In the lead up to the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal held a video call with Second World War veteran Mr Les Cook.
During the video call, Les regaled Her Royal Highness with his experiences serving as a Corporal in the Australian Army from 1940 to 1947. The backdrop for the zoom call was a Second World War gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Mr Cook was introduced to The Princess Royal by the Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Liz Cosson AM CSC, and the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Matt Anderson PSM.
DVA Secretary Liz Cosson said Les was in fine form and thoroughly enjoyed sharing his experiences.
“It was truly humbling to hear Les share his memories from the War with Princess Anne,” Ms Cosson said.
“We only have around 12,000 Second World War veterans with us today, from the one million Australians that served, and Les is truly one in a million.”
AWM Director Matt Anderson said it was a privilege to place the call to Gatcombe Park from the Australian War Memorial.
“Her Royal Highness is Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals and she was keen to hear of Les’s experiences as Signaller during the war,” Mr Anderson said.
“That the call took place from the War Memorial in the lead up to the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War was truly an honour.”
Born in England, Les enlisted in the 2nd AIF in May 1940 soon after his 17th birthday. Having learnt telegraphy at night-school in civil life he was posted to the 1st Australian Corps as a signaller and sent to the Middle East.
Les served in the campaigns in the Western Desert, Greece, Crete and Syria before returning to the Pacific to defend Australia as part of the Owen Stanley campaign in PNG.
Les describes walking the Kokoda track as a process of climbing ‘never ending hills with a multitude of heartbreaking false crests. When we got to the top of each one, too tired to take off our equipment, we just collapsed on the ground as we were’.
After the war ended Les served in Japan for a year as a part of the Australian contingent of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.
More than one million Australians served during the Second World, and Australia owes them a great debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.