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Photograph revives wartime memories

Douglas Elliott was part of the 5th Light Horse troop and is pictured above giving a big grin.
Douglas Elliott was part of the 5th Light Horse troop and is pictured above giving a big grin. Contributed

AS Yeppoon's Maud Elliott's eyes crossed the old black and white photos of her late husband Douglas, you could see the memories come flooding back in her mind as the smile on her face grew.

The 92-year-old Yeppoon woman told us the story of her and her husband, after a photo of him was published in The Morning Bulletin as a Blast from the Past of an unknown soldier.

After seeing Douglas's photo on March 31 as a young soldier, she phoned The Bully and told us about his time in the war and his connection to Emu Park RSL, where the photo was kept on the wall, but his name was unknown.

He was sent from Australia to the Middle East as a truck driver that moved troops from the Middle East to Crete, Greece in the Second World War. . It was there that he was captured by the Germans.

Douglas, who joined the army in 1940, was captured as a prisoner of war in 1941 and was held at a camp until the war ended, and released in 1945.

During his captive years, he and many other men had to walk for three days and were then herded onto a cattle truck to the camp.

"They had no toilets, just a bucket in the corner, and they were kept in these trucks until they were marched into various camps. It was horrible conditions," Maud recalled.

Originally from Mt Perry, Douglas was almost killed in a mining accident during that time, getting buried up to his neck in dirt and was very lucky to survive.

"He said a lot of them tried to escape, but if they were caught they were killed, and Douglas thought what's the use?" she said.

"If they were caught by the Russians, well it could have been much worse for them.

"They could write us little cards, and that was only way I knew he was alive, until we were informed by the government, but they censored the card so they could only really say they were okay and that's it."

But he waited out his time patiently and once the war had ended, he and his troops were rescued.

"They had hand-made radios hidden so they knew the war was over and were rescued by American soldiers.

"They were picked up and flown across to England," Maud said.

Douglas stayed in a convalescent camp in the South of England awaiting his boat ride home to Maud and his life before the war, where he had worked in many fields.

"We were engaged before he left and got married soon after he came home in November of 1945," she said.

Maud recalled the memories of the couple going on to have two children and make a life for themselves in Monto, and some years later, they drew a soldier's block in the Duaringa/ Baralaba area.

They lived in a tent there for two years making ends meet however they could before they built their own home.

"He had a fairly strong character, he was very diplomatic and he could sort everything out," she said.

The couple retired in Yeppoon and Douglas joined the Emu Park RSL which is where his photo still hangs today.

"He would go to every Dawn Service on Anzac Day to pay his respects, but he wouldn't march or anything like that," Maud said.

Douglas died in 2003 and is still cherished by his family.

Topics:  anzac day, emu park rsl




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