John Harding

Ship name / Flight number: Ranchi

Arrival date: 13/11/1952


This question has been asked by many, myself included.

England just after the Second World War was a rather drab and austere place, rationing still in place right up to 1952, in fact sweet coupons were my priced possession.

In 1945 I sat for my scholarship exam, late called the Eleven Plus, which gained me admission to Grammer School in Wellington, Shropshire near my father’s air base at High Ercall. Other schools were attending throughout the county, following my father’s various transfers.

Shorty, we move to Derbyshire, from where I left Australia.

My two-year national service call up was due. Contact was made with Australia House, who arranged for my deferral and my first contact with the Big Brother Movement.

I finished my course at Agriculture College and boarded the boat train from St Pancras Station to Tilbury and joined the SS Ranchi for the big adventure.

With five pounds sterling in my pocket, we sailed via Algiers, Suez Canal, Aden, Colombo and my first glimpse of my future home, Perth then Sydney.

After the usual health check, I went to the BBM farm at Cabramatta. I learnt to ride a horse, menial tasks like painting border stones white and various and other cleaning chores.

I was offered a job on a rice farm at Yenda in the Riverina, with a travel voucher in my pocket, I caught the Temora Mail Train and met my future boss in Yenda who promptly popped in the local pub for a drink. Three hours later he staggered out and drove me rather haphazardly to the farm, my first introduction to Aussie life. My accommodation was a lonely shack, no power, no water and hessian bags for a blanket.

Meals were passed out to me at the back door of the homestead and eaten on a tree stump. I was certainly being treated as a third-class citizen.

Welcome to the land of milk and honey!

After 12 months of hard work and misery I collected my pay cheque and left for a short stay in the BBM hostel at Homebush.

My obligation to the Government as an Assisted Mirant meant that I must stay in Australia for 2 years.

I was saving up for my far home and was lucky enough to obtain a job as a herd recorder in the Hunter Valley, which is where I obtained my pilot’s licence, making applications to various airlines. There was a glut of pilots from the Korean War, to no avail.

At the time there were various jobs up for grabs in the earth moving industry. I worked on Glenbawn dam and various open cut coal mines. I bought my first car in 1956, a FJ Holden.

I was now getting over my home sickness, was joined by my brother, also with BBM and later my parents.

On a whim I moved to Dubbo NSW, married a local girl and operated an Ampol Service Station and various other businesses, joining the local gliding club, delivering it on my way to my next home, Adelaide.

In Adelaide, I obtained a position as London Manager of a local housing company, spending two years in England sponsoring families who were intent on working and living in Australia. This job enabled me to travel all over Europe polishing up my schoolboy language of French, German and Italian.

After my contract expired, I sailed to South Africa, working and trading in Antiques with various before moving to Pert where I bought a church and turned it into the Claremont Antique Centre, bought a 42-foot racing yacht, sailing to Bali twice and the Cocos Islands and various off shore races.

I have returned to England on numerous occasions, buying and shipping Antiques with various side trips to the USA, New Zealand and Indonesia.

On retirement, I renewed my pilot’s license and bought my first of many Aeroplanes traveling all over Australia. The JABIRU J160 was my favourite at the age of 46.

At the age of 85 I passed my clean and unblemished license in and said goodbye to aviation.

In now live in Victor Harbor, still working buying and selling antiques on market stalls and fairs.

Thank you Big Brother Movement for making this all possible.


John Harding (Ranchi 1952)


Over the years I have met other Little Brothers who experienced similar emotions as mine, the loneliness, homesickness and the feeling of not fitting in.

At the time, migrants, especially European were treated with derision i.e. poms, dagos, balts, reffos and itis.

These people overcame all those barriers and blended or changed the society that we have today.

Although migration changed my life, I have found that my friends and relations back in England have also done well in their chosen fields and acquired a similar standard of living.

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