Jack Richard HOPGOOD Update Details

HOPGOOD, Jack Richard

Service Number: 26149
Enlisted: 1 April 1940
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps
Born: Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia, 22 January 1920
Home Town: Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Schooling: Mount Gambier, South Australia
Occupation: Mechanic
Died: Natural Causes, Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia, 14 October 2021, aged 101 years
Cemetery: Carinya Gardens Cemetery, Mount Gambier, South Australia
Memorials: Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
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World War 2 Service

1 Apr 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman, SN 26149, RAAF Ground Training Units, Adelaide
1 Apr 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Corporal, SN 26149
7 Dec 1941: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Corporal, SN 26149, No. 1 Squadron (RAAF), Malaya/Singapore
15 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
15 Feb 1946: Discharged Royal Australian Air Force, Corporal, SN 26149, No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps

Best Friends and Community Icons

By Bec Whetham

Saturday 15 August 2020

Jack Hopgood and Charlie Miller have spent their 75 years after WWII as best friends and community 'icons'

In many ways, Charlie Miller and Jack Hopgood could not be more different. Charlie, a strong left-winger from Melbourne, fired on Japanese troops from a Spitfire during the war. Jack, a self-described "non-entity" from the bush, spent three years in Japanese captivity.

Jack Hopgood and Charlie Miller both served in the Royal Australian Air Force in World War II.
The two veterans met in Mount Gambier after the war and have remained close friends for 75 years.
Both were recently awarded the Order of Australia for their lifetime of service to different causes.
Despite their differences, the two formed a strong friendship after World War II that would span 75 years and leave a lasting legacy in their community.

Jack Hopgood, now aged 100, returned to his hometown of Mount Gambier in South Australia's south-east in 1945.
"When I came back I was still a teenager. I went as a teenager and I came back knowing about the same," Mr Hopgood said.

He had just spent three years in Java, Indonesia and Singapore as a prisoner of war.
In one diary entry he recalls arriving at a prisoner camp in Batavia (Jakarta) where six Australians had just been beheaded in front of 300 Australians.
"They were sadistic and had no degree of predictability," Mr Hopgood said.
By the time freedom came in August 1945, he was not in a hurry to get home.
"I had certain apprehensions. I was very young when I left here, I was 20 and got married. I hadn't seen my wife in a number of years," Mr Hopgood said.

He was offered an air ticket to Australia but opted for the long boat home on the Duntroon.
In comparison, he refers to his friend Charlie Miller's experience of the same war as a "Cook's tour".
Four years his junior, Mr Miller enlisted after Mr Hopgood.
"I was chosen to be a pilot and then I became a flying instructor for six months or so," Mr Miller said.

While Jack and Charlie are most recognised as two of Mount Gambier's remaining WWII veterans, it was not the war that brought them together.
Soon after returning to Mount Gambier, a neighbour of Jack's brought the two veterans together by inviting them to join the Masonry, where they met.
"There was no real allegiance at all until this neighbour across the road brought us together," Mr Hopgood said.
Thanks to a mutual love of red wine and banter, that first meeting developed into a lifelong friendship.

"We tease him [Charlie] unbearably but he just shrugs it off. Fortunately he doesn't take umbrage," Mr Hopgood said.
"Our friendship is one that an outsider would consider, 'how can they bloody get on together'?," Mr Miller said.

One thing they had in common was their incredible work ethic.
Mr Miller's father, a business broker, moved the family to Mount Gambier to run a bakery in an effort to survive the depression.
"He'd never touched a piece of dough in his life," Mr Miller said.
Concerned about his father's inexperience, Charlie put university aside to take up the business after the war.
"The town grew and the bakery grew," Mr Miller said.
"At least half of Mount Gambier had the name Miller on their breakfast table."
The Hopgood name was also well-known.
After returning to Mount Gambier, Jack joined his father's automotive business as a mechanic.
An engineering and business brain, he would go on to run the business as well as chair the Mount Gambier Garages Association.

As well as running their own businesses and starting their own families, Jack and Charlie committed any free time they had to endless causes, boards and committees.
"If anything started, it would need to be Jack or myself or one or two others," Mr Miller said.

The two were recently awarded the Order of Australia for their lasting commitment to Mount Gambier.
Over the years, Mr Hopgood has chaired the Boy Scouts Association, Mount Gambier TAFE and been a founding member of Mount Gambier's Chamber of Commerce, which Charlie Miller is also a life member of.
"We both had strong ideas but the wonderful thing about it was that those ideas were similar ideas," Mr Miller said.

Together they wanted to help build and develop Mount Gambier's business and economy after the depression. Which they did.
Both were president of the local RSL at different times.

One cause close to both their hearts was veteran housing.
"Settlement schemes after World War I were an absolute disaster because the poor fellows were allotted blocks of land which wouldn't grow a pebble," Mr Miller said.
"We were very anxious to make sure that the returned fellows were looked after and we were instrumental, Jack and I, in establishing the RSL as a very strong organisation."

Mr Miller has maintained a close relationship with Legacy for many years.
"He took under his wing the widows of this area and looked after them for goodness knows how many years," Mr Hopgood said.
Many have been influenced by Mr Miller through his involvement with school councils (Mount Gambier High School has a building named after him), the local forestry industry, Duke of Edinburgh youth award, finding housing for disadvantaged persons, and establishing a public library — just to name a few.

Jack Hopgood realises his life could have been very different.
"If I hadn't volunteered then I don't know what would have happened. It would have been a different story all together," Mr Hopgood said.

That said, he has accepted his life's course and even returned to Japan, twice.
"Anger and I don't get on too well. I think it's a waste of good time," Mr Hopgood said.
War seems all but a distant memory for the pair now.
"We've forgotten. It's a different world, a different world all together," Mr Miller said.

"I have no regrets, I've had an extraordinary life in many, many ways."

Known and loved by many in Mount Gambier, the community knows they cannot have a Jack and Charlie forever.
Mayor of Mount Gambier and friend to Jack and Charlie, Lynette Martin, is not looking forward to that.

"Suddenly that piece of Mount Gambier's history will disappear and that is sad but they really will leave such a great legacy," Ms Martin said.
"They are the two most amazing gentlemen."

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Biography contributed

Biography written by Bethany Yates, St Martin's Lutheran College SA attached as a document. Winning entry for 2021 Premier's Anzac Spirit School Prize.