The story of my parents, Ron and Yvonne Christian (nee Antoine) is a fascinating account of events leading up to and during WW2.They first met in 1935 while both working at the West Australian Newspapers.
Mum was a pay clerk at the West Australian Newspaper office at 125 St Georges Terrace. Dad was lining up for his pay in Print Hall (which has recently been restored to its original condition).
I recently took mum (97 years old March 2015) to see the Print Hall and she showed me exactly where the pay window was and can remember everything very well. I decided five years ago to write my next big musical based on their story, which from that point in 1935 is so interesting.
I have been interviewing my mother in short sessions for the past 7 years, from 2009 -2015. She is still very alert and her memory is good at 97 years of age!
Photos and Articles from WW2.
“SATURDAY NIGHT” is a song set in the Embassy Ballroom, Perth, Western Australia in 1939, just before WW2 was announced. The song is arranged in a “Bette Midler” style with three girls out front of the big band on stage with a full-on dance number happening on the dance floor. The song is optimistic, trying to dispel the imminent announcement of war and the guys and girls are relaxing on a Saturday night, “trying to forget what lies ahead.” The singer is Louise Anton-Miller.
“SATURDAY NIGHT” copyright Rod Christian 2016 .
“WHY SO YOUNG” copyright Rod Christian 2016
This is a song featured in my new WW2 musical, “MATES!”. The song is about a mother longing for her son to return from war. He has been called to duty on the Kokoda Track in New Guinea in the 2/16th Battalion. She is writing a letter to him asking the question “Why So Young”- my only son! He is sitting on his stretcher bed and replies to her letter. The duet captures a moment in the musical where we question whether he will make it home. The artists on the recording are West Australian vocalists Louise Anton-Miller and Perry Joyce.
“WHY SO YOUNG” copyright 2016 Rod Christian
My parents met in 1935 at The West Australian Newspaper, 125 St Georges Terrace Perth where they were both on staff.
They fell in love.
Mum joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (Dalkeith) in about 1935/1937.
Dad proposed to Mum at the Embassy Ballroom in William Street Perth in 1939 just as WW2 was declared.
Dad’s best mate, Bret Langridge, was also keen on mum.
Dad and Bret joined the 2/16th Battalion when war broke out and went to train at Northam Army Barracks. They were subsequently sent to Syria in the Middle East in 1941.
In 1941 Mum was was one of those from her VAD detachment who volunteered for service in the Middle East. She was attached to the 7th AGH and travelled on the Queen Mary. She was later also attached to the 6th AGH.
Dad heard she was there and came down from the battlefields to the makeshift hospital where mum was stationed. They spent their “day off” together in Palestine. Bret Langridge was also there.
It was then they began planning a wedding, and Dad was keen to have it at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Dad’s Battalion was then brought home by Curtin to defend Australia. He went to Queensland where he trained with the 2/16 Batallion for New Guinea.
Mum stayed in the Middle East until February 1943 when her detachment returned to Perth. Dad returned briefly from New Guinea where he had been an integral part of the Kokoda Campaign as a Captain of the 7th Division 2/16 Battalion. He won his first Military Cross for bravery at Isurava/Abuwari when he helped plan the attack on Shaggy Ridge north of Kokoda and defeated a Japanese advancing party “with only the remnants of his platoon.”
Bret Langridge was killed at Kokoda – he and Dad had been close friends. They both became Captains and both contributed a lot to the successes of the campaign.
Bret had intimated to mum that if anything ever happened to Dad, he would look after Mum.
The irony is that Bret was killed in new Guinea and dad never got over it.
When the Kokoda Campaign had finished, he returned home briefly to Perth where he married mum at Star Of The Sea Church in Cottesloe on 26 February 1943. See AWM website reference here: AWM website.
She had brought Egyptian lace home from the Middle East, and her boss at WAN got last-minute permission from the Minister for the Army to be married out of uniform. This story was carried by the West Australian Newspaper and she had many offers from dressmakers to make her wedding dress in time for her wedding.
After the gruelling Kokoda Campaign, the Battalion was sent to Borneo to further stop the Japanese at Balikpapan, and Dad won his second Militay Cross for bravery.
Mum went back to work and transferred to the commercial staff as Secretary to the CO of Hollywood Hospital.
This is a very telling story about my parents’ early lives together. Recently the family came across some actual footage of the events at Kokoda on an ATN Channel 7 film made back in the 50s. Dad is actually interviewed on this programme which I have restored to DVD. It is a fascinating account from various people who served in the Middle East and in New Guinea. Please view this here. We Were Anzacs 1956.
Please also see photos taken by Yvonne Antoine in the Middle East on the AWM website.