One of Grafton's oldest remaining World War II veterans, Henry 'Corky' Caldwell and his three great grand children Benny Isaacson, Zac Chappel and Charlie Isaacson prepare for yesterday's march in Grafton.
One of Grafton's oldest remaining World War II veterans, Henry 'Corky' Caldwell and his three great grand children Benny Isaacson, Zac Chappel and Charlie Isaacson prepare for yesterday's march in Grafton. Tim Howard

Age not wearying for this veteran believed to be our oldest

HENRY 'Corky' Caldwell was the oldest of his unit when he joined up and they fought their way across North Africa against everything the Germans and Italians could throw at them.

Now the 99-year-old is possibly the oldest World War II veteran left in the city.

"Although I was the oldest in my unit, all the blokes I served with are gone,” he told The Daily Examiner yesterday as he prepared for yesterday's Anzac Day march down Prince St.

"I think I would be the oldest in Grafton now. There's not many of us left.

"The only other bloke I know is a youngster. I think he only joined up in 1945.”

Mr Caldwell's wartime experiences began with the thrill of embarking for the Middle East on the converted luxury line Queen Mary, in 1940.

"We were in everything from 1940 right up to 1943,” he said.

During those times Australian's made their names as formidable soldiers in battles with names like El Alamein and Tobruk.

But Mr Caldwell's fondest memory is the return from the Middle East on a beaten up Norwegian freighter.

"We were some of the last troops out of the Middle East,” he said.

"The trip was the long way round. We had to travel right around Africa to make it home safely.” Once back in Australia ready to fight the Japanese, Mr Caldwell found his days of serving overseas were over for the rest of the war.

"We were sent up to Darwin for the duration,” he said.

Life after the war brought many further honours to Mr Caldwell, who found it as big an honour to serve his community.

"After the war I worked for Ron Sykes Auto Electrician, because that was my trade,” he said.

"Then I worked for NRE for another 40 years.”

But it was his service to the his community which gave him the most satisfaction and an Order of Australia Medal he proudly wears next to his military decorations.

Although Mr Caldwell's service comrades are no longer around, his family more than makes up for their absence.

Yesterday he was joined by three great grandsons in the jeep which carried him down his home town main street.

And proud family members captured every minute of it, calling out greetings to him as the parade passed by.

The day culminated with a big family photograph of four generations at the Grafton cenotaph. The family is hoping for a big celebration next year when he's 100 years old.



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