Cecil Smith had lived at Meroo Meadow in the 1920s and early thirties, just as his great-grandparents had done before him however, the family moved to Camden and it was from there that he joined the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II.
This led to him returning to the district at the end of 1944, in less than ideal circumstances.
On crutches with a fractured leg that was carrying a full-length and heavy leg plaster, Smith arrived at No. 2 Medical Rehabilitation Unit (MRU) located at Jervis Bay on the site that in earlier and later days was the Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell.
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He was housed in a building called Golden Hind, and there was also Westward Ho, naval names continuing to be used despite the residents being airmen.
The MRU was home to a range of recovering airmen of all ranks, with a variety of medical descriptions.
There was a strong emphasis on physiotherapy for the men who were kept busy with standard physical exercises to strengthen the still-functioning parts and even the muscles hidden beneath the plaster casts.
Lawn bowls was one of the activities, even for those who were using crutches. A group of men with an average age of about 20 visited the Nowra club and performed well against the local bowlers of the vintage of Boer War veterans.
Another activity was rowing in small clinker-hulled boats that held just two people. On one occasion Cecil Smith with his leg in plaster was accompanied by a pilot nursing a broken back who had plaster from groin to toe. They managed, but it became difficult when they were required to swap positions in the craft.
There was the occasional treat of the run out to the heads and a close-up look at Point Perpendicular aboard a larger vessel, the Sea Spray. While there was little social activity or female company for the airmen, there was the occasional picnic on the beach.
The medical officer reminded his charges that the presence of alcohol in the body inhibited growth of new tissue, but they made the most of such occasions. Smith's one persistent memory of the beach parties is the difficulty encountered in removing a quantity of sand from the inside of a leg plaster.
Among the many people who spent time at the MRU was a first lieutenant from the US Air Corp with American Indian heritage who was a fighter pilot. When he was leaving he promised to "pick up a plane at Richmond" and return to say "thank-you" and "good-bye". True to his word, he returned one day in a shiny Mustang and gave a 10-minute display of aerobatics and low flying over Jervis Bay before departing.
"I hope he survived the war," Cecil commented.
Another memory for the airmen was the picturesque Vought-Sikorsky Kingfisher aircraft after completing anti-submarine patrols, flying low over the hospital in preparing to land at their St Georges Basin base.
By April 11, 1945 Smith was fit to return to No. 1 Personnel Depot from where he was posted to "Truscott", the No. 58 Operational Base Unit on the north Kimberley coast of Western Australia.
When he was discharged a year later, he was still short of his 20th birthday.
Information thanks to Shoalhaven Historical Society.