Lismore's last Rat of Tobruk celebrates 100th
THEY lined up in their dozens to embrace and wish well centenarian Joseph Donald Cramp who was celebrating his 100th birthday at the Lismore Workers Club on Saturday.
The Rats of Tobruk World War II veteran reflected fondly on his military service and was delighted to have the company of 120 family and friends, some of whom travelled from all over Australia to be there.
"I'm having a ball, all my family and friends are here and, actually, they all feel like family," Mr Cramp said.
"I don't think there's any way of expressing (my happiness), when you've got old friends visiting from Tamworth to Bundaberg, it's something unreal."
The digger was hand delivered a letter from the Queen and Governor General by the Australian Defence Force and was honoured in a presentation by RSL deputy president Bob Mowle.
"Those blokes (from Tobruk) have set a benchmark forever for the people who serve the forces of our great nation; I am proud to stand near you," Mr Mowle said.
Family said at a young age Mr Cramp "was a bit of a rebel", leaving school early to live with his grandparents at Byron Bay.
Parents Alice and Bart moved to Byron Bay where his dad was a pasteuriser, before running a fruit delivery truck which Mr Cramp had to drove from Byron Bay to Lismore, Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby.
Mr Cramp joined the army in 1940, leaving Australia for England on the Queen Mary and returning on the Queen Mary in November 1945.
After several campaigns in the Middle East, including the Rats of Tobruk, Mr Cramp served in Borneo and Tarakan.
Mr Cramp met and married Eileen Muller on March 16, 1946, who he had five children with.
After return from service, Mr Cramp milked cows, had a bus run and recovered from losing everything in two major floods.
Mr Cramp and his wife enjoyed a busy social life at the Lismore Workers Club and were active members of the Lismore RSL Club.
For the last ten years the couple lived at their daughter's at Logan Village, where Mr Cramp has kept busy mowing lawns.
Mr Cramp said the secret to longevity was "don't drink, don't smoke, don't back slow race horses or go out with fast women."