By David Bailey
DESPITE the best efforts of a German sniper during the Battle of Crete, an RSLWA Life Member is celebrating his 100th birthday today.
Bunbury Veteran Richard Norman Eaton (known to family and friends as Norm), was born in Goomalling, spending his formative years in the Wheatbelt town before moving to Perth in the 1930s.
After a stint in the Citizen Militia Forces in 1939. he joined the 2/11th Battalion in November of that year and, after training in New South Wales, was posted to the Middle East.
Norm, after taking part in successful campaigns at Bardia, Tobruk and then around Benghazi, found a new role becoming a dispatch rider for the battalion.
He swapped the desert and his two wheels for the back of a truck, after the 2/11th were shipped to Greece in a disastrous attempt to stop the Germans as they moved to take control the Balkans in April 1941.
“We should never have gone, we had 303 rifles with which to try and stop Panzer tanks,” he said.
The battalion evacuated to the island of Crete, where they faced a large-scale attack from the Fallschirmjäger, Hitler’s much-vaunted paratroopers.
Norm said he could still remember the sky filling with dots as the brilliant white parachutes billowed against the azure skies, the invaders drifting down through a hail of fire from the men below.
Mr Eaton was wounded by an enemy sniper on the first day of battle.
Despite their best efforts, the defenders were overwhelmed and Norm became a POW. He would spend the next four years in prison camps across Europe.
Happy Birthday to the former biker from Bunbury, a proud member of the RSL for more than 70 years.