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The letters from Java: Uncle Eric Peters

I never knew my father. I was four when he left for the war, and by the time I was six, he was gone.All I know about him is from my sister Dot, from photos of him and the letters he sent from Java.

Dad and my brother Harry both joined up in 1940. Dad was 39 and Harry was 16. Like so many others, he put his age up to get in.

To me, Dad was too old at 39 to be joining up. It was at the end of his service when he was coming home that his troop ship was diverted to Java and they were picked up by the Japanese. He was just in the wrong place  at the wrong time.

Dad sent letters home from the prisoner of war camp, but we never knew what he was really going through. After the Japanese censors got to them,  all that was left were empty phrases like "My health is good", "I am well". I can guess, but I'll never know what he saw or went through.

It was four years after he died before the government confirmed to us, his family, a notice came in the mail saying he had died of malaria. It was a sad, sad day.

He would have been so proud to see his two sons, my brothers, Harry and Glen, follow in his footsteps, playing football for Healesville and being chosen for the team of the century.

Life is about the luck of the draw. Harry came home from the war and had a full life in Healesville and Noojee. But in 1995, he and his second wife, Philomena, were tragically killed in a car accident. I guess when it's your time, it's your time.

In 2006, there was a memorial service at Healesville Cemetery to bring Dad's spirit home to Australia, where he belongs. I’ll never get to see him where he lays in the war cemetery in Burma. But now I know his spirit is here at home with Mum.

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