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He still calls Australia home

The Mens Probus Club of Booragoon held its AGM this month. What made this meeting different was that the club’s most senior member, Gerard Woerlee, had just celebrated his 98th birthday. 

Gerard may be a “senior”, but there is no way you could describe him as old! And he has an incredibly full and interesting story.

Gerard served in the Dutch Army from August 1939 to October 1949, and in 2009 was presented with his service medals by the Deputy Head of Mission for The Kingdom of the Netherlands, who travelled from Canberra especially for the occasion and who quipped that “although it was somewhat belated, it was better late than never”.

The ceremony, which was held at the City of Melville, was also attended by the Dutch Honorary Consul in Perth, the Deputy Mayor for the City of Melville, representatives from various groups Gerard is associated and, of course, his family and friends. The Dutch Choir performed several songs including the Dutch and Australian National Anthems and 'I still Call Australia Home'.

Gerard is very modest about his service during the war and his contributions to Australia since. It would be impossible to do him justice in this short amount of space, but here is a snippet of his story.

Gerard’s initial training was with the horse-drawn artillery. Shortly before the German invasion in May 1940, he was promoted to Corporal of the mounted 70mm artillery. A subsequent battle resulted in heavy losses for the Dutch at the hands of the Germans, who had superior equipment. Gerard managed to escape capture and became a 'loner', sabotaging German trucks and other equipment. His underground activities included spying on the enemy and providing information for the Allies. He was caught spying and sentenced to be executed but managed to escape during an air attack.

Gerard later saw action in Java as a 2nd Lieutenant, was demobilized in October 1949, and moved with his wife and daughter to Australia. Definitely Australia's gain!

The years since migrating to Perth have seen Gerard and his late wife Anna work towards building a business to provide for their four children. Together they built a successful property business. Their daughter Anna now runs the business, while Gerard enjoys participating in many community activities as well as editing the monthly Combined Attadale Probus Newsletter.

Congratulations and happy birthday to Gerard.