Slowing down in life gave Pat Cannard the time she needed to build a new career in retirement. With her husband Ernest, a Korean War veteran, Pat decided to make the most of the opportunity to help share the stories of other veterans from the Korean War, one that she notes is often forgotten about.
For Pat Cannard, being able to share the stories of others has been quite the experience. Diving in and uncovering the stories of Korean War veterans was a path Pat travelled once she had retired and had more free time on her hands. Her life has been filled with many roles including that of wife, mum, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She has enjoyed work in secretarial positions and is now also a writer. In typical fashion of those of her generation (believe it or not she’s now 90!), Pat is humble about her achievements and is happily enjoying life with regular visits from extremely proud family and friends.
“We tried to cover everything in the book. I did stories on the Padres, attached troops from other countries, major speeches by politicians, and Japanese war brides.”
Pat and her husband Ernest moved to Bolton Clarke’s Inverpine Retirement Village at Murrumba Downs in 1999. It was a move that proved to be fruitful, as it gave Pat the time to explore a whole world of research and compilation. With Ernest, a Korean War veteran and part of the organisation’s committee, Pat used to attend meetings and when they were looking for an editor, she was able to help out. Her efforts and dedication to ensuring their stories were shared meant Pat was behind editing and publishing The Digger’s Own Stories with the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment Corporation.
“After we moved in to the village, I was still a national secretary of a women’s organisation, I was a part of a poet’s group, a writer’s group and I even wrote the village newsletter for 20 years, so I had completed a little bit of writing,” Pat says. “We published the Digger’s books while living here at the village, because we had the time to do it.”
Not one to take all the credit for the publication, Pat would also like to make mention of someone who helped her throughout the process.
“I would like to acknowledge the help of Monica Sheppard in selecting stories and proofreading the final product of The Diggers' Own Stories,” she says.
Initially compiled in 2009 and producing two volumes of stories from veterans, Pat admits she laughed and cried at the many things she heard.
“It was mostly veterans of the Korean War, but there weren’t too many battle stories they wanted to share – it was all the funny experiences they had away from the war zones,” she says. “We tried to cover everything in the book. I did stories on the Padres, attached troops from other countries, major speeches by politicians and Japanese war brides.”
The importance behind these stories is not lost on Pat. Obviously she has a personal connection with her own husband being a veteran, but Pat also speaks candidly about the Korean War as “the forgotten war”.
“I get a bit irked, I suppose, as we always hear about World War I and II and Vietnam,” she says. “But Korea in the middle doesn’t get mentioned anywhere near as much. They call it ‘the forgotten war’ but I think we lost something like 330 men in that war over three years. In Vietnam, they lost 500 over 10 years. Not that it’s a competition because none of it is nice in any way, but it’s important to have the recognition.”
Although she lost Ernest in 2011, Pat fondly recalls many memories of their time together, including their travels before settling down at Inverpine. Pat is certainly no stranger to international travel either.
“We spent eight months travelling the country in a caravan, and we went everywhere we could,” she says. “We also travelled overseas a couple of times together. Ernest went to America in 1987 with a group of veterans when they dedicated the Korean War Memorial in Washington, and they got a tour of the White House. I went in 2006 with a group of veterans, but we certainly didn't get the tour of the White House!
“I’ve been to Hong Kong. I went on a pilgrimage to Israel and France and Croatia and we ended up in England. I’ve also been to Italy; that was amazing. South Korea and Egypt also featured in the overseas travel with a bus trip from Cairo across the desert, crossing the Suez Canal by ferry, up through Gaza (before it became a hot bed of trouble) and ending up in Tel Aviv. While I’ve been to many places, my grandson has visited way more countries than me!”
Life has certainly been interesting for Pat, but slowing down and enjoying the smaller things (like family) are certainly more up her alley these days. She was a busy mum, raising five children (two have now passed) and now has eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Proud of her achievements, Pat wouldn’t change a thing, but is there any chance of seeing any more books or published work? It seems she prefers more relaxing times and leisurely lunches with her family, which is definitely well deserved!
“As much as I loved doing everything I’ve achieved, I’m too old to do anything like that now,” she says with a smile.