Photography project honours World War II veterans

BANGALOW resident William Craig Hill can remember dropping off supplies on a beach as part of an American Merchant Navy ship only to discover a Japanese patrol was heading their way.

It was during the Second World War and Bill, as he is known, was told to hide in the jungle with another crew member.

He escaped the patrol which killed his fellow crewmembers on the beach and later, under cover of darkness, managed to make his way back to the ship.

IN THE PICTURE: Retired Merchant Seaman, William Hill, will feature in the Reflections: Honouring our World War II Veterans project.
IN THE PICTURE: Retired Merchant Seaman, William Hill, will feature in the Reflections: Honouring our World War II Veterans project. Suze Mcleod

Bill was only 16 years old when he ran away from home and tried to join the Australian Navy.

He was refused because of his age but that didn't deter him.

Knowing the American Merchant Navy was willing to recruit at almost any cost to maintain crews, he applied and became part of what was known as the US Army Small Ships.

Their role in the war was to transport food, water, ammunition, mail, building and medical supplies as well as collect the wounded and repatriate the dead.

His short life was almost ended again when his ship manoeuvred just in time to avoid being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.

Bill's story is just one of the hundreds of thousands to emerge out of the Second World War.

By creating a series of Second World War veteran portraits, the project aims to provide a compelling pictorial record of returned servicemen and women living in Australia, reinforcing the Anzac tradition "We will remember them."

Bangalow photographer Suze McLeod, who took the portrait of William Hill, said it was a privilege to be involved in the project.

"These wonderful men and women are an important part of our history and the stories they have are fabulous," she said.

The Australian Institute of Professional Photography has partnered with the Australian War Memorial and the Returned Services League of Australia for the project, with all portraits to be gifted to the Australian War Memorial.