Ballarat's ex-servicemen and women prepare for a special day

DAVID Manning remembers  very clearly the day World War II ended.

Mr Manning had been imprisoned for about three-and-a-half years on the day he was told the war had come to an end.

“I was one of a relatively small group of 100, of which only around 17 were Australian. We were living with and working for a Japanese army battalion in a rubber plantation in southern Thailand,” the Ballarat man said. 

“We were told to congregate in a clearing in the rubber plantation, which doubled up as a parade ground.”

Mr Manning said when he arrived at the clearing he found the entire Japanese battalion in their best uniforms. 

“Eventually the Japanese commanding officer, who we had treated with respect because we suspected he spoke English, eventually came out and climbed on a box and made a long speech in Japanese, of which we spoke not a word,” he said. 

“When he finished he faced us and he bowed and we knew the war was over, we knew that we had won it. We had spent three-and-a-half years bowing to them and this was the first time we had ever been bowed at.”

Mr Manning will be one of many ex-servicemen and women who will march through Ballarat as part of Anzac Day next week. 

Although Mr Manning said marching was “a pretty loose word” and instead expected he would use the golf carts provided each year. 

“I suppose it means the same to me as it does every other ex-serviceman,” he said. 

“It is a special day in Australia’s history.” 

Improving safety for veterans has been one of the reasons for a change in the march’s route this year. 

Veterans will begin their march at The George on Lydiard Street North, which is the home of the Ballarat RSL, before marching to Sturt Street and past the Town Hall where Ballarat City mayor Joshua Morris will take a salute. The march will finish at the Ballarat Cenotaph further along Sturt Street.

matthew.dixon@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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