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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 April 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 APRIL 2018 9 HISTORY (L-R) Peter and Matina Comino, and Matina’s brother Jack Moulos at the Niagara Cafe in Singleton. Peter Comino (R) with his peers in the Royal Australian Air Force. and attack us from any of these islands." During the day Peter's duties included maintaining the warplanes by checking the rudders and wing flaps. Guard duty at night was lonely and frightening, especially during the ‘graveyard’ shift of 12 midnight to 4.00 am. "It was very dangerous because so much of Morotai was still under the Japanese. The planes were lined up along one side of the airstrip. Because we were short of guards, they had me regularly on the graveyard shift," he recalls. "I was by myself. I used to put my back against a Spitfire and have my Tommy gun with the safety off. I was not game enough to shut my eyes during these four-hour shifts. I did get tired and in those early hours of the morning your eyes play tricks on you. For example . . . when palm trees begin to walk off! You sort of hallucinate. "I was scared. Not long after I was there, there were two guards on the night shift and both were found with their throats cut. So, I was very frightened!" Life's vulnerability is often epitomised by war, as servicemen's lives are taken away so quickly and easily. Soldiers' peers are alive one moment and in another instant they are gone. Peter recounts the story of a replacement pilot who lost his life after arriving at Morotai. "A replacement pilot came up to Morotai. The parachute sergeant, myself and another fellow were talking to him. He was an old boy from St Ignatius College in Sydney. Let us say he arrived on Wednesday; on Thursday he flew out and he was strafing a barge in the Halmaheras and crashed into the sea," he tells. "James Rodgers published two books on the boys from St Ignatius who fought in World War I and World War II. When I attended the author's book launch of the book on the latter, there was this replacement pi- lot's photograph before me. I went up to James Rodgers and said 'See that pilot (as I pointed to the replacement pilot's portrait); I knew him for one day.'" Like so many of his peers, Peter was relieved when the Pacific War ended. "I was on Morotai for six months. One soldier claimed six months on Morotai was equivalent to serving six years in the Middle East," he exclaims. Returning to Australia, the soldiers' discharge from the armed services was based on a points system; as Peter was single, with no children and responsibilities, he was discharged in 1946. Returning to Guyra was an emotional, joyous experience. He recalls "going into our shop in Guyra, I was still wearing my khaki greens. Everyone in Guyra called my father Jack. I [walked in to his butchery and] asked my father 'Jack, can I have a dozen 'starvers' (saveloys)?' and he bent over to get them. When he got up again I said 'Don't you know me, Dad?' “When he realised it was me, he leapt over the counter and embraced me. My brother George and sister Judy were just kids. As I was going into the kitchen to see my mother I picked up George with one arm and Judy with the other." In 1953 Peter married Matina Moulos. Together with her brother Jack Moulos they ran the Niagara Cafe in Singleton. Matina and Peter stayed on in Singleton for 18 years, and their children were all born there. For more information about the No. 79 Squadron see awm. gov.au/collection/U59417 * Vasilis Vasilas would like to thank Leo Comino for organising the interview and Paul Comino and Kerry Corkill for all his support throughout the interview process. Peter Comino (C) with his nephew Leo Comino (L) and historian Vasilis Vasilas (R).
14 April 2018
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