At Earle Horne’s funeral on Thursday 1 August we heard from his son-in-law Richard that Earle joined the army when World War II broke out, at just 16 years of age.
In February 1941 he was sent to Singapore with the 2/18 Division, captured by the Japanese and held in Changi POW camp for two and a half years. He turned 21 in Changi. We heard that he used to break into the guards’ supplies to liberate Red Cross stores – food and other provisions. Sometimes cigarettes. Not that he talked about those years much. He contracted Beriberi from malnutrition, and his eyes were never the same.
Earle made it home in 1946, met Joan at the autumn dance that year, and they married in April 1947. They soon bought Merrydale on the eastern outskirts of Quaama village, clearing the land and building a successful dairy farm, later turning to beef. There they brought up five kids: Jennifer, Margaret, Elizabeth, Brett and Debby.
A regular at Bega Races, Earle knew his horses. One day he took Margaret and Elizabeth and backed nine winners straight. The phone would start ringing early on Melbourne Cup Day for Earle’s hot tip, and he was usually right.
Always a hard worker, he was still a common sight on his tractor or Gator at 88 years of age.
Earle just hadn’t been the same since losing Joan in August 2011, and Debby, suddenly, not much later. He spent the last eight months at Hillgrove House in Bega, where he died on Thursday 25 July, aged 90.
Raymond Earle Horne: husband, father, farmer, punter. But as the Last Post sounded at the graveside on 1 August, the image that arose was of a young, strapping Earle, stealthily exiting the supply tent in the steamy, Singapore night and hurrying back to his quarters, his coat bulging with cigarettes for his POW mates.
First published in The Triangle community newspaper, September 2013