Mudgee resident Leanne Wicks was told stories about her great uncle’s escape from the torpedoed Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur throughout her childhood.
The vessel was destroyed by a Japanese submarine on it’s way back from a trip to Port Moresby where it was collecting wounded Australians.
Her grandmother used to spin yarns about Fred’s arduous 35-hour struggle that followed the sinking of the ship, and how he had to brave shark-infested waters until he and his mates were rescued.
What she didn’t know was that her great uncle Fred Chidgey, who was on the ship as a dental assistant, had recorded a 60 minute memoir in 1979, 36 years after the occurrence and just four years before his death.
The recording was in response to a set of questions sent to AHS centaur survivors by Chris Milligan who published the event’s definitive book in 1987.
Shortly after being a part of the service in 2009, where a bell was rung 268 times for each descendant, Leanne decided she must track down the cassette tape containing the account and transcribe it into an official publication.
So here we are… ‘Against the Skyline’ is Wicks’ third book, as the self-published poet has previously released two editions.
Both books were collections of poetry gathered from time spent at the Kandos writers’ group, and the Down the Track Cafe.
This creation however, is the first of it’s kind as Wicks touts it as an “Aussie yarn” with both sad and funny chapters.
Not only is the book a recount of Fred’s experiences, but it features an array of poetry from different people, including a ‘bloody good poem’ from a 13-year-old girl.
Leanne Wicks has been living in Mudgee for almost a year and her 10-year-old son knows all too well about his great, great uncle.
“I’ve got a photo of uncle Fred on my desk,” Wicks said.
“He’s had to put up with all of this for the last five years.”
After choosing the size, font and cover design, Wicks had all 118 pages printed and has began distributing them to shops throughout the country including Colonial Inn Museum in Mudgee.
The event’s 75-year anniversary is in May 2018.