Reflections Photography Project

July 13, 2015

Eric and Nancy HansenEric and Nancy HansenWorld War 2 Veteran Eric Hansen - 2/6th Australia Armored Regiment - C Squadron as a Trooper - between 1942 to 1945 seeing action at Milne Bay Papua New Guinea The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) has undertaken this year to commemorate our unsung heroes of World War 2 by photographing as many of the 14,000 now living in Australia - see http://www.aipp.com.au/reflections for more information.

As a fully accredited Master Photographer with the AIPP I am honoured to be able to donate my time to contribute to this massive project. Last Wednesday Sue and I visited one of these amazing veterans in his home as he recently suffered a stroke and is a little frail to visit a studio.  The experience deeply affected both of us and we would like to share a little of it with you.

Walking into the Hansen home was like stepping into Grandma's house.  Although Eric's wife Nancy called it "clutter", we saw it as a priceless store of memories, like the Pensieve in Harry Potter.  Family photos covered so much of the wall space and each one has its own story - we were privileged to hear a few while we were there. Eric was a dairyman before the war.  He loved his milk and usually drank half a gallon a day.  Milk was one of the things he missed most during his service in New Guinea where he was a Trooper in the 2/6th Australia Armoured Regiment - C Squadron. Eric's wife Nancy told us that the boys in WW2 were keen to go to battle in order to protect their families and their country.  They thought they were heading off on a great adventure!  The reality of war must have been terrifying and we can't begin to imagine the horrors they must have heard, seen and endured.  Over and above the physical impact in terms of  injuries there was the shock to the emotions and souls - trauma known as "shell shock".

When we arrived for our 10am appointment, Eric was dressed in his jacket, regimental tie, cap and medals - in fact he had been fully dressed and ready since 5am!  Despite the frailty and impaired vision imposed by the stroke, Eric stood tall and proud for his official photo - it brought a tear to the eye.  None of us knew he would be struck down with pneumonia that very evening!  The inner strength it must have taken to survive the war shone through during our photo shoot.  Eric and Nancy both epitomise what we call "salt of the earth" people - they have a fundamental goodness - who were both called on during those dark days of war to do extraordinary things.  It is a privilege to have an opportunity to immortalise that spirit, in our own small way.

AIPP members are keen to photograph as many of these veterans as possible. If you know of anyone in your family or circle of friends, please tell them about this project and help them get in touch with us or register online at the above address.