Year after year the old men disappear

Barista has just done a great post on an iconic World War II picture revisited and reinacted.

It reminded me that a few days ago I got an invitation to the Australian Maritime Museum for a celebration of what must be the 65th anniversary of the landing of the Dunera – the boat on which my father arrived in Australia in 1940.

These anniversaries are, I regret to say, depressing affairs. The old men must have lots of memories to share. Oddly for us who have not been through it, but as I understand it not unusually, the Dunera Boys didn’t celebrate any reunions and certainly not regular annual reunions for decades after the event. My father was always sceptical of the event and didn’t go very often.

He was away from the farm one weekend and when I visited the next weekend he told me that he’d been to the Dunera 50th anniversary reunion at Hay (Hay is where the Dunera Boys were interned – some of them to be removed to Tatura later on). Though many if not most Dunera Boys had brought their children, Dad hadn’t even told me about it. He said that he had no idea I would be interested to have come.

When one goes to the functions today, the old men are so old and sick. And always many have gone in the previous year. This year those assembled will mourn the passing of Henry Lippman who was the lynchpin of the Dunera Association in Sydney. Henry was a generous man who always felt a debt to his adopted country. Unlike some who felt it important to insist on the legality of their own entry to Australia, Henry was sympathetic to those who came to be branded ‘illegals’. Henry was a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ man. He thought I was a wonderful fellow, for no very sound reasons – he hardly knew me, but he seemed to hold this view with firm conviction. I guess he projected it from his knowledge of Dad but I also sent him a speech I gave about the Dunera and today’s asylum seekers because I knew he would be sympathetic to its contents. In any event, it is fitting that I remember him here.

This year, as last year, this note appears at the bottom of the invitation.

Regrettably the funds of the Association are exhausted to the point where we are unable to meet any expenses for our fututre existence. The Dunera Association appreciates your contribtion and support. Contact Konrad Kwiet.

PS, but dint of pure co-incidence a friend just emailed me this image of my parents – one that I’d never seen – that appeared in The Australian commemoration of WWII this Monday.
Fred and Ann Gruen and Mendel Weisser.gif

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2022 years ago

Yes reunions are ok for a few decades. There is a song that we used to sing at the end of each school year, “40 years on” which some may find amusing.

Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along,

Follow up! Follow up! Follow up! Follow up! Follow up!
Till the field ring again and again,
With the tramp of the twenty-two men.
Follow up! Follow up!

Routs and discomfitures, rushes and rallies,
Bases attempted, and rescued, and won,
Strife without anger, and art without malice, –
How will it seem to you, forty years on?
Then, you will say, not a feverish minute
Strained the weak heart and the wavering knee,
Never the battle raged hottest, but in it,
Neither the last nor the faintest, were we!


Forty years on, growing older and older,
Shorter in wind, as in memory long,
Feeble of foot, and rheumatic of shoulder,
What will it help you that once you were strong?
God give us bases to guard or beleaguer,
Games to play out, whether earnest or fun;
Fights for the fearless, and goals for the eager,
Twenty, and thirty, and forty years on!

Peter Fuller
Peter Fuller
2022 years ago

I’m pretty sure that’s the Harrow School song. It’s sung in many Australian schools where massed choral singing is practised.
There was also a variant of it (“ninety years on”) given an airing at the ninetieth , which I recall seeing on ABC-TV. Churchill was of course a famous Harrow old boy.

2022 years ago

Yes Peter, it is the Harrow song although a google turns it up on several different school sites. The Harrow site has added a special chorus in honour of Winston Churchill.

derrida derider
derrida derider
2022 years ago

Nic, this anecdote made me sad. It reminded me of what a fine person your father was.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Great photo though. The look of a couple who were capable of mischief.

Lynton Brewer
Lynton Brewer
2022 years ago

I read the above notes with much interest. As it happens I am trying to contact the daughter (Vivienne) of Paul Altmann who was one of the original Dunera passengers. Paul was a gifted Engineer and for many years the chief electrical engineer of the APM company before it became Amcor. I worked with him for over 20 years.
Vivienne lives in Sydney and I do not know her married name. Any help would be appreciated.
Incidentally the song above is also popular as the Boating Song from Scotch College, Melbourne.

Vivien Pitt
Vivien Pitt
14 years ago

Hello Lynton!
I just found this message from you when doing a search on my father Paul.
If you are still interested in making contact, then by all means, let me know and we can co-ordinate
best regards

9 years ago

Dear Vivien Pitt,
please get in contact with me.Thank you and best regards

9 years ago

Paul Altmann – son of Oskar Altmann, nephew of Maria Altmann-Ladewig.
I am searching for Paul´s family. Please get in contact with me. Thank you
and best regards, Sylvia

Jane Miller
Jane Miller
6 years ago

Hello, I am trying to get in touch with anyone who might have some clues on decendants or other contacts for Kurt Winkler (d.1992) and Herman Valentin, both from the Dunera. Herman returned to England in 1942 with a Major Layton who had come to Australia to investigate conditions on the Dunera. I am trying to tarce any copyright holders, so would be very grateful for any inforamtion. Cheers.

john Walker
john Walker(@johnrwalker)
6 years ago
Reply to  Jane Miller

Jane , the Australian war Memorial might be able to help you re descendants or other contacts ofKurt Winkler