Hilary O’Connell, an Old Paradian who later served with the Royal Australian Navy in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, died recently at the age of 89.
Born in Richmond, Hilary was an old College contemporary of Kevin “Skeeter” Coghlan. Both were members of Parade’s Leaving B Class of 1944, the year the late Bill Dunne capably officiated as College Captain.
Eugene O’Connell said this week that his older brother, having obtained his leaving certificate at the Old Bluestone Pile, completed his HSC equivalent at Stott’s Business College in 1945.
Eugene, himself a final year Parade student of 1948, recalled that Hilary aspired to be a pharmacist, and although he worked for 12 months in a pharmacy “he couldn’t get into the pharmacy profession as positions were largely taken up by returned servicemen who were given priority”.
“In the end, he joined the Royal Australian Navy,” Eugene said.
“He was 17 years nine months when he enlisted in Melbourne.”
Hilary’s career with the RAN began in Darwin in 1946, before he later completed a diploma in electrical engineering at Adelaide University.
He then spent three years in the United Kingdom, during which time he was involved in the shipping of radar equipment. On his return to Australia, he completed tasks at Flinders Naval Depot, before serving with the Navy in Malaya. He then committed three years of his working life in the United States, during which time he assisted with the exporting of naval equipment to Australia.
Hilary later served in Korean waters on HMAS Sydney and completed various land appointments as an instructor – the last of them in Nowra, where he assisted chief petty officers in the use of upgraded naval equipment.
Then in Vietnam, as Chief Electrician Weapons Radio on the HMAS Brisbane, Hilary completed a three-month stint from July 1969. As this detail was not known to the Old Paradians’ Association, Hilary becomes the 50th former student identified as having served in Vietnam.
Hilary later settled in New South Wales with his wife Shirley and their three sons – Anthony, a doctor, and sons Peter and Richard, both solicitors.
He died at Warrawee on the Upper North Shore of Sydney, Shirley having predeceased him by four years.
Eugene described his brother as “a person who lived within himself”.
“The last time he was in Melbourne I took him to the old Paradians Luncheon in the city. He met a few old friends there and he really enjoyed the occasion,” he said.
“We always kept in strong contact.”