The gunfire in the skies above New Guinea during World War II were like a fireworks display, according to Warrnambool's Keith Keilar.
The 99-year-old was first deployed to Palestine for 12 months before being send to New Guinea after signing up in 1940 at the age of 20.
Mr Keilar was a contractor in Woolsthorpe working on trucks building roads across the district when he joined the war effort.
He left Australia for Palestine aboard the Queen Mary which was part of a convoy of three ships including the luxury liners Aquatania and Queen Elizabeth which had been converted to troop ships.
"It was rough as billy-oh going through the Bight. No one was allowed on deck. It was a closed ship. No one was allowed on the promenade deck even, it was that rough," he said.
"After we got into the Indian Ocean it was plain sailing. It was calm."
The journey included a stop in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, which provided a refreshing stop for the troops.
"When we were there it poured with rain. We only had salt water to bath in and when it poured with rain we all got out and stripped off in the fresh water," he said. "It was great."
Mr Keilar was reinforcement for the 2/3rd battery which had been fighting in Crete, and joined them when they returned to Palestine.
For 12 months he was stationed at Hill 95 in Palestine where he underwent training, and he never saw conflict during that time.
Mr Keilar has fond memories of his time there.
"You only think of the good times don't you," he said. "You enjoyed life. We swam in the Mediterranean. It had a terrible undertow. Before you knew it you were ankle deep in the sand, down she went."
For entertainment they would have camel races.
After he came home from the Middle East he was later deployed to Papua New Guinea where he spent about 12 months near Milne Bay protecting the American Liberty ships.
Mr Keilar was part of the anti-aircraft regiment using Bofors 40mm gun to to keep enough flak in the air to stop the Japanese aircraft from coming in low.
He said most of the aircraft they had to deal with were the bombers because the Japanese fighter planes, called Zeros, only had enough petrol to get there but didn't have enough to return home.
"A bomb fell through one bloke's tent on the gun site there," he said. "Straight down between the two beds. It was a dud."
It happened under the cover of darkness and wasn't far from where Mr Keilar was on duty on a the guns in a dugout.
But he said it was "close enough".
He said even if it had exploded, he probably would have been safe because he was sheltered in a dugout.
"It would have blown everything to pieces," he said, including the tent where he usually slept.
They then had to detonate the "damned thing", he said.
Mr Keilar said he saw plenty of planes come down during the heat of battle in the skies.
"There was that much flak in the air," he said. "You're lucky if you hit one. Our guns only went so high to keep the planes up at the heavy ack-ack
"It was like a fireworks display. You'd see tracer bullets."
When the war ended, Mr Keilar was back in Brisbane on rest and recuperation.
He returned to Woolsthorpe and went back to work building Cassidys Bridge over the Merri River on Caramut Road.
"I was out of the army one week when bang," he said.
After getting through the war uninjured, an accident while working on the bridge severed his finger.
"It could have taken my whole hand off."
However, he went on to play football for Woolsthorpe and Caramut.
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