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60th Anniversary Reunion June 2003

June 2003 marked the 60th anniversary of the 133rd Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery arrival at Fenton Airfield in the NT. It was an honour for me to organize this reunion and to witness the success and emotion of the 133 men uniting once again.

We had just under 90 people attend the 60th Anniversary reunion at Engadine RSL. Thanks to the newspaper article that went in prior to the reunion, a few more turned up on the day! Most people came from in and around Sydney, but we also had a bus load from the Central Coast of NSW, members from Tasmania and Melbourne make the journey.

"I'm sure everyone who was there was thrilled by it's success, and anyone who wasn't there will always regret it. Vanessa you have every reason to feel proud. Our CO Major Randle added a lot of charm to the proceedings and I was glad of the chance to meet him for the first time and also to meet his daughter. How did you come to choose John Petre for MC? - he was really a winner. And finally, wasn't our dear old Lionel Howes delightful?
The boys of the 133, I am sure feel a couple of inches taller and a few years younger today. "
Syd Porter,( just a Gunner).

"I was delighted and privileged to be able play a very small part in such a tremendous day for the men of the 133 and their families"
John Petre, (Son of Bert Petre and our MC for the reunion)

"Thanks for a great day. Thanks to your research we can now appreciate Dad's efforts in the war. As you said they don't say much, and now we understand."
Family members of Bdr. Gary Cooper

"It has been a great day for me, I have not seen these men since the war finished. I am here by accident, my son in law seen the article in the Leader, many thanks for a wonderful day"
Errol Hughes

"It was a real tonic to be present today, to meet a few cobbers from 60 year ago. To hear stories of Fenton days brought back memories and profound feelings."
Laurie Boxhall, from Tasmania

"All in all, it was a very emotional, happy, impressive, well planned day."
Anne Petre Black, (Daughter Gnr Bert Petre)

"I think it was the best reunion I have ever been too. I had a great time. You were fantastic and the men were just beyond belief. I have never seen such a group of great guys like them. And I am just a little bit sad that we did not get more curious about dad and his involvement in the war a bit earlier. Just like Lionel Howes said "he wished you had organised this reunion 20 years ago". But on the other hand everyone had a great time I think most of them did not want to leave. In talking to some of the families I think a lot of people have a different opinion of the importance of Fenton, including some of the men themselves !!! "
Bill Meani (Son of Bill Meani)
Everyone that attended the reunion received a 133rd colour patch lapel pin and a file of dirt taken from the gun revetments at Fenton. The packaging was hand made by Joan and Yvonne Meani.
Major Alan Randle and extracts from his speech below.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a wonderful day for me personally, and I think it is a wonderful day for the men of the 133, for those who are still alive and remember the part we played in the defence of Australia.

There was nobody else that took such a big part that the 133 did, in going to Fenton and supporting Australia and the American Air Force. The American's were a wonderful crew of men, I possibly more so than you, got to know them. They were very friendly and very capable and they flew some of the longest sorties out of Australia, out of Fenton field more importantly, in other words Fenton Field was the biggest base the American forces had in Australia. They went around and did the damage in the islands to such an extent that the Japanese decided enough is enough.

They always acknowledged the part the 133 Battery played in giving protection to their planes and personnel at Fenton Field. Unfortunately, the annals of history don't give the credit that's due to the 133rd, you men that are left and are here today, have a right to take a great pride in what you did and I certainly take a great pride in having the honour of having you serve Australia to the best of your ability and it was a darn good ability.

I think what you did was sufficient to make the Japanese forces realise there was somebody, somewhere and in particularly Fenton, who were prepared to fight for Australia. There are no other Batteries of anti aircraft guns who made the journey that we did from about the 7th May 1943.

Colonial Long the CO of the 101 Reg had in his mind to select you men, our battery, for their adoption of the difficulties of war, coming from Infantry, taking on the heavy work of anti aircraft guns. Our existence in the 133 from that day, finally getting to the stage to the mobile battery that we were, we manoeuvred down and went from a place called Tocumwal on the NSW/VIC border and went by rail south through the outskirts of Melbourne across to Adelaide from there we went further north on the train.

I remember very vividly going back into the train that was taking 6 to 8 men to a carriage, freezing cold. Many people have done the journey since, but certainly not under the conditions of you men. You would remember the conditions were a problem and you carried this out with great courage, into an area, probably one of the loneliest looking areas, with no facilities whatsoever at Fenton Field in support of the American bombing forces.

I came from the original 2/2nd AA Reg. some of my ex battery boys went to NG, but they didn't do anything from Australia. Darwin, was clearly the Fortress for Australia in that area against the invading Japanese coming from the Islands they occupied. So, you can take great pride in what you did, I am a very proud person of the men who I had the honour of commanding.

There is one regret that I have, you went on till November 1944, I left under orders and went further away to Borneo. At Darwin, where I went to from Fenton for a short time, I cruised Darwin Harbour in a very smart launch and seen various sights there, so I know Darwin was not as nearly as tough as Fenton.

However, the disappointing thing to me, there has been no official recognition of your service during that time and fortunately I hope we are on the track of doing something through the wonderful young Lady whom you all know Vanessa, daughter of Bill and Joan Meani, a great solider Bill and with his mates did their job. Vanessa has taken up the matter on your behalf to get recognition, which you richly deserve.

It has been a great day for me personally to see all the faces that I once knew as boys, that may of known me as the 'so and so' old Major, it's been a tremendous day, a highlight of my life and I thank you very much for it.