Braidwood's oldest veteran

Pring Raynolds at home with a picture of himself as a young man. Photo: Elspeth Kernebone.

Pring Raynolds at home with a picture of himself as a young man. Photo: Elspeth Kernebone.

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 enroll in the army. The threesome was sent for training at the Flinders Depot in Victoria.

After eleven 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), as the ship was short on left-handers, who were needed to load the right hand barrel of its guns. Mr Raynolds fit the bill.

The tides of war took the ship to Leyte Gulf to the east of the Philippines, where the largest naval battle of the war 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 plane attack the HMAS Australia. As the plane hit the bridge, thirty men were killed, his two friends among them.

Later, Mr Raynolds was aboard the HMAS Hobart as the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed by representatives of the Japanese Emporer and of the Allied Powers.

After the war, Mr Raynolds took up the offer of 1,600 acres of land in the Araluen Valley, where he settled with his wife Thelma. They gave up the land in 2010, moving to Braidwood.

Mr Raynolds was lucky then, and he knows he’s lucky now. The 91 year old thinks he is the only WWII veteran left alive in the 2622 postcode.

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