WWII RAAF veteran awarded Australian Service Medal 73 years on

Warrant Officer Rob Swanwick with Illawarra resident George Burgess, 93, a RAAF war veteran. Picture: Robert Peet
Warrant Officer Rob Swanwick with Illawarra resident George Burgess, 93, a RAAF war veteran. Picture: Robert Peet

It has been a long time coming for George Burgess, but the Royal Australia Air Force World War II veteran was finally awarded a service at Corrimal RSL on Tuesday.

Up until recently, the 93-year-old was completely unaware he was entitled to the Australian Service Medal (1945-1975 South West Pacific) for his efforts as a wireless operator in Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

“It doesn’t only apply for me, it applies to a lot of other people as well, but it mightn’t be commonly known,” Mr Burgess told the Illawarra Mercury. “I was surprised … for something to come along at this point in time.”

A small gathering of friends and family gathered at the RSL for the occasion, attention Mr Burgess said he was “taken aback” by.

He said if it wasn’t for the investigation by a good friend’s son, receiving the accolade may never have happened.

RAAF Warrant Officer Rob Swanwick had driven up from Canberra to present the medal and said it wasn’t unusual to present an award so many years later but it did occasionally happen .

“Most of the time they’re no longer with us and it’s given to a next of kin,” he said.

Mr Burgess was required to assist with communications between RAAF aircraft in the Pacific who were fighting to stop an invasion by Japanese forces.

Mr Burgess said his greatest memory from the war was being in Borneo and receiving the news that the war had ended.

It’s the first of two medal ceremonies Mr Burgess will attend this year as the veteran is also eligible for the Philippines Liberation Medal which will be presented at the end of May.