WW2 Veteran Colin Wagener Reflects on 105 Years

Colin Wagener celebrates his 105th Birthday 2 Dec 2022. Photo: Jennie Lenman

Adelaide Hills resident Colin Wagener has celebrated his 105th Birthday this month.

The former World War Two Sergeant, real estate developer, classic car collector and great-great-grandfather was born in Adelaide on 2 December 1917 to Mary Ann and William Wagener at Hyde Park and was the youngest of three children.

His mother was an artist and stay-at-home mum while his father was a mechanical engineer who had a motorbike machine shop attached to the family home. This helped inspire Colin to build motorcars as a young man. He went on to build cars and collect many classic vehicles over the years.

He signed up at Keswick Barracks to join the militia forces part-time with three of his motorbike enthusiast friends, before joining the army full-time in 1939. He was posted to Loveday in SA’s Riverland, then, in 1942, to the army camp at Bonegilla in Victoria.

Before he was deployed interstate, Colin was granted just four hours leave so that he could rush back home and marry his girlfriend Peggy, who later became pregnant with their sons John and Paul.

While in Victoria, Colin worked his way up in the ranks, from Lance Corporal, to Corporal, to Sergeant, moving in work in a signal office in Townsville in 1944 and 1945 where the Air Regiment gave him his own operational unit.

His unit was sent to Borneo, where they were incidental witnesses to the surrender of infamous war criminal, General Baba Masao.  

On 10 December 1945, the troops were sent home, arriving in Brisbane in mid-late December. Colin then boarded a special troops train, which took him back to Adelaide.

“The best Christmas present I ever got in my life was at half past ten on Christmas morning, 1945 when the train pulled into the Adelaide station, and I was on it. At last I was home. My father picked me up and brought me home. It was a wonderful feeling to walk up to my front door, knowing I would never have to go away again,” Colin said. 

Colin was discharged after serving nearly 2,000 days in the army, and was awarded the Australian Efficiency Medal. 

After that, Colin became a real estate developer, building some of Adelaide’s first motels.

His wife Peggy died in the 1990s.

Colin is still a classic car collector and enthusiast with a driver’s licence and at 102 years of age he got behind the wheel of a Jensen Interceptor for a hot lap at The Bend Motorsport Park.

Colin said he counts all the years after the end of the war as his “bonus years” of life. He lives with his son Paul and remains active and independent, with some support from Resthaven Murray Bridge, Hills & Fleurieu Community Services.

Jennie Lenman caught up with Colin at his family home in the Adelaide Hills on his birthday to have a chat about his life and glean some wisdom:

Colin and his wife Peggy in the 1940s. Photo: supplied.

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