St Paddy of Bicton

ST PATRICK may be one of the world’s most-loved saints, but World War II veteran Patrick Cottrill would give him a run for his money in the Bicton-Palmyra area.

The father of two and grandfather of five celebrated his 90th birthday at the Bicton RSL on the day before St Paddy’s last week.

Mr Cottrill and fellow local legend Steve Marsh, 92, are the only remaining World War II veterans at the club.

Patrick, who was just 18 when the war was in full swing, was on the home front training at Cowra, Bathurst and at the Canungra Jungle training centre in Queensland.

At the end of the war he was sent off to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

• Patrick Cottrill celebrating his 90th birthday with his daughters and fellow World War II veteran Steve Marsh. Photo by Charlie Smith

“I only just finished my training when they dropped the bomb,” Mr Cottrill says.

“I was in Japan by 1946 and it had been dropped in August 1945.

“It was just total devastation: people injured, ordinary people, and they were suddenly starving.”

Years later Mr Cottrill’s granddaughter Siobhan went on a school trip to Japan and visited Hiroshima, where her grandpa completed most of his service, and the peace museum.

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like for grandpa to see it all bombed out and blackened,” she says.

After his service, Mr Cottrill endured his fair share of hardship.

He worked as a wharfie for six years until he was hospitalised for nine months with tuberculosis, a nasty vestige of his service in Japan.

His youngest daughter Leah said they had a great upbringing and always remembers her dad as a hard grafter.

“Dad went to work when he was 13 to look after his brothers and sisters, and they lived through the depression which had a huge impact on people,” she says.

During his chat with the Chook, Mr Cottrill was paid a visit from from his friend, legendary Freo barber and musician Norm Wrightson.

The pair reminisced about the days when Norm’s orchestra pulled crowds to Victoria Hall on Saturday nights. They used to be neighbours on Wrexham Street and say the community would come together for gatherings, including bonfires on Guy Fawkes night.

Mr Cottrill still manages down to the Bicton RSL every Friday night.

by CHARLIE SMITH

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