When I began practice as a dentist in Tamworth in 1965, not a day went by without treating a veteran.
Military life and diet had caused a great deal of dental damage and there was never any shortage of cigarettes or sweets.
They were great blokes and some real characters.
One that my staff and I became very fond of was a man called Harry.
He spent a lot of time at our place, and it seemed that each time he came in a bit more of him had been chopped off and we had to lift his two tin legs up into the chair.
The Tamara staff of that era also knew him well.
He never complained and his lovely wife, Vera was a saint who looked after him in all the tough moments.
Not long after he died another friend said to me: "Did you know that your friend Harry blew open a safe?"
What followed was a slightly mixed story of a war-time exploit in New Guinea.
Many years later Westpac published a large table book to celebrate their 200th anniversary, and lo-and-behold there is a full page photo and story of breaking into the strongroom at the Bank of NSW in Wau, New Guinea.
The photos were taken by our most famous war photographer, Damien Parer and there was Harry.
My next reaction was to wonder why a village in Papua New Guinea had a bank with a strongroom of that size.
Delving into Phillip Bradley's well-researched book, WAU 1942- 1943, gave some answers.
Wau in the 1930s was the centre of the most prosperous area of New Guinea. It is in the northern foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges about 50 kilometres inland from the coast.
The wealth came from large quantities of easily accessible alluvial gold.
Anyone familiar with the Bank of NSW knows they always followed the gold.
Wau had an airstrip which made it important tactically in the military campaigns of 1942-43 and the Japanese were determined to capture Wau.
Japanese carrier-based bombers carried out heavy raids on Wau and its airfield early in February 1942, reducing the bank to rubble except for its strongroom.
In a panic some poor decisions were made, and some key infrastructure and bridges were destroyed by our troops supposedly to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese.
The airstrip was repaired and Australian reinforcements flown in in Dakota DC3 transports.
What was kept quiet was the information that the strongroom contained $28,000 in silver needed to pay the native carriers who kept the supplies up to a commando unit.
So a full five months later, the manager, Arthur Byrne, returned to Wau with an Australian engineering unit to open the safe as he had given the key to a staff member who left the area.
To show his gratitude to the engineers, Mr Byrne gave each soldier a pre-war bank cheque for £597 (about $52,000 in today's currency).
Harry put his cheque in his top pocket, where it stayed for a long time with sweat and rain.
He made a belated effort to patch it up, and the patched-up cheque is the final proof of the story. His son Richard still has the cheque.
Wau was defended resolutely over the next 12 months at a great cost in Australian lives.
Harry returned to Tamworth to marry local girl, Vera Nugent.
Older residents may remember her as a tall elegant lady who for many years was the manageress of the Chic Salon in Peel Street.
She was well known as a singer and was a stalwart of the musical society, arts council and eisteddfod societies before and after the war.
Vera also served as an ambulance transport driver attached to the 102nd Military Hospital, which was where Nazareth House is today.
Their two sons, Don and Richard, were born after the war.
Harry worked as a plant manager for the soil conservation service.
He died aged 81 in 2001.
Bruce Stewart OAM