KENNETH John Bridges' was just 10-years-old when his father died.

It was 12 years after World War I and Ken, now 89-years-old, watched as his hero, Cyprian Arthur George Bridges, deteriorated from the repercussions of gas inhalation at the age of 36.

Chemical warfare was a major component of World War I and Ken said his father was "not alone" in experiencing adverse side effects from his time spent serving in Europe.

"You can compare it to somebody who has smoked too many cigarettes," Ken said.

"It's a slow process of destroying the lungs but with a lot of pain."

Ken's father, Cyprian, was one of the first Australian soldiers involved with 'wireless telegraphy.'

"It was quite peculiar at that time, you could talk to a piece of equipment and your voice would travel miles and miles," Ken said.

Ken Bridges.
Ken Bridges.

The wireless was a huge factor in World War I, although many historians still debate its impact on the course of the war.

"They had to make their own power by building batteries, super-heterodyne batteries, and these were mounted on mules," Ken said.

"The power that came from these batteries powered their transmitters and receivers, and by virtue of Morse code, that's how communication with the wireless started."

At the time of his father's passing, Ken and his parents were living in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in the town of Griffith.

HMAS Bataan.
HMAS Bataan.

Many returned servicemen had received grants of 35-40 acres of land for the purpose of growing citrus farms.

"With a lot of them doing the same thing, they were all helping each other, but their health really didn't back them up," Ken said.

At 15-years-old, Ken thought it was time he served for his country, in respect of his father's memory.

Being the only child, Ken found it hard to leave his mother but he enlisted and commenced his service as a Merchant Navy seaman in 1942, three years after World War II began.

Ken and Gordon Davies, 1947.
Ken and Gordon Davies, 1947.

"Those of us who went into the services under age were generally treated very kindly by our fellow service people," Ken said.

"But we were never short of discipline…because it was essential that we knew what we had to do."

At the end of World War II, Ken began another career, full time in the Navy, which led him to other areas of conflict from 1945.

Ken with his regiment at Lucinda Point. The day World War II ended, 15/04/1945.
Ken with his regiment at Lucinda Point. The day World War II ended, 15/04/1945.

"We had a lot to do with the occupation of Japan," he said.

"Although, we only got as far as 1950 and we started another war, which happened to be in Korea.

"I'm pleased to say that with the occupation force troops that America and Australia had at the time, we moved from occupation duties straight into battle.

"That was, of course, another four years at war."

Ken and his sweetheart, Chris.
Ken and his sweetheart, Chris.

Upon returning from the war, Ken married his sweetheart, Chris, and they had two sons, John and Graeme.

Both John and Graeme followed in their father's footsteps and had very successful careers in the Navy.

Ken and his two sons, John and Graeme.
Ken and his two sons, John and Graeme.

Ken has continued his career by volunteering as a Welfare Officer at Tewantin Noosa RSL, where he has been a member for the past 72 years.

The Tewantin Noosa RSL sub branch - which celebrates 97 years of service this year - opened the doors of its new Advocacy and Welfare centre on Monday, April 4, to provide improved support for returned servicemen and women.

Ken with the Tewantin Noosa RSL's new bus.
Ken with the Tewantin Noosa RSL's new bus.

Ken is known as a local legend for the assistance he offers his fellow veterans every week.

"Many members don't realise how many services we have on offer to help them and they are always so thankful for our time," he said.

"This centre will provide a great location to continue to deliver these essential services."

It's not a pre-requisite to be an RSL member to take advantage of these services, those who have served or are currently serving in the Australian Defence Force are welcome to use the facilities.

Mayor Tony Wellington cutting the ribbon, opening the new Advocacy and Welfare Centre.
Mayor Tony Wellington cutting the ribbon, opening the new Advocacy and Welfare Centre.

The new centre is located on Pelican Street within the Noosa Council buildings.

For more information visit www.rslsunshinecoast.org


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