Looking back this Remembrance Day
13 November 2012
Author: Fiona Phipps

Looking back this Remembrance Day

On a quiet street in Ascot Vale sits four white weatherboard houses in a row, built together in 1908. In the last one at the end of the street, with the aqua coloured trimmings lives 91 year old Henry Lowe, who has lived there all his life.

Born in the front room on Remembrance Day in 1920, Henry was the youngest of seven children, six boys and one girl. His eldest brother was 22 years older than him and Henry, being the youngest by seven years, jokes that he was an ‘accident’.

“My parents told me I was found under a cabbage leaf, a beautiful happy boy that everybody loved,” recalls Henry.

The house and its surroundings hold many memories for Henry, of flying kites on the road out the front which used to be made of dirt; of driving everyone crazy while scooting around the house in his pedal car.

At the age of 15 Henry got his first job at the government explosive factory in Maribyrnong. He worked there for eight years before World War Two began. Henry and the other men taught the newly employed females how to produce the cord irons for the ammunition for the war, once the women were trained the men headed to service. Henry went to the air force.

One of those women he trained would end up being the love of his life Jeannie, who became his wife for 57 wonderful years. Henry served in the South Pacific, where he visited Morotai, Labuan and Borneo. He travelled to Borneo three times, twice by plane and once by row boat. They took the row boat because their plane had crashed and they had to burn it so that it wasn’t found.

Henry has many memories of the war and he says sometimes his memories come flooding back, sometimes triggered by a certain word or a smell.

“I don’t like to talk about my time in the war I don’t think anyone should know what we saw. I only like to think of the lighter moments – how the natives were good to us. I also like to think of the night we had Victory over Japan. We all got rip roaring drunk except for one man who ending up putting all of us to bed that night.”

During his four years Henry would write countless letters to his family and friends – so many in fact that he was asked to make a letter box because he wrote too many.

On his final leave he married Jeannie on the 7 March 1945 – and honeymooned in Ferntree Gully. In 1946 after four years Henry received an Honourable Discharge from the Air Force.

For 56 years Henry lived in the weatherboard he was born in with his wife up until she passed away in 2002. Living on his own for the past ten years Henry says the house makes him feel closer to his family and to his beautiful wife who he says good morning and good evening to every day.

Henry is so happy to be able to remain in his own home and he wishes to remain as long as possible. He not only receives services from Benetas Community Care North West which allow him to remain at home but also from helpful neighbours who always pop their head in to see if he is ok.

This coming Remembrance Day, the day he turns 92, Henry will remember one of his brothers who died in a concentration camp during World War Two.

“My mother had four sons in uniform at the same time,” recalls Henry, “I cannot begin to understand how she felt as she waited for news on how we were.”

All sites at Benetas will join Henry and the many clients and residents and remember those who served for our country.

For more information please contact Fiona Phipps 03 8823 7957