Thoughts & Memories: Bill
2022 marks 80 years since The Battle of the Coral Sea, a naval battle that took place when America became aware of Japan’s plan, Operation Mo, to isolate Australia and New Zealand from its allied United States in WW11. Arthur White ( Bill as he prefers) was only 19 years of age when this battle occurred.
Bill was 17 years old when he joined the Navy, just four weeks after World War II was declared. His seven years of service started with basic training in Melbourne, more than 3000 kilometres away from his hometown of Fremantle, Western Australia.
After his basic training to become a Wireless Operator, Bill was assigned to the HMAS Hobart, a light cruiser ship, where he travelled to Burma, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and then to the sea north of Australia on anti-invasion patrol.
Bill recalls watching the battle and seeing ships both damaged and sunk due to bombing and torpedo strikes, he believes he was one of the lucky ones and gives thanks to his captain, who he recalls,“was very good and kept us alive”.
Bill remained in the Navy for a year after peace was declared. After his posting on the HMAS Hobart ended he spent a year on the ground in New Guinea, where he contracted several types of malaria, which led to Bill’s medical discharge. Unfortunately, Bill continued to suffer relapses of malaria many times over the years.
Once back in good health Bill trained as a carpenter, he started building houses and then progressed to high rises. The company he first worked at as a Project Manager and later became a partner, built The Sands Shopping Centre in Maroochydore which is now Sunshine Plaza. His company built the very first high rise in Mooloolaba, Seaview, which still stands today. Due to his work, Bill travelled regularly working on new buildings on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and as far north as Cairns.
Bill celebrated his 100th birthday on the 16th of June this year and survives his wife and son. Before moving into Buderim Views, Bill was living in his own home and mowing the half acre block on his ride-on mower. He decided it was time to move into aged care when he became unsteady on his feet.
When asked what advice his gives to others about living a long and healthy life, Bill says, “Take each day as it comes and deal with things as they arise each day.”
Bill mentioned one of the highlights of his long life was when he, with two other Australians and three Americans, were invited to New York on an all-expenses paid first-class trip. He stayed in 5-star hotels and had a chauffeur-driven car for 14 days while they attended gala dinners, memorials, and met Donald Trump. Bill was acknowledged for his service in the war, and it is with pride that he mentions he still receives letters from Admirals in the US Defence Force. Bill is an active member of the RSL and Veterans Affairs and has been for many years.
Bill is a humble man and doesn’t see himself as a hero for his war service, just that he was simply doing the job he was paid for. The Maroochydore RSL has made a documentary on Bill’s service and The War Museum in Canberra interviewed Bill a few years back, capturing his part in our Australian history. The interview now plays at The Battle of the Coral Sea Australian War Memorial.
Thank you for your service Bill.