By Chris Eyte

Orphan in Oz finds answers

Richard and Angela
Richard Hatt with his wife Angela at the grave of his father, Corporal James Richard Hatt, in Lenham, Kent.

The sight of the city of Perth on the pink horizon caught the breath of the teenage boy standing alone on the ship as the waves lashed the bow.

It was Richard Hatt's 16th birthday but there was no family or friends present to celebrate. Both parents were dead - his father, Corporal James Hatt, blown up in WWII and his mother Ada from cancer.

Richard had travelled across oceans to reach Australia from his hometown of Maidstone in Kent, UK. It was February 1955 and his journey took him onto his final destination - Sydney, where he disembarked. For Richard, it marked a new chapter in his young life.

Richard recalls: "My father's brother George had been appointed my guardian as I was under age and had some behavioural challenges.

"Having seen an advert placed by the Australian Government offering opportunities to young men and sponsored passage he believed this made a great opportunity for me and encouraged me to take it."

Richard was already experienced in farming and soon found a job on a dairy farm near Muswellbrook NSW.

"Unable to adjust properly I left after nine months and returned to the organization who offered me a job on a farm 30km from Deniliquin NSW.

"I enjoyed most of my time there but communication between myself and my family was lost."

Richard missed being part of a family. Born in March 1940, the youngest of three boys, both his parents were Christians and they had met at a church youth camp. His dad volunteered for the army when the war began, assigned to a tank squadron and training base at Charing near Maidstone. _

"In June 1944 the unit was to be part of the second wave of the invasion force. At 6.30am on the 24th, the day they were to move out, a V1 came down on the camp, killing 44 men including my Father.

"After the war it became necessary for my mother to work to earn enough to keep us but in 1949 she had to go into hospital for cancer of the breast, followed by radiotherapy. This meant she had not so much time for us.

"In May 1953 a recurrence of the cancer took her back into hospital and my brothers and I moved out from home, never to return. For a while I was moved around until, as I was in my last year of schooling, I obtained a job on a farm and accommodation, with an elderly couple in a nearby village.

"In January 1954 mother died, in the March I left school and went to work full time on the farm."

That is how the teenage boy, still mourning the loss of his parents, found himself working on an Australian dairy farm, thousands of miles from home. Yet life took an unexpected turn when he suddenly discovered the friendship of God.

"One afternoon while milking the cows I started sing the hymn, 'O come to my heart Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for thee', and at once I knew I was not alone.

"God had come into my life." But getting to know Jesus personally was going take more of a journey.

Richard found his way back to England after 'different things happened' and his boat docked in Liverpool in late 1959. He went to live in Yorkshire and held down different jobs over the next decade, 'never managing to renew family relationships or settling'.

He met a girl and got married in 1969. The couple had two daughters, 'my pride and joy'.

"Life seemed good until she met another man and decided to leave me. After much wrangling she left, leaving my daughters with me.

"I had to cease working to look after them, and was given a council house from having tied accommodation."

Richard Hatt
Richard Hatt, then aged 17, pictured working on a farm near Deniliquin, NSW, Australia.

Richard then met Angela, who also had two children. She moved in with him and he got work as a houseparent at a local special school for boys with behavioural difficulties.

A teacher at the school later helped Richard find a genuine relationship with God. It happened when he helped out during a week's break for the school boys in North Wales.

He said: "Circumstances set me to go and whilst there it decided to rain persistently causing us to sit in the minibus together.

"I shared my background with him and he shared the gospel with me, pointing out that I needed to let Jesus into my life and be filled with the Holy Spirit. [To be filled with the Spirit of God, enables us to have the power to live as Jesus commands.]

"I accepted Jesus [as Master of my life] and on returning home I shared with my partner who gave her life to the Lord. We were baptized together [immersed in water as an outward sign of an inward decision] and duly got married."

God has healed Richard and his wife Angela of 'many hurts' including, after 50 years, reconciling him with his two brothers.

"We have four grown-up children," added Richard, "four wonderful grandchildren, and will shortly celebrate 35 years of marriage during which God has been the third strand in the cord holding us together."

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