A life of service
The words ‘drill instructor’ might be enough to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who has served in the armed forces, but it would be difficult to find one more amiable and down-to-earth as Belrose Country Club resident Charles Watson.
Born in Granville, Sydney in 1935, Charles spent his early years between the city and the regional town of Young as his flour miller father sought work during the tough Depression and war years.
After six months of national service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 1954, Charles signed up permanently, in what would be the start of an eventful 23-year career.
“I joined the air force as a steward, then remustered – what they call a job change – to a drill instructor, much to the sorrow of some of the recruits,” Charles said. “I was at Richmond and was being transferred up to Rathmines, and written in chalk across my trunk was ‘Goodbye to the Boy Bastard’. A term of endearment, I feel!”
Charles went on to serve domestically in all states bar Tasmania, and complete significant international postings.
“I originally went to Malaysia during the [1963-1966] confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia. It was a political confrontation in which we thought the communists were going to take over Butterworth, so we were seconded to Butterworth as a force to protect the airfield there. A confrontation didn’t eventuate, thankfully, and I was transferred up to Ubon in Thailand for six months.”
After getting married and completing a further two-and-a-half-year posting in Butterworth, Charles decided to settle down in Australia to ensure his two young daughters could receive a stable education.
The Sydney Hilton was his next destination, where he took up a position as Assistant Manager, then Security Manager.
“It didn’t really need a great adjustment as I was used to that sort of work,” Charles said. “It was a function of the Assistant Managers to meet VIPs, as we called them, and take them to their suite. Alan Bond visited. Olivia Newton-John was there once. Sir Donald Bradman and Lady Bradman. I enjoyed the work.”
In recent years, Charles has been a Justice of the Peace, and treasurer of both the National Servicemen’s Association and Legacy. ANZAC Day is always an important event on his calendar.
“The National Servicemen’s Association is a close-knitted bunch of guys,” Charles said. “We send different people out to attend services as they start at 4:30 in the morning and finish at nightfall. We held a pre-ANZAC Day at the village on Friday 21st April, at which I officiated, together with management.”
Now in his ninth year at Belrose Country Club Retirement Village, Charles enjoys the many benefits of the friendly and active community.
“I enjoy the companionship here,” he said. “A group of us frequent the club on a Thursday for Happy Hour. We go out together on trips and socialise outside the village together. We have small parties together in the village and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. We’re in retirement and enjoying things – especially the red wine!”