97-year-old McNamara Lodge resident Bob Porteous may have served his country during WWII, but when it comes to recalling the war years he is quick to say that he remembers too much, and in fact has spent many years trying to forget.
“I don’t much care to remember stories, but instead the uselessness of war where so many tens of thousands of men were suddenly just gone,” says the 97-year-old, who served in two different Bomber Command Squadrons – 460 and 4622.
“Still, I saw the world and did things that the average person didn’t do, I guess.
“But you just had to live day by day. I can’t say that I made good friends because it was all too fleeting, so many men left on planes that never came back.”
Bob was born in Kalgoorlie on 11 February 1922, and later moved to Perth with his family where he attended North Perth State School.
He went ‘bush’ soon after leaving school and became a postal clerk and also part of the Volunteer Defence Corps.
“At the time, the Home Guard were afraid the Japanese were going to land on the beaches at Jurien Bay and make prisoners of war out of all Australians,” he says.
“So I joined the Air Force and did my training in Clontarf in 1942, and then went over to Mount Gambier in South Australia. I did my navigation training in both of those towns, and my bombing and gunnery trainingat Port Pirie.
“After that I was sent to England via America on the Mariposa. We made it to New York, and it was there that we were told that countless Australians on the ship ahead had been killed when it was sunk.
“From New York we set across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, and I did my bomber command training in the Isle of Anglesey.
“We did many sorties, indeed too many. I was one of the lucky ones.”
After the war ended in 1945, Bob returned to Australia. He trained to become an oil operator and spent more than 20 years managing the Kwinana Refinery. He also married twice, and has a son and a daughter, as well as a great-granddaughter.
“We still have a squadron reunion each year in Canberra, on 7 July at the war museum under the wings of the Lancaster Bomber. As many of us get together as possible to just remember, and I intend to be there again this year,” he says.