David Mattiske enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) on 22 June 1943. At 18 years old, he was giving up the prospect of playing for Melbourne Football Club, with which he was training at the time.
David was drafted unexpectedly to HMAS Shropshire. He thinks this may have been due to a chance meeting with well-known Australian naval commander, Captain John Collins.
HMAS Shropshire took part in many of the major actions in the war in the Pacific. In the New Britain operations, it covered the landings at Arawe and Cape Gloucester and the seizure of the Admiralty Islands. It also supported bombardments on other operations, including Morotai. In the Leyte Gulf campaign, David saw many kamikaze attacks.
The fact that Shropshire remained unscathed, David put down to the captain’s skill and the ship’s defensive anti-aircraft armament. David had great respect for both Captain Collins and Captain Nichols, who had commanded the ship.
With the Japanese surrender, David was stationed in Japan to support the occupying forces. He visited the area of South Tokyo, which had been subjected to incendiary bombing raids. Appalled by what he saw, David remembered thinking ‘My God. What have we done to these people?’
David was discharged from the Navy on 5 April 1946.