Jean Maitland, Betty Lawrence and Patricia Wells with Steph Cooke in the Barmedman hall. They stand in front of Australian flags and pictures of servicemen in uniform.
Jean Maitland, Betty Lawrence and Patricia Wells with Steph Cooke MP

The Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke is urging everyone to pause and reflect on Australia’s efforts in the Second World War as we mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific (VP DAY).

VP Day on August 15, 1945 was the official end of a war which saw almost 1 million Australians serving in uniform.

It was the end of six years of costly conflict to the nation; more than 39,000 Australians lost their lives, 23,000 were wounded, and 30,000 were taken prisoner of war.

Many of those who returned would never truly recover.

“We owe the Second World War generation a debt that can never be repaid, and they are a shining example of what can be achieved when nations come together to say no to tyranny,” Ms Cooke said.

“While we cannot gather in the ways we normally might to mark this occasion, we can still recognise and reflect on the momentous events of 75 years ago.”

“May we all draw inspiration from the bravery, courage and sacrifice of those Australians who served their country in the Second World War.”

Acting Minister for Veterans Geoff Lee paid tribute to the brave men and women who served in the Second World War.

“The day the Second World War officially ended is a major moment in our history and we have made a big effort this year to not let it be forgotten while we are fighting this pandemic,” Mr Lee said.

“As we mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific we remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by the men and women who served.

“They fought throughout the Pacific defending our nation, while on the home front, hundreds of thousands more contributed to essential services to support the war effort.”

The NSW Government has compiled a digital catalogue of articles and videos of WWII veterans and widows telling their stories to ensure their efforts in the Second World War are not forgotten.

Dorothy Curtis, a Private from the Australian Women’s Army Service, whose first assignment was the Cape Banks Army Station at La Perouse, is one of many to share her memories.

“We had an enormous plotting table that showed the outline of the coast,” she said.

“We would get information from the Army outposts to chart the course of ships on the plotting table. We had to make sure they were our ships and not Japanese ships.”

Ms Curtis recalls the day the war ended.

“I remember going into the city with my friends. We went berserk. People were dancing in the city. Sydney went mad,” Ms Curtis said.

Gerald Hewish was 18 when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1940 and served until 1946.

He was on HMAS Melville during the bombing of Darwin by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy that killed 237 people and destroyed ships, buildings and essential services across the Northern Territory city.

Six large vessels were sunk and another 14 were damaged. The MV Neptuna exploded at the wharf causing massive damage. The greatest loss of life occurred when the destroyer USS Peary sank killing 88 people.

“It’s not something I like to talk about because it was a difficult time,” Mr Hewish said.

“It was horrific. There was a lot of damage and you can never forget a moment like that. It took everyone by surprise and it impacted everyone who lived and worked in Darwin including those of us in the defence forces.”

“As the Second World War generation sadly leaves us, it is up to all of us to keep their memories alive, to remind ourselves never to let humanity slip in to global conflict again, and to preserve the legacy of those who gave their today for our tomorrow,” Ms Cooke said.

Stories from NSW veterans from the Second World War can be viewed on the NSW Government Stories page: