My uncle Mervyn Nichols was 20 when he enlisted in 1940.
He trained at Brighton army camp and then Darwin before embarking for Timor in 1941 with the Tasmanian 2/40 Battalion.
A year later he was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp on Java.
He grew up in Elderslie, half an hour from Brighton, in a large family.
The seven Nichols children would walk six kilometres to and from school every day.
After school he got a job as a farm labourer and then jumped at the chance to enlist in 1940.
The family didn't see him again until early 1946.
Like all POWs in the Pacific he was mistreated and poorly fed.
After liberation he was taken to the Philippines for fattening up and a medical debrief, before the final journey home.
He rarely spoke about the war and his captors.
He did reveal that a mate from Elderslie was shot dead on the day of their capture because he tried to take a weapon from a guard.
He spoke of brutal Japanese guards but said one old guard, who looked after him, treated him kindly when out of sight of officers.
The Japanese kept meticulous records of their captives, as can be seen by Mervyn's POW details from the National Archives.
Mum said that when they waited for him at Brighton for the final journey home in 1946, he initially hid on the other side of the bus because he couldn't cope with the reunion.
At Elderslie the small hamlet prepared a huge welcome home party, with his name on a banner strung across the road, but he begged to be taken directly home and bypass the party, because he just couldn't cope.
At home on the family farm at Elderslie he tried to fit back into the life he left behind as a 20-year-old.
Mum said each day he would take all the light machinery from the farm sheds and store it neatly down by the creek. Each night and without a word of reproach his uncle, who owned the farm, would take the machinery back up to the sheds, ready for the same bizarre ritual the next day.
I was too young to take an interest in my uncle's wartime experience, except to regard him with awe.
He survived the war with his larrikinism intact and was always telling jokes, but I'm dead sure his jaunty demeanour masked a dark period in his life, when there would have been times he doubted if he would make it home alive.
I don't think uncle Mervyn ever marched in Anzac Day parades.
I imagine the experience would have been too painful for a veteran, who didn't need reminding that he made it home while many of his close mates didn't.
Every school holiday we would stay at the farm to catch up with nan and her brother, uncle Hal, and quite often Mervyn and his family would be there, and he would watch us kids playing war and cowboys and Indians.
He tolerated our childhood innocence and probably wished he could explain what war was really like.
But we wouldn't have listened in case he wrecked our imagination.
My father didn't get to fight overseas.
As an artillery instructor his superiors decided he was more useful on the home front, training those who did get to go.
Uncle Mervyn was a kind soul and although dad would have felt inadequate to be around a returned serviceman, uncle Mervyn never rubbed it in and in fact never raised the subject of dad and his war at home.
I've been to Japan and found the men to be proud, almost arrogant, but the women are beautiful souls, eager to engage.
In Hiroshima, like all western tourists I despaired over the brutal facts of the bomb, dropped on August 6, 1945.
If you go there, you will experience a confronting memorial.
Near ground zero there is a canal, in which thousands of people sought refuge from the intense heat of the nuclear blast. Within seconds they were boiled alive.
Hiroshima, like Auschwitz concentration camp and carpet-bombed Dresden, will change your outlook on life.
Some years ago, my wife and I joined the university homestay program and hosted two female Japanese university students for several weeks.
One day I found them thumbing through one of my father's pictorial history books of World War II, so I sat down with them to explain.
I firstly asked them what they knew of World War II and without a moment's delay they both said in unison: "Hiroshima."
So, you see, many millions of allied and Japanese soldiers and civilians died in a terrible war, that their great grandchildren could easily sum up in a single word.
As they say, lest we forget.
Mervyn and his surviving mates probably wished they could forget.
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