WWII veteran David Ballingal reading his letter from the Queen on his 100th birthday

Celebrating a century

27 March 2019

It's not every day one of our members turns 100!

“Are these letters all fair dinkum?”

Macleay Island RSL Sub Branch member David Ballingal was blown away at the number of letters he received congratulating him on his 100th birthday – including a coveted missive from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and letters from the Governor-General, other dignitaries and the Royal Australian Navy.

A veteran of World War II, David was the Chief Engine Room Artificer on HMAS Colac. As it was such a small vessel (a Corvette) and he was the senior engineering rating, David was essentially the Engineer Officer.

Two weeks before the end of the war, David was in the engine room when HMAS Colac was hit by a Japanese shore battery. It caused serious flooding, but he kept the engines going until the ship was out of enemy range. David remained on the throttles for a further 20 minutes until the water was chest high, with his hands still on the throttle and his legs floating out behind him.

By the time he evacuated the compartment, the ship was listing heavily to starboard. Once safely on the upper deck, David realised that the boiler room was still manned, so he went back down below through the air locks and got the boiler room crew to secure the boilers and get out. HMAS Colac was patched and then towed by HMAS Swan to Sydney for proper repairs.

He celebrated his special day with his wife Lisa and representatives of the Sub Branch executive, Macleay Island Police and Ambulance Brigades. 

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