Sunday, November 02, 2008

'Rat of Tobruk' celebrates 90th birthday

Image of the Rats of Tobruk from wikipedia.

ONE word stands out in the sea of type that washes up people’s hopes, dreams and memories from each edition of the Classifieds.
"Thanks", as a listing category, keeps its purity despite the Classifieds’ general focus on buying and selling, and it draws at least as many eyes as the best commercial sales pitches.
With German in a "very complicated" family tree, Ian Busst could almost have said "danke" in his notice thanking the Coochiemudlo Island community for "a wonderful afternoon party … in the Recreation Hall".
The party celebrated his 90th birthday, October 3.
Ian well knows the German word for "thanks". He says his surname is the maiden name of his German-born grandmother.
However, his family did not embrace her national culture. He grew up during the Great Depression on Sydney’s North Shore and as a teenager found work on the Victorian hay, wheat and oats fields.

IN October 1939, Ian registered to enlist in the army. "I was five foot five and a half (166 centimetres, tall); you had to be five foot six," he says.
"They said to me, ‘You finish the harvest and come back.’ The hay was important. I was working 12 hours a day. We did it all with forks and horses and carts.
"When I went back at the end of February, he (enlisting officer) said, ‘You are so fit and you’ve grown that half an inch."
Sapper Busst served in the 6th Division as one of the Rats of Tobruk.
"Danke" became part of his vocabulary when he spent about four years as a prisoner of war in Italy and Germany.
It was often heard as he used cigarettes to barter with his captors for extras such as white bread and sugar and privileges.
Ian’s five escapes between April 1941 and May ’45 have been documented in his book, My Experiences as a Prisoner of War, and were summarised in The Redland Times preview of the birthday bash.

THE experiences undoubtedly rated at least a mention here and there as about 75 guests celebrated his life.
Ian has become a pillar of the island community and has received commendations for voluntary work.
After the war, he devoted his life to farm work in Victoria, despite a troublesome injury in 1952, when a bale fell from a trailer and hit his back.
He moved north to the island about seven years ago.
Ian’s experience tells him that fear is the greatest enemy and his lively personality certainly looks that demon straight in the eye.

Thanks for joining me to meet the great people in the marvellous community of classified advertising. This column has appeared in The Redland Times.

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