Living with the Echoes of War, Brenda Bogan

As the wife of a soldier, Brenda begins her story by telling us about her late husband Neville and his time in the army. “I was 16 when I first met Neville and 19 when we got married,” said Brenda. “There was so much in the news at the time about the Japanese and them being the enemy”.

“Neville enlisted with the army when he was 18 years old and was stationed in New Guinea as part of the 5th Battalion,” said Brenda. At the time, Australian forces were engaged in numerous campaigns across the Pacific.

“My husband Neville enlisted because he thought it was the right thing to do. A lot of his friends enlisted with him,” she said. It seems Neville was also inspired by his father Harold, who served in the First World War as a light horseman in Egypt.

Brenda recalled that, “the men never really talked about what they experienced. They were so young and it would have been so difficult for them. I was so young that I didn’t think to ask more questions.”

After enlisting, Neville was flown to Brisbane where he spent time training to become a soldier. Brenda remembers Neville telling her how going to Brisbane to train was actually harder than the war.

In reality, the war for Neville and the men in his battalion must have been exceptionally difficult. When Brenda asked what the war was like, Neville said, “How would you like to be walking down a hill and your mate beside you gets shot”. This is such a stark reminder of what our soldiers experienced.

Brenda recalled one part of Neville’s role was as a flamethrower against the Japanese. A ‘flamethrower’ is a military assault weapon that projects a stream of fire against enemy positions. The portable type, carried on the backs of ground troops, had a range of about 41 metres and enough fuel for about 10 seconds of continuous ‘firing’.

Another memory was how terrible everyday conditions must have been for the soldiers, as they couldn’t change their shoes and socks. “When their shoes got wet, they just had to keep walking in wet shoes and deal with the consequences, as they had no spares,” said Brenda.

Even after the war was over and Neville was home, his time there left its mark. Brenda recalls that if Neville had fallen asleep on the couch, she had to be very careful waking him up. “They slept with the fear that the Japanese would come along and attack, and this had stayed with Neville when he came home,” said Brenda. “The kids at times were frightened to go up to him in case he lashed out, which thankfully didn’t happen often”.

On a positive note, because of his army training, Brenda said Neville was amazing at putting up and organising the tent when the family went camping.

Neville had made many friends in the army but didn’t keep in contact with many. As is often the case, Brenda said, “once they come back they tend to return to their home town and go their own way”.

Brenda fondly remembers Neville always loved to take part in the ANZAC day parade - it was a very special day for him. Neville and Brenda had two wonderful children, John and Pauline. Brenda said, “John loved music and playing the guitar, but he only learnt to play the bugle, and ‘The Last Post’, for his Dad’s sake. And Pauline has been wonderful at keeping all the photos, memories and medals of her Dad’s time in the army”.

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