Sun. May 26th, 2024

A dying man spilled the beans, leading Deb to meet her real dad – now, his heroic wartime deeds are finally getting the recognition they deserve

Samantha Parker By Samantha Parker May12,2024
66-year-old Deb Wittkopp has lived most her life not knowing who her biological father was.
Until two years ago she thought it was the man who raised her.
“My dad was 90 when he told me he wasn’t my real father,” Deb Wittkopp told NITV.
On his deathbed, Deb’s father revealed that the name of her biological father was Laurance Ah Lin.
“All I had was the name … and I moved from Brisbane to Alice Springs to try and find my family,” Ms Wittkopp said.
“This was in 2022, and a friend of mine in Alice was searching through old army records and found a speech [Federal Member for Solomon] Luke Gosling had given in Canberra that acknowledged my biological father.

“That’s how I learnt who my dad was.”

Who was Private Laurence Ah Lin?

Mr Ah Lin, aka Larry Willaroo, was an Aboriginal stockman born at Willeroo Station in the Big Rivers Region of the Northern Territory.
He enlisted in the Australian Army, at the rank of Private, in Alice Springs on 31 January 1944, as the Second World War raged.
After undergoing basic training, Private Ah Lin served diligently in his unit in Mataranka; however, the war ended before he could deploy, and he was discharged in 1946.

But when duty called again in 1951, he re-enlisted, leaving Sydney for Japan before travelling on to South Korea where he joined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR).

Private Laurence Ah Lin

Private Laurence Ah Lin. Source: supplied

Private Ah Lin fought in the Battle for Maryang San, a battle described by Robert O’Neill, the official Australian historian for the Korean War, as “one of the most impressive victories achieved by any Australian battalion.”

Private Ah Lin went on to patrol the no man’s land between the two opposing trench lines until the end of the war, and remained in Korea until his honourable discharge 28 November 1952.
For his WWII service, Private Ah Lin received the Defence Medal, War Medal and the Australian Service Medal.
For his service in South Korea, he received the Korea Medal and United Nations Service Medical.

He was posthumously awarded the South Korean Ambassador for Peace Medal among others.

A legacy immortalised

Private Ah Lin passed away in Darwin on 16 March 2004, and until now, his life and legacy had been buried under an unmarked grave in the Thorak Regional Cemetery.
After appealing to the Mr Gosling, Deb Wittkopp was successful in having her father’s legacy recognised.

At a ceremony in Darwin on Friday, his life and service were honoured with the unveiling of a memorial plaque on his previously unmarked grave.

Commemoration of Unmarked Grave of WWII and Korean War Veteran Mr Lawrence Ah Lin

WO2 Cody Bradswhaw, Deb Wittkopp, Luke Gosling OAM at the commemoration of Mr Lawrence Ah Lin. Credit: Georgia Politis Photography/Georgia Politis Photography

His service medals were also passed on to his daughter, Deb.

“My father’s service to his country wasn’t recognised because he was Indigenous,” she said.
“Today’s ceremony showed me just how proud he was to serve his country, and now, with the naming of his grave, that his country acknowledges and honours his service,” Ms Wittkopp said.
“He was a man that stood for peace, and I am proud to be his daughter.
“He will be remembered.”
Mr Gosling told NITV that he hopes Private Ah Lin’s story becomes one of many more, and that Aboriginal soldiers will be honoured after years of having their being ignored.
“The contributions of Indigenous Australians to military service have often been overlooked or under-recognised,” he said.

“This permanent commemoration is part of ongoing efforts to ensure Indigenous veterans and their families receive the recognition and support they deserve.”

Samantha Parker

By Samantha Parker

Samantha is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth behind the headlines. With years of experience in investigative reporting, she has covered a wide range of topics including politics, crime, and entertainment. Her in-depth analysis and commitment to factual accuracy make her a respected voice in the field of journalism.

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2 thoughts on “A dying man spilled the beans, leading Deb to meet her real dad – now, his heroic wartime deeds are finally getting the recognition they deserve”
  1. What an incredible story of resilience and discovery! Deb’s determination to uncover her roots and honor her father’s legacy is truly inspiring. It’s heartwarming to see the recognition finally coming for the heroic wartime deeds of Private Laurence Ah Lin. May his bravery and sacrifices never be forgotten.

  2. I find this story incredibly moving! It’s heartwarming to see Deb’s determination to uncover her roots and finally learn about her heroic father’s wartime deeds. It’s wonderful that his actions are now receiving the recognition they deserve. Such a powerful narrative highlighting the importance of family and identity.

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