Athol Greaves served in the Lighthorse Brigade.
Athol Greaves served in the Lighthorse Brigade. Contributed

103 birthday candles for Athol Greaves

NOT many people can lay claim to a lifetime superseding a century.

But on Friday, September 7, veteran Athol Greaves turned 103 and could do just that.

Athol Greaves pictured on his 103rd birthday.
Athol Greaves pictured on his 103rd birthday. Amani Vassiliou

"It's not very often we have a man floating around who is over 103 years,” Chinchilla RSL Sub-Branch president Bill Belcher remarked to a small gathering of Athol's friends and family.

Meeting over morning tea, they gathered to mark the special day and look back on an extraordinary life.

A life that began in 1915 when Athol was born in Mount Perry to father John and mother Nellie.

He and his siblings Valentine, Kevin, Joyce and Irene grew up on a vast cattle station in the Upper Burnett Region.

Although schooled by his mother Nellie, Athol could more easily be found on horseback, helping with mustering and stock work.

At about the age of 19,in 1934, Athol left the family property to enlist in the Light Horse Brigade.

Those childhood years spent riding horses laid the perfect foundation to qualify him for entry into the 5th Light Horse Regiment, whom he trained alongside in Mundubbera until it's disbandment in 1940.

"There were some good lads among them. There were some scallywags among them too,” Mr Greaves told Chinchilla News with a smile in 2015.

In 1943, Athol was drafted to the 2/9th Australian Infantry Battalion's 18th Brigade, 7th Division.

Lance Corporal Athol Greaves.
Lance Corporal Athol Greaves. Contributed

The brigade was sent to Papua New Guinea to partake in the fierce battle being waged with the Japanese in the dense jungle of Shaggy Ridge.

Athol was tasked with escorting the native bearers on a seven hour journey up the ridge with vital supplies for the Australian Army.

After the war, Athol returned to Australia and was sent to Canungra Training Centre.

There he passed on knowledge gained from New Guinea partaking in the art of jungle warfare.

However, not long after, in an attempt to put memories of the war in the past, Athol found his way back to country life.

His father had purchased a grazing property 50 miles north of Chinchilla on the Auburn Road called Bingleburra and Athol took on work as a stockman and grazier.

A twist of fate at his best friend's wedding, led Athol to meet his future wife, Myrtle.

Following a courtship imbued with the charm of the 1950s, the two were married on September 5, 1959 and settled at Bingleburra.

Last Wednesday, Athol and Myrtle celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary.

Athol and Myrtle Greaves at their home in 2015 when Athol turned 100.
Athol and Myrtle Greaves at their home in 2015 when Athol turned 100. Alana Calvert

"The thing about Dad and Mum is they never think about age,” Athol's daughter, Ann reflected.

"Dad has always had a positive disposition on each day.

"He will wake up in the morning, look out at the horses or the chooks and say 'oh isn't it a beautiful day, look at the sunshine'.

"Whereas someone else may get up and say something totally opposite, Dad always looks for the beauty in each and every day.”

This life-long commitment to positivity was on full display in Athol's eyes at the morning tea celebrations.

"I'm feeling good today,” Athol said happily as he munched on sandwiches and cake.

"I didn't know they were putting on a party for me, it's a nice surprise.”

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