For Korean War Veteran Fred the year he married his “beautiful blonde”, 1951, was the best year of his life. It was the year that marked the beginning of a 65-year partnership as together they searched for a place to call home, eventually finding it in Western Australia.
When it’s taken so long to find home, staying there is important, and despite three different cancers and three heart attacks, that’s what Fred does with regular visits from Bolton Clarke’s At Home Support team.
“They say it’s hard to keep a good man down, so I guess I am a good man?” he muses.
Born in Portsmouth, England in 1927, Fred lived through the Depression and World War II. The homes he lived in as a youth were bombed and frequent moves were standard.
In 1943, at age 16, he signed up with the Home Guard as an anti-aircraft gunner. “We had seen the bombs dropping around us and being an anti-aircraft gunner sounded like a good idea. I changed my age to 17 so they’d let me in,” he says.
Fred was conscripted in to the Royal Navy in Yorkshire at 18 and joined an aircraft carrier heading to Sydney, from there joining a ship to Japan after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “I walked around the ruins not long after the bombs were dropped,” he said. “The site was probably still quite radioactive but we felt like we had to walk through it to understand it.”
During leave in Hong Kong and Sydney, he was engaged to be married to a Sydney girl but because he was under 21 he had to return to the United Kingdom. He returned on a migrant ship and joined the Merchant Navy.
He returned to Australia after a year to discover his fiancé was set to marry another man just two weeks after his arrival. This left him yet again without somewhere to call home.
Fred took a job on a merchant ship around the islands in the Pacific and worked casually before joining the Royal Australian Navy for 12 years, working at locations including Manus Island.
In 1951, while on six weeks leave in Sydney, he saw an advertisement for the introduction agency “Helen’s Happiness Club” and decided to give it a go. His first introduction was not successful, but on his second visit “this beautiful blonde walked in and we hit it off immediately”. His new love worked as a telephone receptionist.
“Three months later we got engaged and we were married straight away, and from then on I had somewhere to call home,” Fred says.
Together they raised five children and moved across the country from New South Wales to live in Western Australia.
In the meantime, Fred was sent to the Korean War, based with the United States Navy working systems on an American Aircraft Carrier. He worked as the chief catering officer, delivering provisions ashore to the American marines until the ceasefire was agreed in July 1953.
In 2016, now a widower, he was awarded a medal from the South Korean government, as an ambassador for peace, because of his service in the Korean War.
Read more about Bolton Clarke’s ongoing work supporting wellbeing and independence in our 2018 Year in Review.