“There’s not many my age around,” laughs 103-year-old war veteran Arthur Leggett when I pick up the phone to chat to him about his remarkable life.
Few of us make the milestone centenary, let alone with the energy to shame a person a quarter his age, but Arthur is still very much firing on all cylinders.
He’ll be up before dawn to commemorate ANZAC Day at a dawn service at the retirement home where he lives.
“It’s a very sincere little ceremony and I usually recite The Ode and all the lads do their bit and we have quite an impressive little ceremony on ANZAC Day dawn,” he says.
He believes ANZAC Day continues to be important.
“To the best of my historical knowledge that was when we first went into action in a big way in a determined assault.
“It was a most horrendous event with a great unnecessary loss of life, so it means a lot to me and I think it should mean a lot to the nation.”
Arthur spent four years in a prisoner of war camp in Germany.
Arthur’s own father served in World War I in the trenches of France and Arthur holds on to a couple of his medals.
Arthur also gives the ANZAC Day address at Mt Lawley Senior High School, which has named its school library after the war veteran.
“The angle that I use is not about glory or old mates, I just point out to the school children the terrific advantages they have living in this country and I also point out to them that they have these advantages because of the sacrifices that men have made in past wars to keep this country the way it is.”
In an interview with the Australians at War Film Archive in 2004 Arthur told the interviewer he didn’t think young people understood what they were fighting for, but they were appreciative that they did.
“That’s why you get so many kids at ANZAC Day,” he says.
“You can’t tell me that those kids know about the horrors of war, and all that. But they know it happened, and they are celebrating the occasion in their own little way. And if they have these thoughts in their mind, as they grow up, they become citizens that appreciate these things.”
Arthur will be adding to his ANZAC itinerary by popping along to provide some inspiration at the Perth Town Hall’s Tuesday Morning Show, a free weekly community event aimed at seniors, with a program of musical entertainment and speakers on 27 April from 11am.
Arthur says he’ll be up on-stage answering questions as best he is able.
“I’ll give what answers I can without telling any lies or extending the truth too far,” he chuckles.
The energetic centenarian also writes bush poetry and wrote an autobiography, Don’t Cry For Me when he was 80.
He’s been heavily involved in the RSL and was president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association for 25 years receiving an OAM for service to veterans and their families.
He has been associated with the Over 45 Social Canoe Club, participating in Avon Descents.
Arthur was a signaller in the 2/11th Battalion. He fought against the Italian army in Libya and in the battles of Bardia and Tobruk, before being captured by German paratroopers during the battle of Crete in Greece in 1941 when he was 22.
During four years of incarceration, he was forced to work in the coal mines in northern Poland before being forced on a death march in the winter of 1944/45 across the Czechoslovakian Alps to Bavaria.
After the war he worked as a purchasing and expediting officer until his retirement.