John Oliver served on the HMS Persimmon during the Second World War.
John Oliver served on the HMS Persimmon during the Second World War. Rob Williams

Ipswich veteran's tale of Vietnam rescue at sea

JOHN "Jock" Oliver jokes that he went from dishwasher to warrant officer during his 25 years in the British and Australian Navy.

What Jock's old-fashioned humour glosses over is the dedicated service he provided while his navy position took him to the conflicts of the World War II, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, and Vietnam.

The 91-year-old veteran spent so much time at war that he missed priceless years with his wife watching the children grow up - a fact he acknowledges now when he looks back on those times.

For Jock, signing up for the navy at the tender age of 17 was seen as the only way he could ease the burden on his battling Scottish family.

"In those days, you left school at 14," he said.

"I went to work in a hosiery factory earning 10 bob a week.

 

VETERAN: John 'Jock' Oliver served for more than 25 years in the British and Australian navies in five different wars.
VETERAN: John 'Jock' Oliver served for more than 25 years in the British and Australian navies in five different wars. Rob Williams

"We were doing it tough and in the end I joined up because the family couldn't afford to keep me there."

Jock joined the British navy and moved to the barracks at Portsmouth, England.

Before he knew it, Jock was called up to serve in France, then Burma and Malaya.

He was deployed in southeast Asia when the two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan, bringing the war to an end and giving him time to consider his future.

"I went home, got married and had my first kid," Jock said.

In the late '40s, Jock went on a Royal Navy deployment to Australia from which he would never return.

He joined the RAN in 1948 and would soon be sent off to battle as part of the Korean War, sailing on the HMAS Sydney aircraft carrier.

Despite his efforts to obtain a trade qualification, a lack of work meant Jock was back in the navy by 1957.

The Malayan and Borneo conflicts followed. Then came Vietnam, and an incident from this war still stands out.

Jock was on the HMAS Melbourne when it collided with the USS Frank E Evans in the South China Sea in June, 1969, and was part of the subsequent rescue of American personnel which eventually earned him a citation from Lyndon Johnson.

Eager to spend more time with his family, Jock retired from the navy four years later.

"I came to the conclusion that I'd never bonded with my family," he said

After serving briefly with the police and then working as a storeman at the navy apprentice training school, Jock and his family relocated to Glenore Grove.

Long after retiring from the navy, Jock continued to serve veterans and their families through the Lockyer Valley Legacy and the RSL.

This Anzac Day, he will read The Ode as part of the Goodna morning service.


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