Jack and friend, Northern Beach, Rabaul


Frankston in the 1930s

The Approaching War


War is Declared



New Guinea 1941

Not Home for Christmas

The Garrison Sacrificed

Chocos and Real Soldiers



After 1946

The Futility of Hindsight


Return to Lost Lives

Choco Jack
by Jenny Evans


Gunner George Render's photo appeared in The Standard in January 1941. As an unmarried man, he had an obvious duty to King and Country, it was said, but there was some confusion as to which country. The Battle of Britain was over but it had horrified and stirred many Australians. The source of the Empire had been attacked. Loyalty demanded Middle East priorities for the fighting forces. By Christmas 1941 he was with 2/4 Australian Field Regiment and had sent a card home from Nazareth. He eventually served overseas for 45 months and had 22 months 'other qualifying service', and was paid his gratuities in 1951.

On the home front, a local men's Red Cross was formed in Frankston and, to match the ladies' knitting and crocheting, the men met for staining, sandpapering, gluing and sawing sessions.

A nude swim by three men at 12.50 am one summer night shocked some, amused others. Did war bring this sort of laxity? The smell of drains persisted. It was announced that the new hospital 'will accommodate thirty.'

The Singapore Conference held in February 1941 sealed Jack's fate.

As arranged, the British, Dutch and Australian service representatives met at Singapore in the last week of February, the Australians also speaking on behalf of New Zealand, and drew up an agreement, without commitment to their governments, for mutual reinforcements in the event of aggression.

In Frankston, it was suggested that badges be issued to the mothers, the wives and the widows of fighting men, upon application, presumably to distinguish them from the rest of the community. This was a laconic substitute for the early enthusiasm which appeared to have somewhat waned. There were no more ceremonial parties to send men off to war.

The Shire community was told that 'a further batch of inscribed wallets has been forwarded to local men who have enlisted in the various services from the Shire Hall this week. Particulars of these enlistments have been obtained from lists supplied by the Government and from local enquiries.'

Perhaps a good idea was becoming expensive to implement. In fact, there had to be a call up of a new age group to maintain a force of 250,000 personnel under arms.

Men in reserved occupations, or upon whom the call up would impose hardship, were able to apply for exemption or leave from camps. It was promised that the new recruit could be 'in camp in three days' after the first interview. The recruiting kiosk in Bay Street was manned daily.

The new hospital was declared 'adequate until 1956.'

The lawless and the adventurous made news. The Standard reported the outrage of the community on two counts. Milk can raiders were taking the threepences and sixpences left out overnight for the milkman. This showed that trust and honesty were breaking down. Two women, Nellie and Gladys, were caught with two airmen in the lounge of the Frankston hotel at 11.15 pm. This revealed a dangerous moral licentious by the young. It was the sort of thing that made people feel more exposed to troubles than before the war.

Frankston took its Anzac Day service seriously this year. There was the largest parade for years to the War Memorial and a packed crowd of at least a thousand at the Plaza Theatre. 'England can't lose' said one speaker. Success was guaranteed if the defeatists on the Peninsula were overcome by a great new effort.

The Shire Council responded with a unanimous resolution for conscription, pointing out that fifty percent of Frankston's volunteers had reserved occupations. Only 'scrubs and squibs' stayed home.

By the time that the Monster Unity Meeting of the People of the Mornington Peninsula took place on June 9 1941, Jack Render was in New Guinea. Like so many other young men, he had been buying a home and furniture and trying to establish himself. Now he had been sent to Rabaul on New Britain. At first glance it seemed a happy combination of duty and adventure.

This is the week that 'posted missing' photos began to appear in The Standard.

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