Col’s lifetime of service
BLUE wrens chirp in the garden of 96-year-old Col Randles.
They also greet visitors entering the ‘Randles Nest’ on a plaque centred among those commemorating Col’s dual service – to the country in World War II and Central Queensland ever since.
Born in Bundaberg in June 1923, Col enlisted in the army in 1941.
“That was in the Commonwealth Military Forces,” he said. “I was only eighteen.”
Later, as part of the Australian Imperial Forces, he was posted to an anti-aircraft battery near an airfield at Iron Range that helped load up Allied bombers. He was glad to have avoided administrative work.
“About a quarter of a mile away from the airstrip is where we were camped,” he said.
“The yanks were taking off day and night.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I never, ever wanted to be in charge. I wanted people to tell me to ‘Do this!’ I was happy that was my job.”
After the war, Col worked for the council as a roads construction inspector, working with contractors to help build the highways used today.
“I was on the council here from ‘59 to ‘89,” Col said.
“The roads are mostly bitumen now. We checked workers were doing the right thing.”
In 1958, Col married Edna, and together they helped build up Capella and its surrounds.
“A lot of the originals,” Edna said, meaning longtime Capellians, “if they haven’t passed on, have left the area. But we’re one of them.”
“Col helped put all the bitumen down the highway from Theresa Creek. And he’s planted quite a few trees around town.”
Beside an old photo of Col lay a book listing the men from the region who enlisted in the war.
“I knew quite a few of them,” Col said.
“They’re all blokes from the district.”
But it is gardening that animated Col the most. The residents of Capella, old and new, rest in the shade of trees he planted years ago. Col gestured with his green thumbs.
“See those trees up there?” he asked. “Put a nick in the branch and put moisturiser round it. It’ll send out roots. Cut them off. Then you can plant them anywhere, those trees.”