By HARRY CLARKE
AFTER more than 80 years of community service, beginning with his deployment to New Guinea during World War II, Miles army veteran Eric Douglas Geldard has been appointed to the prestigious Order of Australia.
Geldard received the honour during a private investiture ceremony in Miles hosted by Her Excellency, Queensland Governor Jeannette Young, who made a special trip out from Brisbane for the occasion.
The Order of Australia is an honours system which confers the country’s highest recognition for outstanding achievement and community service.
The Order of Australia Medal given to Geldard recognises his decades of service to the Miles community through leadership roles within the Freemasons, Miles Show Society, Dogwood Rural Fire Brigade and former Murilla Shire Council.
Geldard was also the founding chairman of the Toowoomba and Golden West Regional Tourism Association which has helped attract countless visitors to the area since its establishment in the 1980s.
“I am delighted to be hosting this very special private investiture ceremony today in honour of a Queenslander who’s dedicated his entire life to the community of Miles,” the Governor told a gathering of Geldard’s extended family and friends, and Western Downs councillors.
“In making this contribution Mr Geldard has followed the example of his parents, who instilled in him the belief that every person should try to put something back into the community.”
Her Excellency told the Caller: “This was very, very special because you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this number of people take time out travel to Brisbane”.
“Given that Mr Geldard was born here, had his farm here, raised four children here and did all of that community work makes it very special to have this ceremony here,” she said.
“Most ceremonies happen in Brisbane or Townsville or Cairns, but it’s very special to be able to come out here, and it’s a lovely place to visit as well.”
Geldard is believed to be one of very few World War II veterans alive today who were carried from the highlands of New Guinea by the local “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” during the Japanese invasion, which began in 1942.
He was 19-years-old when he joined the army, becoming a Commando before deployment.
His remarkable story of being accidentally shot through both legs and almost killed in 1945 was chronicled by the Australian War Memorial during his visit to Canberra in 2018.
After 15 months spent recovering at the Greenslopes Hospital in Brisbane, Geldard returned to Miles for a life on the land as a farmer and grazier, as well as being a devoted community serviceman.
He had four children – Graham, Douglas, Margaret and Jennifer – and has several grandchildren and great grandchildren, many of whom remain in the Miles area.
He also committed his life to ensuring future generations remembered the sacrifices of those who went to war.
Among his many initiatives in this area were his efforts in compiling portrait photographs of all 100 servicemen and women from the Miles district who served in WWII.
The portraits are on display at the Miles Historical Village Museum. “I’m a bit proud of that,” he told the Australian War Memorial.
Geldard yesterday told the Caller he was initially “a little undecided” about the prestigious honour of the being awarded the OAM.
“I was taken by surprise when I was first told about it, but it is nice to be recognised for whatever we’ve been able to do in the past,” he said.