News stories – Art was Jeffery’s life after WWII (Anzac Day 2017 feature)

This article was originally published in print in The Herbert River Express on April 22 2017

A FORREST Beach World War Two veteran’s wife will use Anzac Day to remember her husband who passed away aged 99 earlier this year.

Edna Jeffery’s husband Frederick Leslie Jeffery, served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) with deployments in the Middle East, North Australia and New Guinea between 1940-1945.

In his later life, Frederick enjoyed writing poetry, and became an award-winning painter, inspired by revered Australian artists.

Frederick trained in Sydney in 1939 and was first deployed to the Middle East as a Lance Sergeant in the Army Medical Unit as a member of the AIF.

Edna said when Japan invaded New Guinea, some troops were sent home, including Frederick, while others were sent to Singapore, where they were interned.

Frederick was then based in the North-West of Western Australia awaiting Japan’s arrival, to fend them off. Edna said bombs were dropped, but the Japanese never invaded.

“There wasn’t much action,” Edna said.

“And I think, Fred was a young man and wanted to be involved in the thick of things.”

He volunteered to serve in New Guinea where Edna said he was dropped behind enemy lines, working in association with the natives.

In New Guinea he was part of the Douglas MacArthur’s ‘M’ Special Infantry Unit, and was working in coastwatch watching the Japanese.

Toward the end of the war Frederick was badly burnt in an explosion and suffered from an ear infection, which resulted in hearing loss.

Frederick later wrote several books, including collection of short stories, called Close Encounters of Various Kinds.

Edna said Frederick never really spoke about his time in the war, she always had to ask him and it was like “pulling teeth to get information about his war time”.

In the last few years the Jeffery’s attended the Forrest Beach Anzac Day Parade.

“A lot of men did not want to talk about their experiences,” Edna said.

“And I really don’t know how close he came to the Japanese. And it’s only my feeling that the story in that book [the first chapter, A Close Encounter] could be like a personal account, but I’ve got no proof of that.”

Edna said he wrote the book about 20 years ago when they were both members of the Ingham Writers Guild.

Frederick lived in Melbourne for about 20 years before moving to Townsville, where he worked at James Cook University.

Edna and Frederick met while filling out their work time sheets at the Townsville Hospital.

Edna as a physiotherapist and Frederick as an operator of the EEG machine, in the early 70s.

They started dating several years later and got married and lived in Ingham from 1978.

Edna said Anzac Day was important to her because she used the day as a time to remember him.

“I don’t think he thought much about the war at all, but art was his life,” Edna said.

Edna Jeffery holding a photo of her late husband and his brother
Edna Jeffery holding a photo of her late husband and his brother – Photography by Lillian Altman
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