.

Toorbul Point Hospital, 1943.
Photo taken Christmas 1943 in the Field Hospital.
Ron Jennings is fourth along on the left.
Photo source: MBRC Library P2167
It was taken in a 12 bed Military Field Hospital in December 1943, which had stood right where the main bar of the new Hotel is today, and where Ron Jennings saw it for the first time on his visit to Bribie last week ......73 years later.

Vivid memories filled his head as he recalled the events that led to his being in the Military Field Hospital at Christmas-time all those years ago.

In an interview with Barry Clark of the Bribie Island Historical Society, who had supplied the photo for display at the Hotel, he said ....

  "It was a rather strange occurrence that happened. We were camped on the flat below the hospital, close to the spot  where the old Boat Shed and Jetty still stand today. A few days before Christmas six of us got leave to go to a dance at Cooroy on the weekend.

We went on the Saturday morning and were booked at the local Hotel for the night. We had a good time at the dance, but in the morning one of the boys, Bluey Copeland, who had red hair and lots of freckles, was really ill. I was able to arrange a truck from camp to pick myself and Bluey up at the Railway station. It was at Landsborough I think.

Anyway, Bluey was delivered to the camp hospital and for some reason I was invited to join some of the other patients for a very nice lunch. You can even see Christmas decorations strung up in the photo, and bottles of beer on the table.  They suspected that Bluey had Dengue fever, but I don't know what happened to him because I didn't stay much longer.

Within a couple of days we had all our Beach Landing Craft ready, and we sailed away to fight the war in the islands. It was Christmas day when we set off north, and I never heard what happened to Bluey. 

I am amazed to see myself in that photos after all these years. I am the fourth one along on the left, just half a face, but I don't know who could have taken it.  I don't recognise anyone else in the photo, but it is just possible that Bluey is the guy in the bed in the background on the left.  I do remember enjoying their company that day, before I set off to the war with the Japanese in PNG.  I am sorry my memory is not so good these days."

Seeing the photo brought memories flooding back to Ron's head of how he had tried several times to join the Army, against his father's wishes. He had worked with the Post Office and eventually joined an Ordinance Corp. and after initial training in Wagga Wagga he found himself briefly at Toorbul Point Camp in 1943 before going to the islands with his Beach Landing Craft unit.

"We even had carrier pigeons in small cages on board our vessels for getting messages to each other, and we rubbed Kerosene on ourselves to protect from the fleas and mozzies. I had a bout of Malaria while we were up there, and experienced some very difficult situations landing people under fire on beaches near Milne Bay. I remember having my 21st birthday in Borneo. It just seems like so long ago now, but I was blessed with a great life after that, and a wonderful family."

Ron lost his wife of 66 years just a couple of years ago. Their five children, four boys and a girl, now live all around Australia but it is the family connection with Bribie Island that has led to this lovely story being uncovered.

Son Andrew and wife Libby had lived on Bribie some years ago, and another son Paul and his wife Sherryl live here today. It was their visit to the new Sandstone Point Hotel and connection with Barry Clark of the Bribie Island Historical Society that led to this fascinating discovery of a young soldier's face in a long forgotten photo.

If you have interesting old photos or special memories of Bribie Island contact them on

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