Yarrabah (where I grew up) lies east of Cairns across Trinity Inlet, and was in the firing line during WW2 from ocean attack. You can still evidence today of those times. Fitzroy Island, my mother’s country we call Kubirra, was used as a training base for soldiers then.
After the war there were many unexploded mines and bombs, that young kids used to find. My dad’s cousin who was nine years old at the time, found one and was killed trying to dig it up. Landmines are still buried in some of the local beaches and Yarrabah locals are told to keep away from them. There are secret army tunnels and barracks in Labyrinth Bay that were built during the war to defend the coast in case of invasion.
My mother’s uncle Stan Conley, a tall man of German heritage, originally from Mitchell River near Kowanyama fought with his unit during WW2 in the Pacific and New Guinea. He was an expert bushman and was very clever at tricky and secret communication skills. One day a doody-doody (willy wagtail) flew towards him and perched on his hat, twitching and making sounds as if to warn him that danger was coming. Soon after Japanese forces overtook and surrounded his army unit which included many men from Yarrabah. Stan and his fellow soldiers quickly hid beneath the dead bodies of those who had been killed. Japanese soldiers later prodded them with bayonets but luckily they all escaped. Stan was awarded a medal for his courage and has been remembered every year at ANZAC Day in Yarrabah for his brave deed, while also remembering other members of his unit who had been killed. As a child I remember him marching in the annual ANZAC Day parade in Yarrabah. Stan is also recognized for opening the first food shop by an Indigenous person in Yarrabah during the 1960s, so he could support the local people and their families. He was a great role model.