MercyCare / News / Every day is Anzac Day for RAAF veteran

Every day is Anzac Day for RAAF veteran

For air force veteran Alec Hepburn, every day is Anzac Day.

The jovial 82-year-old — who has been a resident at MercyCare Kelmscott Residential Aged Care home for the past seven years — hails from a line of Anzac servicemen, with both his grandfather and father serving in WWI and WWII respectively.

Alec says not a day goes by where he doesn’t spare a thought for his father and grandfather and all the Anzac men and women who risked their lives to service their country.

“I think about them every day,” Alec said. “Every day is Anzac Day for me.”

Recalling his childhood memories of growing up during WWII, Alec says it was in stark contrast to the life we know today.

“It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” he said. “You had to (grow up) – you weren’t little kids, you were adults.”

Alec was just one years old when his father was called to serve in the second World War, where he was first sent to fight on the frontline in Libya before later being deployed in Papua New Guinea.

When he finally returned home to Perth, his father had contracted malaria and Alec – who was seven at the time – had to help nurse him back to good health.

“My dad was sent home from fighting at Papua with malaria and at the age of seven I was looking after him,” he recalled.

“I nursed him here in Perth and then he went back — he had to because we had such a small army.”

Reflecting on his own experiences of fighting on the frontline, Alec was a young man in his 20s when he served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during both the Vietnam War and the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. 

“Timor was terrible,” he said as he recalled memories of civilians who were caught up in the conflict.

This year, Anzac Day will commemorate a huge milestone for the RAAF, which celebrated its 100th birthday on March 31.

And while many Australians regard the Anzac service men and women like Alec’s father and grandfather as ‘heroes’, Alec says that was the one thing they didn’t like to be known for.

“They didn’t want any praise – all they wanted to do was forget,” Alec said.

“My grandfather was in the first World War and he was a medic. He was only 4”8, he was too small, and too old and he had a (bad leg) so he couldn’t fight.

“So they gave him the hardest job, which was getting the wounded out and looking after them and he survived. He was a real hero, but you wouldn’t dare call him that.

“They don’t like being called heroes. They were just doing what they had to do.”

Following his time in the RAAF, Alec was inspired to become a nurse and went on to work for Silver Chain for 13 years. It was a job he loved but was forced to retire from due to his health.

But having developed a love of writing at a young age, Alec also carved out a career as a journalist and even published a book full of his colourful war stories, True Australian War Tales.

Today, Alec continues to share his tales of war with fellow residents and MercyCare staff.

“’I’ve been here for seven years and they are like my family here,” he said.