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No tokenistic gestures for veteran happy to do his bit

WORLD War II veteran Graham Malloch, 91, admits to a competitive streak when he sells Anzac tokens at the corner of Collins and Elizabeth streets.

Bentleigh RSL welfare co-ordinator Sylvia Lindsay says he's ''exceptional'' at it. In two days selling poppies there last Remembrance Day he raised more than $5000; other sellers were happy to raise $400.

Mr Malloch, a former hardware and shoe salesman, says Melbourne's business district has the most lucrative spots and he loves the challenge. He will stand there today from 7.30am to 4pm, aiming to raise more than $2000 for veterans' welfare.

The job is not without perks. One year a young woman kissed his cheek; he's been asked to be in a photo; passers-by have bought him coffee and a man gave him a World War I book.

During World War II, Mr Malloch spent 15 months in New Guinea as a signalman, repairing the telephone line to Australia after tree falls and landslides. He and another Australian lived at a north coast jungle outpost that was so remote their rations came monthly by barge.

After the war, having been used to such isolation, Mr Malloch couldn't face living in Melbourne, so he moved to Kyabram in northern Victoria.


He didn't join the RSL because he found the clubs, at the time, too much about booze, and he doesn't drink. Mr Malloch moved back to Melbourne in the early 1960s with his wife, Betty, so their two daughters could be closer to Monash University and he retired in 1986. He took up golf, worked part time constructing shelves and delivered Meals on Wheels for 19 years until he had a heart attack in 2006.

In 1995, around the time his wife died, he went on a veterans' pilgrimage to Papua New Guinea and from the Commonwealth war cemeteries gained a new appreciation of the Diggers' sacrifice. When he got home, he joined the RSL to help others and for friendship.

''You're with a group of men who've been through much the same experience as you've had. They're the only ones who know what it was like.''

Ms Lindsay says he's ''one of the backbones'' of Bentleigh RSL and helps war widows with pension entitlements.

Mr Malloch says war is senseless, ''it's just so stupid and fruitless'', but selling Anzac tokens honours the contribution of veterans such as his father, John, who repaired communication lines under fire at Gallipoli and France and who also was a signalman in Egypt during World War II.

''The money raised, which is for welfare, is very essential, and apart from that I was always competitive,'' Mr Malloch says. ''I just like to do it.''