Three generations at war

Garry Butcher who served with the army in Vietnam, with his mother Diana Butcher, who served with the airforce in WWII.
Garry Butcher who served with the army in Vietnam, with his mother Diana Butcher, who served with the airforce in WWII.

Three generations of the Butcher family served in WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War, and with Anzac Day approaching on April 25 the family reflects on times of hardship and excitement surrounding the war. 

Born in London Mrs Butcher was 10 years old when she first arrived in Australia firstly living in Manly, Sydney with her grandmother Diana. 

From there her family moved to WA and at 18 years old she said she joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in World War II. 

"It was rather sad because so many of the younger boys we saw that joined up were killed and there was always that in the background all the time. On the other hand it was always a bit exciting,” said Mrs Butcher.

Diana Butcher.

Diana Butcher.

She said she received injections and training before starting work at the Pearce RAAF Base, the main Air Force base in Western Australia located 35 kilometres north of Perth.

“Whilst at Pearce and working as a clerk general I was employed in the operations room the actual hub of the station and the job entailed liaising with army and navy intelligence,” she said. 

Mrs Butcher travelled to Sydney and then onto Melbourne to do flight rigger training and after completing her training she was posted in Boulder, Kalgoorlie on the racecourse taken over by the RAAF. 

There in Boulder is where she met husband Ronald in a hanger. Ronald Butcher was born in Collie and was the son of WWI and WWII veteran Thomas Butcher.

Thomas Butcher.

Thomas Butcher.

His father entered the Great War at the age of 19 and was in the 16th Infantry Battalion in Egypt and was then transferred to 48th Infantry Battalion still in Egypt. He proceeded to France where he was promoted to Corporal and then appointed to Lance Sergeant before returning to Australia. He was re-enlisted for WW2 but was based in Perth, according to the Collie-Cardiff RSL Sub Branch. 

Ronald joined the RAAF at 18 and was in the 77 Fighter Squadron where he was an electrician. He was based in Darwin and his Squadron moved to Milne Bay New Guinea in 1942 and then to Goodenough Island off the coast of New Guinea in 1943. 

After returning from overseas in the 25 Squadron in Boulder he met Diana. The 25 Squadron provided convoy protection and anti-submarine patrols and when Japan entered they were equipped with dive bombers and toward the end in 1944 with heavy Liberator Bomber Aircraft, according to the Collie-Cardiff RSL Sub Branch. 

The couple wedded before the war finished in Kalgoorlie and afterwards they stayed in Kalgoorlie where they had their first son Garry.  

Wanting to return to his hometown Mr Butcher took his wife and newborn son to live in Collie and there they had two more children Brian and Aloxley. 

Ronald Butcher.

Ronald Butcher.

When the Vietnam War came around Garry was conscripted to fight but was deferred for a year until he finished his mechanic trade. 

“Anyone that was doing an apprenticeship at the time was deferred and the minute you finished your apprenticeship you were gone,” he said. 

Doing his training in Victoria before heading over to Vietnam as a 21-year-old he said he was very lucky and worked as a mechanic mostly with trucks and tanks and his fathers encouragement to work in the family garage business saved him.

“I always thought if I never got that apprenticeship out of the garage I probably would’ve gone in the second intake and almost everyone in the first few went into infantry. So he probably saved my life,” said Mr Butcher. 

Garry Butcher.

Garry Butcher.

Garry’s sister Loxley Beauglehole said she was just 15 when her brother was in Vietnam and it was a tough time for the family. 

“I can remember the family sitting in the lounge room around mum and dads house making a tape recording to send to him in Vietnam,” said Mrs Beauglehole.

Mrs Beauglehole said it was a relief when Garry was sent home early after he got severe tinnea because of the living conditions and jungle climate. 

“It was pretty good when he came home in one piece because a few people in town didn’t,” said Mrs Beauglehole.

Since the war finished the family stayed in Collie and in 2011 Ronald Butcher passed away at the age of 88.

His brother, children and wife still currently live in Collie 

The Collie-Cardiff RSL Sub Branch are holding an Anzac Day 5:30am dawn service and a 11am morning service in Soldiers Park on April 25 to remember soldiers that fought in the war.