Now approaching 100, Bob Smith recalls his 21st birthday spent battling heat, mosquitoes and the Japanese while serving in World War II

HUMBLY ACCEPTED ON BEHALF OF HIS MATES: Bob Smith with his World War II 75th anniversary commemorative medallion and certificate.

HUMBLY ACCEPTED ON BEHALF OF HIS MATES: Bob Smith with his World War II 75th anniversary commemorative medallion and certificate.

WAR-TIME: Young Bob Smith celebrated his 21st birthday in the New Guinea jungle surrounded by his army mates.

WAR-TIME: Young Bob Smith celebrated his 21st birthday in the New Guinea jungle surrounded by his army mates.

Bob Smith was at home with his mum when news of the official end to World War II came through on the radio on August 15, 1945.

His father had not long died and Col. Bruxner had acceded to Mrs Smith's request to bring her son home, from jungle warfare in New Guinea.

Being off the land -- in Tenterfield, northern NSW -- Bob had an exemption in the first place but he had been keen to enlist, convincing the recruiter at Manpower to sign him up.

"Then when I got to New Guinea I thought maybe I'd made a mistake," Bob said.

He recently received his Commemorative Medallion and certificate marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, to go along with his 50th anniversary medallion. The federal government is offering the memento to all living Second World War veterans.

Bob spent four years in the service, enlisting in the Citizen Military Forces on April 29, 1942 at the age of 18.

He went on to serve in the Armoured Division - Second Mortar Regiment as wireless operator, transferred to the Australian Imperial Forces in 1943 and ended up with 2/3 Australian Infantry Battalion 16th Brigade of the 6th Division.

Then when I got to New Guinea I thought maybe I'd made a mistake.

WW2 veteran Bob Smith

The brigade sailed to New Guinea from Cairns in December 1944 with many battle-hardened soldiers who had already served in the Middle East, and Bob.

"Some of them would have been old enough to be my father, but I wouldn't be game to call them 'Dad'," Bob said, although accepting that the older members of the troop kept an eye on him.

Bob celebrated his 21st birthday in New Guinea. There was no cake or "grog", he assures us, but he was surrounded by a lot of good mates.

"We invited the Japs to come along but they refused," he said.

The mates all stayed in touch after the war, exchanging memories of the funnier incidents if not the devastating ones. As time marches on, however, Bob finds himself the last man standing.

"It's hard to imagine that it's been 75 years," he said.

He would have much preferred to have been among his mates to hear the news of the war ending, and "see that Jap bloke hand over his sword".

He said he enjoyed his time in the army, even with the oppressive heat, rain and mosquitoes of jungle warfare. He recalls digging trenches only to have the rain refill them, and sleeping in the mud.

He caught malaria but over the years eventually managed to shake it off. He appreciates he was very lucky to escape with no scars, physical or mental.

"I left a lot of mates up there," he said.

After the death of his father he served in Australia, spending his remaining days in the Transport Unit in Brisbane before being discharged in 1946.

Bob is pleased that the government saw fit to issue the 75th anniversary medallion, and humbly accepts his on behalf of all his mates who have since died.

Bob, now 96, has every intention of seeing 100 and receiving yet another citation. Given his quick wit and the way he gets around Millrace, Tenterfield, he'll be keeping his old army cobbers waiting for some time yet before they meet up again to swap war stories, but only the happy ones.

This story Soldier who came of age amid battlefields in New Guinea first appeared on Tenterfield Star.