Norm Smart, one of the few surviving Darwin Defenders in Victoria, has been recognised for his military service ahead of Anzac Day.
During a commemoration service yesterday, the 99-year-old was presented with a medallion and certificate to mark last year's 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
His son Geoff Smart was at his side as the honours were presented. "It's very meaningful that Norm, at this age, 99, is here to receive the award, which was delayed of course due to COVID," Geoff Smart said. "I'm surprised that at his great age he's still around to receive it because there's not too many World War Two veterans left."
After a failed attempt to enlist while underage, Norm Smart signed up in 1941. After training at Balcombe he was posted to garrison duties at Wilsons Promontory.
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In 1942 he transferred to Darwin, taking part in a 10-man patrol group along the coast to keep watch for Japanese soldiers.
"If the Japanese had have landed they effectively would have been sacrificial lambs - a section of 10 men couldn't do much against the might of the Japanese," Geoff said.
Norm Smart later served in Papua New Guinea, where he was wounded in the hand and contracted malaria.
At the end of the war he was involved in disarming Japanese soldiers after the surrender was declared in 1945.
After returning to Bendigo in early 1946 he immediately took up work with the Victorian Railways.
He later served for many years at the Bendigo RSL sub-branch treasurer and was well-known as a poppy and Anzac badge salesman in the city.
It was estimated his sales raised more than $250,000 for the RSL's welfare programs.
"It was a huge effort," his son said.
Yesterday's service was held at Mercy Health's Bethlehem Home for the Aged, where Norm Smart has lived since a fall at home 18 months ago.
His certificate and medallion were presented by Stephen Burke from the Bendigo District RSL.
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