One extraordinary round trip to return home
IT WAS one hell of a round trip that saw Peter Charles return to the Lockyer Valley.
After finishing high school in Gatton, he spent time working at the Esk Sawmill, had a period driving trucks before mustering cattle in Buaraba for three years.
Then in 1973 he fulfilled a dream he had held since he was a schoolboy, by joining the Royal Australian Navy.
He was stationed as an armourer on the same ship for six years, which was based at Garden Island off Sydney.
But wherever the ship was docked around the world, Mr Charles was also responsible for getting its captain from point A to B as his driver on dry land.
While he was always on call for his official duties, with access to the Holden Kingswood he used to ferry around the ship's skipper, he often found himself at the service of his fellow sailors.
Mr Charles recalls many occasions where, at the end of a long day and just as he was looking forward to a well earned sleep, he was enlisted to drive out and get a late night snack.
"Of course you've got about 30 or 40 sailors on board who were on watch and they all wanted a pizza,” Mr Charles laughed.
"Even when you were going out you'd ask the naval police at the gate, 'do you guys want a pizza too?'”
Mr Charles recalls travelling to Hawaii in 1976 for a naval exercise when he felt the ship lurch suddenly.
Although he thought they might have hit a shipping container, instead it was due to a whale surfacing underneath the ship, which had a chunk taken out of its side after hitting the vessel's propeller.
As the armourer on duty, he was ordered to put it out of its misery so they could continue their journey.
"Looking down the gun barrel at those whale's eyes... it's something I'll never forget,” he said.
"It was the hardest thing I ever did.”
After six years of service to the navy, he called it a day and moved into the mining industry.
He mined for gold in Western Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales, where he met his wife Jacqulene at a dance in Mangrove Mountain, up until he suffered a stroke in 2004.
Complications meant Mr Charles needed to move into a nursing home and he chose to come back to Amaroo in Gatton due to family members still living in the area.
He soon arrived at Tabeel Lutheran Home for more intensive care, where his mother also lives.
"It was a hell of a way to get home but it's nice (to be back),” he chuckled.