Former staff member Jim Geedrick at a Rockhampton Grammar School Anzac Day Commemoration Service.
Former staff member Jim Geedrick at a Rockhampton Grammar School Anzac Day Commemoration Service. Sharyn O'Neill

Legendary Digger farewelled

THE Capricorn Coast and Rockhampton community take their hats of as they mourn the loss of local legend and highly decorated veteran of war, Jim Geedrick, who passed away last Thursday.

At 94-years-old, Mr Geedrick was born in Yeppoon from Ceylonese ancestry and enlisted in the Australian Army in March 1943 to escape poverty, and retired wearing every campaign and service ribbon from the South West Pacific campaigns to Vietnam.

At just 17, Mr Geedrick went to war to serve in Papua New Guinea and fired his first shot at 18, it was to be the beginning of a long serving military career.

RSL District President Barry Vains said the former member of the Capricornia RSL was a well-respected man by many, particularly past and present students at Rockhampton Grammar where he had held the position of 'Everyone's Go to Man'.

Robert (Tiny) Clark, who retired from the Armed Services around the same time as Mr Geedrick and knew him well, said after World War II Mr Geedrick was part of the occupation forces in Japan where he met his first wife Shizui, who was in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped.

"Shizui passed away in 1988 from cancer suspected to be a result of exposure to the atom bomb," Mr Clark said.

"From the time of his retirement from the army, Jim was employed at Rocky Grammar; he did everything the teachers didn't do.

"He was a rock for the boarders and day students alike, driving the bus and virtually adopting all the boys of the school and was their protector and ran their cadet unit."

Yeppoon RSL President Paul Lancaster said an example of the character of Mr Geedrick described to him touched his heart and has left an impression.

"Jim became aware of a young man's bravery in saving the life of his sister from a charging bull on a property out west," Mr Lancaster said.

"It so impressed him that Jim, gave the lad the 'swagger stick' which was an item of significant importance to him, which he had carried through New Guinea and the war.

"Jim had a chest full of campaign medals and apparently a number of years ago he was nominated for an OAM but declined the recognition."

In a past interview Mr Geedrick said it was a big honour to serve your country. He said it gave him a real sense of pride in the country that he loved.

During his service Mr Geedrick was posted to many parts of the world including Korea, Malaya, Borneo and two tours in South Vietnam, predominantly as an infantry soldier.

He saw many mates fall in battle, memories that stayed with him until his own final days.

One of his early displays of patriotism is documented at the Australian War Memorial. In an act of Anzac Day bravado, Jim Geedrick's celebration in 1969 must ranks as a testament to his dedication to home, country and his mates.

On April 25 he found himself in a remote outpost on the front lines of the Vietnam War, near the demilitarised zone.

Head of military history at the Australian War Memorial Ashley Ekins said he couldn't make it to the Anzac Day ceremony in Da Nang so he celebrated in true Aussie style.

"He decided to celebrate Anzac Day on his own by raising the Australian flag," Ekins said.

"He complained that every time he raised the flag, the enemy shot holes through it." Lest we forget.



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