He was born during the First World War, was part of the defence against the Japanese in the second, and celebrated his milestone 100th birthday on Valentine’s Day at his home in Mt Riverview.
Called up at 22, Ronald Aussel, was part of a small unit of Royal Australian Engineers, the 17th Australian Army Field Company. They were frequently under enemy attack, while living and building roads and bridges in primitive conditions in WeWak in New Guinea. He also assisted the war effort in New Britain at Jacquinot Bay, Thursday Island and Horn Island in the Torres Strait, and served in Cairns as part of the controversial Brisbane Line.
His life was praised recently in a congratulatory birthday letter from Governor General Peter Cosgrove: “All the sights you have seen, all the events through which your life has taken you. You have our great admiration. Particularly I note that you are a World War II veteran serving in New Guinea. Those men and women who put on a military uniform in time of great national danger hold a special place in the community’s heart”.
Granddaughter Tanya Jackson said her pa’s unit was responsible for providing roads, buildings, airfields, bridges, wharves, pipelines and water storage to support the army. The unit built the engineers wharf and water supply on Thursday Island.
“In the Coral Sea battle our unit were the only ones in Cairns. If the battle had swung the other way it was a ‘scorched earth policy’ ... luckily it swung the right way,” he said.
Mr Aussel told the Gazette he missed the birth of his first born and returned home a stranger to her when she was almost two. He also had to re-start his plumbing trade training, missing out on some career opportunities.
Born in Petersham and growing up in the Five Dock and Kingsgrove, he retired to the Blue Mountains with his wife, Marjorie, following their daughters to the area. He worked on the railways and was heavily involved showing and judging dogs in his spare time.
“I lived through candelight to electricity, before cars, that makes you think,” he said.
“I think today it’s going too fast. I wouldn’t like to be a young one coming up into the world right now. What’s there for them? Just a new gadget. They don’t have the fun of playing in the street on their bikes or hop scotch.”
A full hip replacement, prostate surgery and a triple bypass had not slowed him down and he had recently enjoyed celebrations in the lead-up to his actual day with his two daughters, three granddaughters and eight great grandchildren.
And while he still drives on a restricted licence, he wasn’t planning to get behind the wheel on his birthday “because I will probably have a beer … I don’t know how I’ll be on Wednesday morning,” he said with a laugh.