Joseph Costigan.
Joseph Costigan. Contributed

My father-in-law survived both World Wars

IN 2015, Australia commemorated the centenary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli.

This year, we duly marked the centenary of our wonderful RSL.

Last month, our family commemorated our own special centenary of the day my husband Bryan Costigan's father left for the war.

In late 1993, at a meeting of the Caloundra RSL's Centaur Committee following the 50th anniversary ceremony, Bryan suggested that an approach be made for permission to install memorial plaques in Centaur Park, in the proposed Headland Walkway.

Approval was granted by the RSL and then council, resulting in a wonderful War Memorial Walkway being dedicated on Remembrance Day 1995, as the last function of Caloundra's "Australia Remembers" program.


Erica and Bryan Costigan lay the plaque in memory of Joseph Costigan on the War Memorial Walkway at Caloundra.
Erica and Bryan Costigan lay the plaque in memory of Joseph Costigan on the War Memorial Walkway at Caloundra. Contributed

So it was most appropriate that on October 26 we marked our special centenary by being on the Headland Memorial Walkway next to the plaque for Joseph Michael Costigan as we contemplated his Army experiences and our family's good fortune at having him survive not only the horrific World War One Western Front but, later, World War Two as well.

Joe enlised in May 1916, aged 18 years and three months, and did basic training in Brisbane.

On October 26, he left Brisbane on HMAS Marathon and would have passed right by Caloundra enroute to Sydney, past Albany W.A. and on to Plymouth, England.

After further training as a stretcher-bearer in the Australian Army Medical Corps, he went to France in October 1917.

He was badly gassed in France and had several stays in hospital.

The four soldiers carrying a stretcher changed positions to rest their "lifting arms" and just one day after the change, the young soldier who replaced Joe was blown to pieces.

As Joe left France across the very rough English Channel, he would have been washed overboad like many others, had he not used his survivor instincts and tied himself to some of the ship's structure.

Early in 1942, Joe enlisted again and was one of the earliest Staff Sergents at the military hospital at Greenslopes.

By April 1943 he was chosen to board the Centaur, enroute to Sydney. Lucky for us, his orders were changed at the last minute.

Just two-and-a-half weeks later, he was on duty when the Centaur survivors were admitted after 36 hours in the waters off Moreton Island.

After World War Two, the Repatriation Department took over the Greenslopes Military Hospital and Joe was requested to stay on as the hospital's supervisor.

He remained there until his retirement and passed away there a few years later.

We took pride in honouring a quiet, gentle but extremely capable man as we marked his centenary in our own quiet way.

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