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August 18, 2020

Clifford (Cliff) Parker

Bombardier, 53rd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery

“I was bloody frightened and we all were.”

 

The Second World War changed Australia forever. It was a time of transformation for the nation socially, politically and economically and it radically transformed the lives of its citizens.

In 1940 Clifford Parker was a single young clerk working for the Department of Agriculture in Sydney. By 1943 Cliff had become “Dirk” and was leading an anti-aircraft gun crew protecting Allied positions in the Pacific from Japanese fighters.

Cliff’s time in the services began with conscription into the Citizens Military Force (CMF), a militia aimed at defending Australia’s home soil. It was also here he met his future wife Joan to whom he would be married for 72 years.

His brother had already left to join the fighting and by 1942 was a prisoner-of-war (POW) of the Japanese. The May 1942 attack on Sydney Harbour by Japanese midget submarines heightened national tensions and on 16 December 1942 Cliff enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force’s 9th Division.

He was assigned to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Regiment as a Bombardier and sent for training to Port Kembla. It was a long six months of setting up and dismantling guns, identifying targets and practice-firing.

“I also spent three months on the top of the Harbour Bridge Pylon on gun duty.”

Another three months of jungle war training followed in the tropical rainforest at Canungra, Queensland south of Brisbane and inland from the Gold Coast. Cliff notes that, “These conditions were far worse than what we eventually experienced in New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.”

The extensive training regime included live ammunition and simulated combat with tanks, machine-gun fire and soldiers leaping in and out of trenches. A number of men suffered a range of injuries.

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