Coast’s Diggers pause to remember

GOLD Coasters will pause to remember the fallen and commemorate Australia’s war history ahead of Tuesday’s Anzac Day ceremonies.

For more than a century the city and its residents have been closely linked to the conflicts Australian and New Zealand forces have took part in dating back to the Boer War.

Many of those who have served have lived incredible lives.

media_cameraMalcolm “Mac” Skinner. Picture Glenn Hampson


The 92-year-old served in the RAAF during World War II and dropped the last Australia bomb on Berlin during the final days of the war.

Mr Skinner flew in a DH. 98 Mosquito aircraft and dropped the bomb on April 21, 1945, his 20th birthday as the shattered remains of the Nazi leadership hid beneath the city in a bunker.

The Southport resident served with his New Zealander flying partner and pilot David Young and often watched on as anti-aircraft fire exploded below his plane, but Mr Skinner said it was just a job.

“We would spend a few hours in the air, come back to debrief, then drink Jamaican Rum and smoke Canadian cigarettes,” he told the Bulletin in 2015.

“I really got a kick out of those planes.”

media_cameraWorld War II Navy veteran David Mattiske.


As a 21-year-old able seaman, Southport’s David Mattiske witnessed the official end of World War II.

While serving aboard HMAS Shropshire he was one of only 30 Australians to attend the raising of the Union Jack in Tokyo on September 2, 1945.

He was drafted to serve on the Shropshire on his 18th birthday and spent three years with the navy.

During the war he took part in the Battle of Surigo Strait in the Philippines which was the last time in history battleships fought in an all-out gun duel.

Mr Mattiske said he has fond memories of his time in Japan.

“We celebrated the end of the war with ice-cold Japanese beer and sandwiches at the former British embassy after attending the ceremony with Vice-Admiral Lord Fraser and the US General Douglas MacArthur,’’ he said.

media_cameraWorld War II veteran David Mathias of Banora Point. Photo: Jerad Williams


DAVID Mathias is one of the Gold Coast’ last remaining veterans of the D-Day landings.

As a Royal Navy signalman, the Welsh-born Mr Mathias helped ferry tanks across the English Channel aboard a landing craft and saw first-hand the horrors of war as US and British forces engaged with the German Wehrmacht at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944

Utah Beach was one of the five sectors of the 80km Normandy coastline in France on which Allied forces landed during the June 6, 1944 invasion known as Operation Overlord.

Following the war, Mr Mathias worked as a clerk in London before immigrating to Australia in 1948 and eventually working on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

He retired to northern NSW in 1982 and played a major role in the 50th anniversary commemoration of D-Day in 1994 after travelling to France with then-prime minister Paul Keating.

Last year he was awarded the French Legion of Honour for his service.

media_cameraVietnam veteran Peter Fleming talking to young cadets. Picture Mike Batterham


BURLEIGH WATERS serviceman Peter Flemming saw service during the Vietnam War.

The long-time professional soldier, from Burleigh Waters spent more than 15 years with the 105th Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, a career which took him from the barracks in Queensland to the jungles of southeast Asia.

Mr Flemming is a third-generation soldier, with both his father and grandfather service in World War II.

Three of his great uncles also served but did not return from the war.

Now, decades after his career ended, he continues to advise local cadets from The Southport School.

Last year he marched with the cadets on Anzac Day, giving them advice on marching and correct uniform.

media_cameraVietnam veteran John White. Pic by Richard Gosling


JOHN White, now 76, served in the Vietnam War and saw some of the worst the conflict had to offer.

During his service in Vietnam, Mr White survived a helicopter crash after it was shot down and a sniper’s bullet which, miraculously, lodged in a book of poetry nestled in his backpack.

Leaving Vietnam in early 1969 the young soldier had no physical injuries as one war ended and the other began.

Mr White who now splits his time between homes in Kingscliff and Brisbane, served as a member of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and worked closely with the US Green Berets and South Vietnam forces.

Commanding nearly 200 servicemen, including US Marines, US Special Forces, South Vietnamese men and Montagnards he witnessed severe fighting during the North Vietnamese victory.

After leaving Vietnam, Mr White remained in the Army for two more years, eventually leaving to seek solitude in study and work as a management consultant.

Last year he revealed the toll his service in the jungles of southeast Asia had on him.

media_cameraLT Colonel (ret) Maurie Pears. Pics Tim Marsden


FORMER Lieutenant Colonel Maurie Pears is one of the Gold Coast’s most prominent veterans, having spend decades campaigning for recognition of Korean War Diggers.

He graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1950 and saw service in the Korean War.

He received the prestigious Military Cross for his actions during the Battle of Maryang San, during which the then-Lieutenant led 7 Platoon’s C Company in an attack and fought on despite receiving wounds.

He remained in the Army until 1970, having held several different postings and went on to write three books on his service.

Mr Pears also led the campaign to build a memorial to the Korean War at Cascade Gardens.

Originally published as Coast’s Diggers pause to remember

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