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ESO News: Mateship vital for survivor of Tobruk

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Second World War veteran Bob Semple standing in front of the bronze roll of honour panels in the Australian War Memorial’s commemorative area.

Second World War veteran Robert (Bob) Semple.

One of the last surviving Rats of Tobruk, 98-year-old Bob Semple OAM BEM, still wakes at 5.30am each day and goes for a walk as often as he can.

The Melburnian remains the president of the Victorian Rats of Tobruk Association and is the Drum Major of the Hawthorn City Pipe Band and chieftain of Pipe Bands Australia.

In April, he travelled to Canberra to speak at the 2018 Anzac Day National Ceremony.

Mr Semple served with the 2/12th Australian Field Regiment, 9th Australian Division, in the Middle East, New Guinea and Borneo, which ‘presented many challenges to mind and body which required a special type of mateship, discipline and motivation’.

The young Mr Semple marked his 21st birthday in flea-ridden desert holes of Tobruk in 1941, and will never forget the mates he served with there. Friends like these helped him to rebuild his life after the war.

‘To experience by circumstance, and not by design, something money could not buy, something which could not be artificially created, and certainly one of the reasons why we want to get together as often as possible, in the bond of special comradeship, centered on a cause which had a focus for a particular reason, is good for the soul,’ he said on Anzac Day.

After the service, Mr Semple shared some advice for younger veterans facing challenges post-service. He recommended ex-service men and women spend more time with family and friends, drink less alcohol and slow down generally.

‘Instead of talking to your brother or sister on the blower, what about getting on your feet and walking in and eyeballing people?’ he said.

‘Just be patient and drop it back a gear or two.

‘Mark time every now and again to get your balance before you go forward again.’

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