Paul brings Anzac spirit to life

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

In 1943, a Wyalkatchem farmer chose to go down with his wounded pilot instead of ejecting from a plane over the Arafura Sea.

It was World War II when Air Gunner Bob de Pierres lost his life, fighting for his country.

Despite never meeting his uncle, Paul de Pierres said it was the actions of people like Bob who made Anzac Day the most important day of the year for Australians.

“It’s the one day we reflect on what has been done for us by other Australians and, if we ever forget that, we are going to lose our way,” he said.

Paul served in Vietnam with the Australian Army in 1971. After three months in the Third Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, Paul returned to the farm in Wyalkatchem.

“My first job at home was to move a mob of sheep on the motorbike,” he said.

“I remember feeling a wonderful sense of freedom and gratitude that I was able to be out there in the sunshine, back on my home farm without any worries. I said to myself, ‘Gee, it’s all over and here I am’.”

Paul’s father, uncle and grandfather also fought in wars.

In particular, he remembered the story of his late uncle Bob, a Navigator/Air Gunner in the Air Force, who was gunned down by Japanese while flying over Indonesia.

“He was courageous in the moments before his death, choosing to go down with his wounded pilot instead of ejecting out of the plane.”

Paul’s grandfather, who had already emigrated to Australia from France, was called up by France to fight in World War I.

His grandfather spent four years fighting in France and Belgium.

“He saw hundreds of men killed,” Paul said. “When he came home, like many others, he just put it behind him and went on with his life on the farm.

“To do that, you have got to be made of some good stuff. WWI veterans had a huge load to carry.”

Paul’s father was in the French army during WWII. He served in Vietnam for 18 months, which Paul said was gruelling.

The French soldiers were attacked by Japanese and Thais, who wanted to take back parts of Cambodia that the French had claimed after WWI.

Paul’s father returned to Australia before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, which he said was lucky for the French-Australian men.

Paul has just completed a book about his father’s time in the French army during 1940–41.

Under Two Flags is the story of French reservists living in Australia.

It’s a little-known story of 65 French soldiers living in Australia; many of which were wool buyers.

“The wool buyers came from the wool mills in northern France and were living in Sydney and Melbourne,” Paul said.

“Most of them returned to wool buying, however, one was killed.”

For a copy of the book, email Paul at

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