Harold Vernon Durant – 93 years, served as a Commando with the 2/5th Commando Squadron during WWII serving in PNG and Borneo.
I had the privilege of photographing Harold for The Reflections Project, which looks at honoring our World War II Veterans through the lens. This project is one of the most ambitious photographic projects ever undertaken in Australia. Members of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography aim to commemorate our unsung heroes of World War II in print, and will gift the collection to the Australian War Memorial archives. The collection will provide a compelling pictorial record of returned servicemen and women living in Australia, reinforcing the ANZAC tradition, “We will remember them”.
There was nothing more inspiring than listening to the Harold’s recollections of events, far too many to mention. Nonetheless the one that I keep on remembering was Harold’s 21st birthday, where he and Snowy Henderson, another member of the 5th, were sent to disarm a sniper with a fixed machine gun on one of the main ridges in New Guinea along the Black Cat track. Harold recalls how it poured with rain the entire night and that they were pleased that the trees were large enough to hide behind, since the sniper continued to pepper the trees around them all night long. They managed to capture the position wet and tired in the early hours the next morning.
“Not many of us can say that we have experienced a 21st birthday in these sort of conditions”.
Harold also recalls when he and a few of his regiment were undergoing prewar training in the Victorian mountains by the Wilson’s Promontory – Harold was saying that they were always hungry and looking for extra food, as they never seemed to get enough. They had heard that one of the local pubs had a chook house behind the pub, and it wasn’t long after that Harold and some of his buddies broke in and stole two chooks to cook up and eat.
As the story goes, 60 years after the war Harold and his buddies were having a reunion at the local golf club in Foster in the North of Wilson’s Promontory Victoria. and Harold won the local raffle of two chooks. So they all decided to return to the Old Pub where they had stolen the chooks and handover the prize to the proprietor. Harold said that created quite a stir, however the proprietor went on to cook them up and served it to them. They had a wonderful party that night, while making headlines in the local papers that the WW II veteran’s returned the stolen Chooks 60 years later.
Harold returned to Perth, Western Australia after the war, taking up a professional cycling career where he went on to managing the sport for many years, to owning a Petrol service station and finally retiring the day before he turned 60. Harold reminisces that he has had a very lucky life, marrying Lynnette in his early 60’s after his first wife passed on. Lynnette being some twenty plus years younger than Harold, and as you can see she is still keeps him on his toes with a twinkle in his eyes.
It certainly was a pleasure to sit and listen to Harold’s recollections, knowing if not captured now in time they will fade, of times long gone where fears and hardship were the norm, but where comradeship and a sense of duty to their fellow man won out and carried it onward without question.
Nowadays in life and good times we sometimes tend to take for granted the sacrifices and efforts of these once brave unsung young men and woman, some of those who still stand proudly before us.
But we now know ………“We will remember them”.
If you know any WWII veterans that haven’t registered yet, help them to register at https://aippveterans.com/veterans/
The Reflections Project:
One of the most extensive photo initiatives, similar to Online Dating Photos Chicago Illinois, that Australia has ever attempted is Honoring Our World War II Veterans. In an effort to honor our forgotten warriors of World War II, members of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography will donate their collections to the Australian War Memorial Archives. The collection will reinforce the ANZAC legacy of “We will remember them” by offering a powerful visual record of returned troops and women residing in Australia.
Special Thanks to Lynnette Durant for her assisting in registering Harold with the AIPP Veterans, and especially to Rebekah Wilson for managing all the AIPP WA photographers involved.