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Harold pays tribute to fellow war heroes

in Be Empowered, Latest News, Stories of Independence

He saw active duty overseas, spent his 21st birthday in New Guinea and went on to become a professional cyclist. On Anzac Day in April this year, VisAbility client and former commando, Private Harold Vernon Durant, went outside for a ‘Dawn Driveway’ reflective moment. The 98-year-old wore his Commando beret and his war medals to pay tribute to those former comrades who’d lost their lives.

“It was important to me to show my respect. Covid-19 prevented the usual ceremonies but I still wanted to honour my fallen comrades.’’

Harold Vernon Durant
Former Commando
War hero Harold Durant, smiling sits in his wheelchair with his Commando Beret, and medals on his suit jacket.
War hero Harold Durant pays his respects on Anzac Day

Harold was enlisted into the Commando Unit in 1940 when he was only 18-years-old. As a recruit in the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces, he saw plenty of action.

“To prepare myself for combat, I had to undertake some jungle warfare training in Victoria. All these years later, I remember it well. My trainers were British Commandos who’d served on the front line in France.”

Black and white photo of Harold Durant in his uniform at age 18 when he went to war.
Harold enlisted into the Second World War as a teenager

Helping Harold with independence at home

Harold is one of our older clients. He lost the sight in one eye when he was volunteering as a driver in his early seventies at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. He only has 5% vision in his other one because of macular degeneration.

During COVID-19, we made calls to our clients who were isolating at home. It was during one of these well-being calls that Harold explained about his ‘Driveway at Dawn’ commemoration.

Harold’s been grateful for all the support we’ve given him over the years. Most recently he’s worked with Occupational Therapist, Keearny Maher who was working to imporve his home surroundings.

Harold wanted to improve his independence in his own home. I helped with tactile markings fitted onto home gadgets such as his television controller. I also suggested video magnifiers for reading.

Keearny Maher
Occupational Therapist

Cycling into a much loved career post-war

One of five children, Harold’s mother won the equivalent of $1200 dollars in a crossword competition. With the money, she bought Harold his first bike – a Swansea and it was the start of his love affair with bikes. As a schoolboy he represented Fremantle Christian Brothers in the 1935 State Schoolboy Championships. In 1937 he won the Swansea Consistency Trophy.

Old photo dating back to 1937 with Harold standing next to his Swansea bike just before war broke out.
Harold Durant in 1937 on a
Swansea bike

On return from the war he went to work as manager for the Swansea Cycle and Motorbike Company. He loved the work and the bikes and it only ignited his passion to indulge in competitive cycling.

Swansea Cycle and Motorbike Company was one of Fremantle’s most iconic businesses. Launched in 1927, over the next forty years it became one of Australia’s largest bike makers.

While at Swansea, he received his own custom bike. It was destinctive in design with one side white and the other red.

Ocean sailing adventures

But cycling wasn’t his only passion, Harold was also a keen sailor. His first wife Bettye died in 1985 and he met his second wife Lynette during the America’s Cup Yacht Racing event in Perth 1987. Lynette became crew for his 36 feet yacht ‘Airborn’ and they were members of the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club for many years.

Harold's wife Lynnette stands behind Harold in his wheelchair during the driveway reflection.
Harold and his wife Lynette got up early for the Anzac Day Driveway reflection

While Anzac Day was very different this year because of coronavirus restrictions, Harold ‘Lit up the Dawn’ on his driveway with pride.

“All the neighbours came out to look at me and I did feel special. You never forget that you were part of history and I was very pleased to serve my country.”

We offer a range of therapy services which also includes home modifications. With therapists across WA, we can visit you in your own home, so contact us if you’d like more information on 1800 847 466.