Medal to one of the last vets in the Mountains

Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, presents WWII veteran Geoffrey Medcalf with his commemorative medal and certificate marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.
Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, presents WWII veteran Geoffrey Medcalf with his commemorative medal and certificate marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.

It was in the depths of August, 1945, and 19-year-old Geoffrey Medcalf was mentally preparing for his first armed combat of the war.

"We were getting ready to go for the invasion of Japan - but then they surrendered. We were all very happy," he said.

That day - August 15, 1945 - marked the end of war in the Pacific. Unfortunately, plans to commemorate the 75th anniversary this year were stymied by the coronavirus.

But the Department of Veterans Affairs has produced medallions marking the occasion; these are now being given to all living WWII veterans.

Mr Medcalf, born and bred in Wentworth Falls, received his medallion and a certificate in a ceremony at Katoomba RSL club yesterday (September 17).

Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, who made the presentation, said she believed Mr Medcalf was the last surviving WWII veteran in the Mountains - although later at the event there was a suggestion that there may be two others at Bodington aged care home.

Mr Medcalf enlisted on April 14, 1944, not long after he turned 18, and served until his discharge on April 12, 1946.

He was a leading aircraftsman with the 2 Airfield Construction Squadron. He landed at Balikipapan in Borneo on July 1, 1945, and began building an airfield

"We had to get that airstrip down to give the army protection," he said. "We knew the Japanese were in the jungle but the army was handling that. We were behind them."

Conditions in the area were stifling hot, enough to earn Mr Medcalf and his fellow RAAF men an additional sixpence a day on top of the standard seven shillings a day servicemen were paid.

Seventy-five years on, the sprightly veteran still lives independently in a unit behind his son, Gary's, home in Wentworth Falls. He goes shopping once a week and he makes his own meals.

"I'm very lucky," the 94-year-old said, smiling. "I've still got my youth, I've still got my faculties - but I have lost a bit of my oomph."

Mr Medcalf paid tribute to the members of the sub-branch of the Katoomba RSL, who have provided him with friendship and help, and particularly thanked his son, Gary.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world to have him," he said.