Mirrambeena looks back on lives packed full of stories

Thrilling memories: Baptistcare resident Brian Walley (96) was the subject of the inaugural Mirrambeena This Is Your Life Session. Photo: Nicky Lefebvre
Thrilling memories: Baptistcare resident Brian Walley (96) was the subject of the inaugural Mirrambeena This Is Your Life Session. Photo: Nicky Lefebvre

The inaugural session of 'This Is Your Life' was held at Baptistcare Mirrambeena Residential Care recently and focused on the life story of 96-year-old resident, Brian Walley.

A Baptistcare representative said the 'This Is Your Life' concept aimed to encourage residents to share their personal stories, for social enrichment and to recognise that all lives are valuable, and often, fascinating and mark our residents as unique.

"Mr Walley has had an amazing life and his bravery and survival during the war is harrowing and yet, fascinating," the spokesperson said.

"While not everyone is a war veteran, Mirrambeena recognises that all our residents have a story to tell.

"As partners in their care, we tend to focus on the end results of a long-lived life, reduced mobility, illness and a loss of independence.

"But if we gently peel back those layers, we can reveal some wonderful stories."

Married for 73 years, Mr Walley (96) joined his wife Mair (95) at Mirrambeena so they could be together.

The inspirational couple have a relationship that has spanned more than seven decades despite war, injuries, surgeries, good and bad times.

A proud Englishman from Wales, he first met the love of his life when she was 15 and he was 17.

But it wasn't till five years later and after the war that they became an inseparable couple.

Brian Walley still recalls their chance reunion at a petrol station in North Wales upon his return from active duty in one of the bloodiest battles in military history.

He said they were destined to be together and she had waited out the five war years waiting for him to return.

They married when Mair was 21 and Brian was 23 and have never been apart.

When Mair was diagnosed with dementia, Brian didn't hesitate to join her at Baptistcare's Mirrambeena residential care facility in WA's south west.

They have been residents for over seven years and are still very much in love.

Full of bombs and petrol bound for Berlin, under enemy fire, the plane came down and the crew were in a battered flimsy dinghy in the North Sea, off the west coast of Germany after surviving the inevitable ditching...

The couple have five children, 14 grandchildren and 24 great grandchildren.

Brian worked in the mineral exploration industry until he retired in 1990 at the age of 68.

Since retirement, Brian has documented and published his true-life war adventures and has five published books to his credit.

His account of a doomed RAF flight on November 7, 1941 is harrowing.

He was the second pilot flying an old Whitely V Plane from Yorkshire, and tells the story of his miraculous survival in rough seas.

"Full of bombs and petrol bound for Berlin, under enemy fire, the plane came down and the crew were in a battered flimsy dinghy in the North Sea, off the west coast of Germany after surviving the inevitable ditching."

Two horrendous days and nights in the turbulent North Sea followed.

The crew were tragically washed away when the dinghy capsized and two more died of exposure, leaving Mr Walley the sole survivor.

He was eventually rescued by a German seaplane into three and a half years in captivity.

He can vividly remember his rescue, surgical procedures and subsequent recovery and imprisonment by the German enemy.

The Walleys moved to Perth in 1967.

Mr Walley spent six months on his own on a Newlands farm near Esperance but 'sold out' and took a job in the mineral exploration industry.

The couple's platinum wedding anniversary three years ago was marked by a letter from the Queen.

"Not everyone here in Mirrambeena is a published author, like Mr Walley," the spokesperson said.

"But many have worked in the health industry, designed gardens, taught and reared children, established farms, painted, sewn ball gowns, baked prize-winning cakes, played musical instruments and worked in the entertainment industry.

"There are so many stories to tell."