William Gerard Farquar STRETCH, known as Gerry, was interviewed by Margaret Dawson for the Busselton Oral History Group (Inc) on the 9th April 2014. It is one of a series of recorded interviews with ex-service personnel funded by Lotterywest to celebrate the Anzac Centenary.
Gerry was born in 1919 in Bridgetown where his parents were farming. Gerry was four and a half when his father died. His mother re-married.
Gerry was home-schooled by his mother until he was 10, then he went to school in Bridgetown.
In June 1940 Gerry enlisted in the army but didn’t receive his call up until December. His training was at Naval Base [HMAS Leeuwin] near Fremantle and then at Northam. Gerry was assigned to the 2/11th Battalion. He sailed for Palestine on the Queen Mary and was sent to Syria to stop the advance of the Vichy French army.
The battalion returned to Australia because the Japanese had entered the War and the defence of Australia became a high priority.
Gerry undertook officer training at Bonegilla near Albury and he was then assigned to the 2/24th Battalion. From there he was sent to Atherton in Queensland for further training before the 2/24th Battalion was sent to New Guinea.
Gerry talks about the war conditions, the enemy and the natives, their cheery nature and their skill at stretcher-bearing wounded soldiers.
He then returned to Northern Queensland and after that went to North Borneo, landing near Morotai.
Gerry is mentioned frequently in the book of the 2/24th Battalion for his fierce fighting and bravery for which he was awarded the Military Cross.
While in the tropics, he contracted malaria and Dengue fever.
Gerry returned home to Bridgetown and purchased a farm. He married Margaret Corker, a school teacher, in 1947 and they had two children, Cynthia and Mark.
Gerry mentions the changes returned servicemen observed in the attitude of people back in Australia after the war and the difficulties in settling back to life at home.
He joined the RSL. Gerry talks about the meaning of Anzac Day to him and his feelings towards war in general. He also expresses his views on the present day conflicts.
Gerry pays tribute to some of the young men he had under his command.
He and Margaret retired to Busselton. Margaret passed away in 2013.