By XAVIER SMERDON
TWO of the West’s oldest and most respected war veterans will be among the thousands of residents who will gather to remember the ultimate sacrifices made by fallen soldiers.
At 103 years old, James Crouch is the oldest WWII veteran living in Werribee.
Born in England, he spent most of his time in the war in Italy where he fired 25-pounder howitzers, the major British field gun at the time.
He was later transferred to Greece and was about to be sent to India when his wife was injured in a car accident.
Mr Crouch moved to Australia in 1977 and joined Werribee RSL. He has taken part in every Anzac Day Dawn Service at the cenotaph every year since.
Just a few kilometres away, another veteran has become known as one of the most revered members of his community.
Bordy Weeku is a Karen refugee who fought for the British army in World War II after the Japanese invaded Burma with the help of the Burma Independence Army.
He joined the army in 1937 at just 18 years old, before training as a soldier in India.
The 94-year-old spent almost 20 years in a Burmese refugee camp, surrounded by barbed wire and living on basic rations, before moving to Werribee in 2007.
He is now the oldest and most respected member of Wyndham’s Karen community, which is made up of members of the second-largest ethnic group from Burma.
Mr Weeku told Star that he was proud of his efforts during WWII and he was now enjoying his life in Werribee.
Last year around 6000 people attended the Dawn Service in Werribee, the largest crowd Werribee RSL President Daryl Ryan had ever seen in his 40 years with the organisation.
“It’s great to know that so many people recognise the sacrifices that were made by people that went to war,” Mr Ryan said.
“We have freedom of the press and we have freedom of speech thanks to what some of these men and women did during WWI and WWII and thanks to what soldiers are still doing overseas today.”
Mr Ryan has been president of the RSL for a total of 29 years, and after he returned from Vietnam injured, he said it was important for the community to be accepting of all returning soldiers.
“A lot of sub-branches wouldn’t accept Vietnam veterans, but Werribee was different. They accepted me since day one,” he said.
“We’re very proud of the sacrifices that all of our members have made.”