JACKSON Mobbs loved his Daylesford beau so much he went AWOL from the Australian Army during World War II, jumped from a moving train and travelled almost 900 kilometres just so he could marry her.
Seventy years on, Jack and Netta are as in love as ever and are getting set to celebrate their platinum wedding anniversary this September 30.
Recalling the events leading up to their wedding, Jack has a tale not many grooms could boast about.
Jack was 20 when he and Netta Giacometti first met. He had been badly injured in the bombing of Darwin and he and his mate decided to spend their R&R in Daylesford, a popular destination for young soldiers at the time.
Netta was on her way home from dressmaking class, and Jack, seeing she was obviously struggling with her load, offered to help her. By the time they reached Netta’s destination, Jack was smitten.
Being only 17 at the time, Netta ignored his advances. Jack, however, was nothing if not determined. He knew he wanted to marry her, so after just a few months and many letters later, he rode his push bike 100km from Melbourne back to Daylesford and proposed.
“I’d only really seen him about three times,” said Netta. “Though we wrote each other every day."
She accepted his proposal and Jack left to rejoin his army camp in Sydney.
His unit was preparing to head to New Guinea, so Netta knew it might be years before she would see him again. Imagine her surprise when, only months later, when he turned up back in Daylesford.
“I was stunned,” Netta said. “I just happened to see him coming up the road and I said 'oh you’re on leave?’ and he said 'No. I’m AWOL. I came home to get married'.”
Jack and Netta's wedding photo. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
When Jack arrived back at camp after the proposal, he couldn’t get Netta out of his mind. He asked his commanding officer for three weeks’ leave, but when he was denied he decided he would go anyway.
“I’ll be back,” Jack told Captain Mates. “Just as soon as I get married.”
He recalls his first mistake when, after jumping on an express train from Sydney to Albury, he was stopped by two army officials.
“The MPs asked me for my leave pass and I said, ‘I haven’t got one’. Then I bolted,” Jack said.
They chased him on motorbike and in army utilities, through fields, along the Murray River and over fences. Their hot pursuit continued for more than a kilometre, but they finally managed to cut him off.
“I jumped a fence out there onto the road and they came around and picked me up. I ran out of steam,” Jack said.
“They said I ran too fast, so they took my boots off me,” recalled Jack with more than a hint of pride.
Jack in his army days, 1943. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
He was taken back to Albury and locked, under guard, in a carriage on the first train back to Sydney.
Still without his boots, and in only military shorts, he remembers being very cold.
“It was just a nightmare,” he said. “They had me handcuffed to another prisoner. So I said to him ‘I want to get out of here. How fast can you run?’”
The man, who was about twice his age, wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m not gonna get dragged back to camp,” Jack told him. “Where’s the best place for me to get off the train?”
The train was running express, so the chances of making a run at one of the stops was impossible. He would have to jump. His only chance was just out of Junee, the man told him, when the train slowed to get up the hill.
“But I was still hand cuffed to the bloke,” said Jack. “So I told him, ‘when we go through Junee I’ll tell one of them I want to go to the lav’.”
Jack waited and when he could feel the engine straining and slowing under the weight, he called one of the guards. They unhooked him from his mate and as soon as they opened the door, he bolted.
"I opened the door of the express train and jumped out"
“I run up the end of the passage and the screw was after me,” Jack recalled. “I opened the door of the express train and jumped out. It was black as ink, but I jumped anyway. Right into the sodding thistles.”
The next morning he jumped on a train to Finley, only narrowly escaping another MP encounter.
“I walked into town, there was a pub there and next door a garage. I asked the garage bloke ‘can you get rid of me handcuffs?’
“He didn’t ask questions, he just cut ’em off. I went to the pub and stayed the night there. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
“After breakfast, I went out on the road. God I was lucky. I got a lift from there… right past my door in Moonee Ponds.”
Afraid his father would dob him in to the army, he climbed through the window, changed into civilian clothes and crept back out into the night.
The next morning, after four days and three nights, he arrived in Daylesford.
“Struth, ” was Netta’s first reaction when she saw him. “I’m not even old enough to get married.”
Still undeterred, Jack asked Netta’s father and they were married a few days later, on Netta’s 18th birthday.
Jack and Netta's first house. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
“I got the only wedding dress in Ballarat,” Netta said. “Everything was rationed, so you couldn’t buy a wedding dress anywhere. I was so lucky to get one and be married as a bride.”
Netta said the last 70 years had flown by quickly. “It’s gone very quickly I can tell you that. We’ve done everything together ever since and we’ve been very happy all our lives.
“I don’t remember ever having a terrible argument. We were always too busy working and with too many other things on our mind.”
If she could give any advice to the young couples of today, Netta says: “Be considerate of each other. That’s the main thing. Be considerate of each other and your family.”
It’s clear that Netta and Jack think the world of each other. Speaking of their story and Jack’s journey to get to her, Netta’s admiration is obvious.
“He never gives up,” she said. “He always did his utmost to get what ever he wanted. He tried so hard… 'til eventually he got his way. Even with me, he carried on 'til I married him didn’t he?”
Jack and Netta have three children, 16 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.