Tasmanian WWII 12th/50th Battalion reunion

REUNION: WWII veterans Jack Talbot, 96, and Laurence Lunson, 98, at Saturday's reunion of the 12th/50th Battalion, Launceston branch. Picture: Doug Wyatt
REUNION: WWII veterans Jack Talbot, 96, and Laurence Lunson, 98, at Saturday's reunion of the 12th/50th Battalion, Launceston branch. Picture: Doug Wyatt

When the first reunion of the 12th/50th Battalion was held in 1967, more than 200 World War II veterans attended. 

On Saturday there was just two – 98-year old Laurence Lunson of Latrobe and 96-year-old Jack Talbot of Nile. 

The veterans got together at Longford’s Country Club Hotel for what organisers believed might be the last time. 

But, after an afternoon trip down memory lane it was decided the reunion would continue each year until the “last man standing”. 

“There are not many of us left, but some is better than none,” Mr Talbot said. 

“Once upon a time there were 1200 in the battalion.

“I learned a lot from the experience and it taught me many things, especially discipline. 

“The truth is you don’t know when your turn is going to come, but I feel very fortunate to still be here today.”

The 12th/50th Battalion was formed on December 1, 1936, with headquarters in Launceston and companies in Devonport, Burnie, Deloraine, Westbury and Latrobe. 

REUNION: WWII veterans Laurence Lunson, 98, and Jack Talbot, 96, at Saturday's reunion of the 12th/50th Battalion, Launceston branch. Picture: Doug Wyatt

REUNION: WWII veterans Laurence Lunson, 98, and Jack Talbot, 96, at Saturday's reunion of the 12th/50th Battalion, Launceston branch. Picture: Doug Wyatt

Saturday’s reunion was organised by retired Lieutenant Colonel Doug Wyatt, whose father Keith Wyatt was a 12th/50th Battalion sergeant.

After the first reunion in 1967, the annual event has been shared between battalion associations in Latrobe and Longford.  

Mr Wyatt said the dedication of those involved was a testament to the spirit of Tasmanians. 

“This is something really special and unique to this state,” he said. 

“There wouldn’t be many World War II units in Australia that still have annual reunions.

“I use to go along with my dad and there would have been close to 100 people in attendence. 

“The numbers are dwindling and I really did think this would be the last one we had.

“But, both Jack and Laurence wouldn’t hear of that.”

On Saturday Mr Lunson and Mr Talbot were joined by family and friends in raising a toast to their fallen comrades.

Reminiscing on their days in the battalion, for Mr Lunson the most pressing memory was a nine day “cattle boat” journey in 1943 when they were transported from Brighton to Townsville, Queensland.

“It was a very rough journey indeed,” he said. 

“For many of us, we had just had all of our shots or needles so we were all pretty crook. 

“We were all very close friends.

“I know there are still a few of us floating around, in Sheffield and Latrobe.

“But sadly, there aren’t many of us left these days.

“I think Jack and I still have plenty of life left in us.”