DENNIS DAVIS turned 100 on Sunday and walked down to St Bernadette’s Church at Castle Hill, as he does every morning to celebrate Mass.
This Sunday, the mass was followed by a special presentation of a framed Papal Blessing from Pope Francis.
His unit is now home to a huge collection of cards that have kept the postal service busy, plus cards from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Governor General Sir David Hurley.
The World War II veteran is not your typical centurion. Mr Davis makes sure he walks at least 4km every day, without even a walking stick.
The grandfather of seven and great grandfather of 19 spent his birthday weekend with his daughters Linda Power and Maureen Brown.
COVID-19 put a stop to the plans for a big family party but he returned home to Castle Hill to a rousing reception on Monday as residents, joined by Hills Shire Mayor Michelle Byrne, gathered in the car park to sing him happy birthday.
He also puts it down to good genetics.
Mr Davis was just 17 when his family left their London home in the UK and migrated to Australia in 1937.
“It was in February. I couldn’t breathe, it was so hot. We had left an English winter.”
He was working as a clerk with the State Tax Office when World War II broke out.
“Life was wonderful, I had a job and a girlfriend and then the war came.”
He signed up for the AIF during his lunch break after news broke about the Battle of Dunkirk (May 26 to June 4, 1940) when nearly 340,000 British and Allied troops were evacuated from Dunkirk to England as German forces closed in on them.
“The war had got serious and I wanted to volunteer rather than be conscripted,” he said.
He served in the 9thDivision AIF in the Middle East and is one of the few remaining famous “Rats of Tobruk”.
He turned 21 while at Tobruk. “I just thought, I am 21 today and that was it.”
During his five years and four months of war service he took part in five different campaigns and says God was his constant companion while serving in Africa, the Middle East, New Guinea and Borneo.
“Every morning I prayed to live through to the night. And every night I prayed to make it through until morning.”
He says the hardest to deal with was being apart from his fiancé, Margaret McNally.She was only 18 and he 20 when he left to serve his country.
The couple were married on March 6, 1943 and celebrated 61 years together before Margaret died in 2004.
“I lost my sight (to macular degeneration linked to his war service) and my wife in the same year, it was the worst year of my life,” he says. “My two daughters have been the backbone of my life since then.”
He is indebted to the support of Vision Australia. “They taught me to touch type, my daughters said I should write the story of my life, so I did that.”
His 400-page book:‘The Story of a Lifetime,’ was written for his family.
“It is the best thing I ever did,” he says. “I had just lost my wife and I was feeling bad. But as I remembered my life, I thought how blessed I had been.”
Instead of presents he has asked people to donate to Vision Australia. His daughter has set up a Dennis Davis turns 100 birthday page: myvision.visionaustralia.org/fundraisers/lindapower