Andrew Coroneo

Andrew Coroneo was born in Armidale, NSW, his parents coming from the Island of Kythera, Greece in the early 1900's when very young. After the war he lived in Vaucluse attending Vaucluse Public and Randwick Boys' High Schools, then Sydney University. He worked as a pharmacist and later owned a travel agency in Woollahra.

[This recollection is an extract, reproduced with permission, from 'As I remember : recollections of World War II by members of the Woollahra History and Heritage Society and the Eastern suburbs division of the Legacy Club of Sydney', published by the Woollahra History and Heritage Society (WHHS) in 1995.]

My earliest recollection of World War II is the series of military convoys grinding noisily up the New England Highway outside my family home in Marsh Street, Armidale moving north to Queensland.

To a six to seven year old boy at the time, the excitement of motorised field guns, American camouflaged half-tracks and trucks - these were very distinctive in shape and colour - driving past one's humdrum country home in such large numbers was almost unbearable. I cannot be sure, but the convoys seemed very frequent, sufficiently for me to be counting the total number of vehicles each time, to see how much numerically larger the next convoy would be - I think the record was around 200 separate vehicles.

At about the same time, I remember the visits to our home on their way to Moree from occasional military leave of cousins Spiro (Bill) and George Gengos - a recently retired doctor. The memory of Bill's striking RAAF pilot's uniform is still vivid in my memory of childhood. In recent years, I think of that handsome young man often - the only member of our family to have sacrificed his life in either World War for our 'adopted' country. Bill Gengos was lost over Tobruk, while serving with 108 Squadron RAF, on secondment from 458 Squadron RAAF. It was a sad loss to his loving family and to the New South Wales legal profession which he had looked forward to join.

In 1943, the Alex Coroneo family moved to Scone, where my cinema exhibitor father purchased the historic former Bank of NSW building in Liverpool Street - at an earlier time this was the town's main street. This is still owned by the Theo Coroneo family, successors to my father as operators of the Civic Theatre. This former bank building previously had been owned by the Australian Army and I remember my mother gathering up several boxes of live ammunition of various calibre before setting to, as she said "to clean up the building for human habitation". A 'pre-ordained' military discipline remains strongly in my memories of this wonderful house and home in Scone.

Then the Allies invaded Europe. It was my daily duty to run over the railway crossing next door and the 100 yards up to the corner of the Post Office to post our mail and buy the daily newspapers from the adjacent newsagency. On the front page appeared an outline map each day of the Allied Armies' advance across Europe on both the Eastern and Western Fronts towards Berlin. With boyish excitement, I would run home to announce "We've captured Rheims!" or "We've totally surrounded Dusseldorf!" Little did I realise then of the enormous cost in human lives and suffering. Uppermost in my thoughts was a· childish anticipation of success - a Nintendo game of my generation, really - as each European town and city and river and national border was predictably surrounded and overrun by a deepening wave of solid black ink. The occasional unsuspected city would resist capture for several days and I recall clearly that, on such days, all my willpower and concentration were called into play.

Soon after the Japanese attack on Sydney Harbour and following shelling of the Eastern Suburbs, my father fortunately purchased our family home in Village High Road, Vaucluse from a business friend who was in the course of rapidly and somewhat un-valorously removing his famous cake shop from Castlereagh Street, Sydney to Katoomba. Of course, the Coroneo family moved into occupation of the Village High Road house from Scone only after all hostilities in the Pacific had ceased!

My final recollection of the war is of playing in my very early teens in the filled-in gun emplacements near the cliff edge at what is now very peaceful and scenic Christison Park, Vaucluse. With judicious scraping away of the sand-fill, it was possible to squeeze under the surrounding circular concrete overhang of the gun-pit and thence wriggle into the adjoining magazine rooms. Some years ago, I sought to relocate these simply-covered-over gun emplacements, the adventure ground of my youth. This was unsuccessful no doubt due to Woollahra and Waverley Councils' very effective landscaping and plantings of native vegetation - peacetime camouflage!

Andrew Coroneo, a WHHS member, was born in Armidale, NSW, his parents coming from the Island of Kythera, Greece in the early 1900's when very young. Since the war he has lived in Vaucluse attending Vaucluse Public and Randwick Boys' High Schools, then Sydney University. He worked as a pharmacist and now owns a travel agency in Woollahra.