When the call went out to help protect Australia’s northern tip against the Japanese, both Lance Corporal Ces Whap’s grandfathers enlisted in what became the Torres Strait Island Light Infantry Battalion.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Lance Corporal Ces Whap, a patrolman with the 51st Battalion, The Far North Queensland Regiment. Story by Corporal Jacob Joseph. Photo by Leading Seaman Leo Baumgartner.
“Not only were both my grandfathers in the battalion, most of the fighting age males put their hands up to serve,” Lance Corporal Whap said.
“That inspired and motivated me to do my job as best I can.”
The patrolman from 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, didn’t know much about his grandfather’s service other than hearing the odd story growing up.
“They were an inspiration,” Lance Corporal Whap said.
“They stood their ground and kept serving to protect the region.”
From a population of about 4000, more than 800 Torres Strait Islander men had enlisted in the battalion by the end of 1942.
Soldiers from Mabuiag Island, where Lance Corporal Whap and his family live, would have served in B Company or C Company, along with men from all but the most remote islands in the Torres Strait.
Now a father of five, the Torres Strait Islander soldier said he would like to see his children enter service, but ultimately it was up to them.
“My eldest son is leaning towards a career in the military,” he said.
“I’d like to see more put their hands up to follow their father’s and great grandfather’s footsteps and to serve and protect this region.
“Because this region is worth fighting for – it’s our home and a vitally important part of Australia’s northern frontier.”