Cruise liner a reminder of turbulent era for WWII veteran

Albany Advertiser
Peter Munro's with his Member of the Order of Knights of the French Legion de Honour medal.
Camera IconPeter Munro's with his Member of the Order of Knights of the French Legion de Honour medal. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

In another time and place, Peter Munro had the task of escorting the RMS Queen Elizabeth on its treacherous journey across the Atlantic during World War II.

His Sunderland Flying Boat crew scanned the surface for signs of Nazi submarines as the Battle of the Atlantic stretched into its fifth year.

That was more than 75 years ago.

On Saturday, aged 94, the Queen Elizabeth escorted him to Albany.

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This Queen Elizabeth was different — a far more modern cruise ship which had never doubled as a wartime troop carrier like its predecessor.

But the poetry of the situation was not lost on Mr Munro.

It was what motivated him to sign up for the trip from Fremantle to Melbourne in the first place.

WWII veteran Peter Munro.
Camera IconWWII veteran Peter Munro.

“I was a tail gunner in the Battle of the Atlantic and one of my jobs was escorting the original Queen Elizabeth,” he said.

“It was just a sentimental attraction. I have family in Melbourne — I fly over there normally.”

The Perth man is no stranger to Albany. His grandmother married the Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper, his father worked in Albany as a water police officer, and one of his brothers was born in the city.

In 2015, Mr Munro received the French Legion of Honour — the highest military honour given by France — for his role in the Battle of the Atlantic with 10 Squadron.

He was 19 during his active service, having enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as soon as he turned 18 because he felt it was his responsibility and it sounded like an adventure.

He followed his five brothers into war and came home with four.

Entries in Peter Munro's service log book, including “escorting Queen Elizabeth”.
Camera IconEntries in Peter Munro's service log book, including “escorting Queen Elizabeth”. Credit: Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

“I was on leave in London when it all ended and I was part of the screaming, celebrating throng,” he said. “I was there screaming with the rest of the mob at the gates of the palace.”

Mr Munro was accompanied on his cruise ship voyag to Albany by his youngest son. The pair have previously visited Albany and the National Anzac Centre together.

He has particular affection for Albany because of the city’s Anzac legacy and emphasis on remembrance. As far as he knows, there is only one other member of 10 Squadron left in WA.

“You can’t just turn your back on the people who served,” Mr Munro said. “It would be an obscenity to just turn your back and say ‘thank God the war’s over’.

“You have to keep their memory alive.”

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