Beloved Gympie Anzac to celebrate historic milestone
CONQUERING the Kokoda Track during a war is a big achievement, but for Gympie Anzac Roy Arthy it is but one part of a trek to another amazing milestone: his 100th birthday.
The Pomona State School student and son of a dairy farmer celebrates his centenary on Saturday, another cap in an extraordinary life which includes service in World War II and a business career.
Mr Arthy signed up for the Australian Army when he was 20 years old on the grounds he "thought he'd have a good time”. In May 1941 he landed in the Middle East.
Fourteen months later his battalion, the 2/25, moved to Singapore; the state fell two days before their arrival and they rerouted to Colombo instead.
They then headed back to Australia for a brief stop before returning for a new mission on the Kokoda Track. Mr Arthy, his brother Sid and the 2/25 battalion started in Owers' Corner and stepped into the Kokoda jungle on September 8.
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They did not step out again until December 19.
Mr Arthy said in a 2013 interview battalions had to be smart because of the way Japanese soldiers were hunting them down.
After the 21st brigade was "shot to pieces”, units started attacking the Japanese with their own strategy - from behind - until they forced a retreat.
Mr Arthy attributed much of the success to 36 hours of firing by two artillery guns, which were carried along the Kokoda Track by donkeys.
He spent his 23rd birthday on the track eating tinned meat and vegetables and Army "dog” biscuits - a far cry from how he will celebrate his centenary. "We were never starved, but we never had very much tucker,” he said in the 2013 interview. "Seven months and never had a beer.. You remember a lot of things,” Mr Arthy said.
Not every memory is a good one, but "I've never regretted joining”.
By the time of his discharge in 1944, Mr Arthy had served in the Middle East, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, New Guinea, the Kokoda Trail, Owen Stanley, Shaggy Ridge, Dumpu and Lai. When Mr Arthy finished his service he opened a fish and chip shop in Cooroy with his first wife Daphne.
Brisbane and the Gold Coast were the next places he called home before returning to Gympie about 40 years ago. He stayed in the region until two years ago, when he became sick and moved to Tewantin. The 100th celebrations are taking place at the Cooroy RSL.