Pring Raynolds doesn’t want anyone thinking he’s a hero. The WWII veteran says he was just born lucky, and left handed.
Born in Goulburn, he enrolled in the Navy with two schoolmates immediately after finishing his leaving certificate. It was 1943 and he was just 17, too young to enrol in the Army. The three were sent for training at the Flinders Depot in Victoria.
After 11 weeks’ training, his friends were assigned to the flagship HMAS Australia. Mr Raynolds was disappointed to learn he had been assigned to the smaller HMAS Hobart (D63).
“I went to the commanding officer and said, ‘Why can't I go to the Australia?’” Mr Raynolds says. It transpired that HMAS Hobart was short on left-handers, who were needed to load the right-hand barrel of its guns. The reluctant young Raynolds fitted the bill.
The tides of war took the ship to Leyte Gulf to the east of the Philippines, where the largest naval battle of WWII took place in October 1944. Here, Australian and American troops fought the Imperial Japanese Navy for three days.
It was during this battle that Mr Raynolds watched a kamikaze pilot attack HMAS Australia. As the plane hit the bridge, 30 men were killed, his two friends among them.
We were anchored sufficiently close enough to observe the five blokes signing the peace treaty.
Because of the damage HMAS Australia sustained, HMAS Hobart sailed to Japan to witness instruments of surrender being signed by representatives of the Japanese Emperor and of the Allied powers.
“We were anchored sufficiently close enough to observe the five blokes signing the peace treaty on the SS Missouri,” Mr Raynolds says.
After the war, Mr Raynolds took up an offer of 1600 acres of land in Araluen with his wife Thelma. They gave up the land in 2010, moving to Braidwood.
He was lucky then, and knows he’s lucky now. The 91-year-old believes he’s the only WWII veteran still alive in the 2622 postcode