Buff and Hal, dumbstruck after 72 years
They were school friends in the 1930s that lost track of one another during WWII. Now at the age of 90, they've reunited thanks to a newspaper ad.
On March 3, 1941, two former high school mates travelled together to the Sydney Showground to enlist in the Second World War.
Harry ''Hal'' Wolters and Cecil ''Buff'' Creswick were told they needed written parental consent because they were under 21. They went to the nearby Captain Cook Hotel, spent two shillings and sixpence on a beer and forged each other's parents' signatures.
On April 1 they travelled again to Sydney and became separated, with neither knowing whether the other had been killed, injured or even survived the war.
On the 72nd anniversary of their separation, Mr Wolters, now 90, thought it might be nice to know how Mr Creswick, also 90, was doing.
On the Easter weekend he placed a small advertisement in The Sydney Morning Herald's RSVP column. ''I just wanted to know if he [Mr Creswick] was still going,'' Mr Wolters said.
Mr Wolters has thought about his mate from Penrith High often over the intervening years.
World War II veteran Buff Creswick.
World War II veteran Buff Creswick.
''We parted in 1941 and we haven't been in contact since,'' he said.
Last week Mr Wolters was working, as he often does, in his shed when the phone rang.
''The voice said: 'It's Buff Creswick here.' I said, 'Holy, bloody hell.' I was just about dumbstruck.''
On Friday, Mr Creswick flew from Sydney to his old school mate's property at Kempsey, north of Port Macquarie.
The two nonagenarians , embraced, complimented each other on being alive and then, briefly, Mr Wolters was overwhelmed.
Then began the formidable task of catching up. Mrs Wolters had baked scones and sausage rolls and there were a few cold beers in the fridge.
As they chatted on the verandah, they discovered they almost got involved in the same unusual branch of the war effort. Mr Creswick, in the 2nd Infantry Battalion, was sent to Syria and Beirut but was among troops brought back to defend Australia.
He was then sent to the Kokoda Track fighting the Japanese in conditions he described as horrific. ''We started out with a strength of 697 fighting men and finished up left with 87. I was one of the lucky ones,'' he said.
But what finally took him away from the fighting was that he became severely ill after contracting malaria.
He was regarded as a useful experiment subject to help in the fight against malaria at the Medical Research Unit in Cairns.
Mr Wolters ended up at the same place, albeit at a different time. He also was enlisted as a guinea pig, but one they wanted to deliberately infect with the disease. He described his involvement in the war as ''five years of being buggerised around''.
''We were ready to go to the Middle East but when the Japanese came into the war they panicked and sent us to Western Australia. I got sick of the inactivity and one day they called for volunteers to partake in experiments to see what they could do about finding a cure for malaria.''
Mr Creswick said: ''I put my arm into a box of mosquitoes and they had to bite the buggery out of you.''
Mr Wolters said: ''I got mine through a blood transfusion. They put a tube into another man and then they put a tube into me and a nurse turned a little handle and the blood came out of the other bloke into me.
''It wasn't him [Creswick] because I would have been able to recognise him in those days.''
As they sat looking out at the property, they sipped the beer just as they did at the Captain Cook Hotel.
''We've got spare rooms and beds here,'' said Mr Wolters.
They are planning the next reunion. There's more to discuss.