At 98 years of age, Roddy Kleinig, of Tanunda, will be one of the region’s oldest WWII veterans to commemorate ANZAC Day this year.
The Tanunda RSL Life Member’s memories of his time as an able seaman are still as vivid as ever.
“I joined the Navy and then I was called up in August of 1942 and went down to Flinders Naval Depot, that’s where that photo was taken,” said Roddy, pointing to a framed picture of himself as a 19 year old.
“After we’d done our course, we went into HMAS Manoora, which was the landing ship that took troops into the shore. I was the coxswain, in charge of steering the landing craft into the beach.
“We did eight landings in all the various places. The first was in New Guinea, right up to the Philippines.”
From the side of the ship which had 2,000 troops on board, landing craft with 20 soldiers in each would be dropped down into the ocean and travel about five kilometres to shore.
“We’d drop the ramp and they’d go out…. There were plenty of shells going above us, you could hear them whistling,” Roddy said.
“It was no good being frightened, you just accepted what was coming.
“We would start at 4 a.m. and the American cruisers would be behind us, bombing the beach prior so that we could get onshore without meeting the Japs there.
“We were lucky…The landings were usually pretty straight forward, there was no opposition then. By the time we took the troops in and all the equipment and stuff in, it would be 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
“By that time, we would be bringing back wounded soldiers.”
Roddy has a sense of pride as he recalls his brush with a famous soldier who would be decorated with a Victoria Cross for gallantry.
“I had Lt. Tom Derrick VC, DCM on my landing craft. He got that (his VC) over in the Middle East and he was on my landing craft that went in,” he said.
Roddy passed his leading seaman exam, then the war ended. He was asked to continue but chose not to as he was eager to get back to the family’s Angaston dairy and reunite with his 10 siblings, including seven sisters.
While sailing back to Australia on the Manoora from the last landing in the Philippines, Roddy witnessed another scene he’ll never forget.
“After the war, on the way home, we had to go to Darwin to pick up some people and we saw the wreckage… the place was a shambles,” Roddy explained.
“The Japs had really bombed the place. The Government didn’t want Australia to know about that though.”