In 1939 Tom Kelly, aged 16 years, and his horse "Chessy", won the blue ribbon as the best turned out trooper at the Killarney show.
They also received a first as part of the best troop section over hurdles and tent pegging. Tom had joined the 11th Light Horse Regiment with his brother Jack. Training camps of three months duration in Warwick and weekend training in Killarney were a welcome break from the farm.
In 1940 during a camp at Carbalah (now Borneo Barracks Toowoomba) Australia accelerated preparation for war. One sergeant, two other troopers and Tom took the remounts from the camp on the range to "the murdering paddock" at Gatton where the Regiment became the 11th Motorised Regiment training with Bren Gun Carriers. Later volunteers were drafted to the R.A.A.F., A.I.F. and militia battalions. Others returned to the farms and civilian life. Tom and most of the Killarney troop went as reinforcements to the 2/10th Battalion, 7th Division which was then camped on the Atherton Tableland. The division sailed for Port Moresby on MV Canberra. Tom was "volunteered" as the captains runner. The division fought its way through the Markham and Ramu valleys to Shaggy Ridge then to the successful landing and the end of hostilities at Balikpapen. Tom was B Company runner and part of his duties was to escort the carriers, the 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels', taking supplies and ammunition from headquarters to the front line. One morning Tom was astonished to be passed and greeted by the red capped, red tabbed G.O.C. 7th Division, the late Major General George Vasey, walking up to the front line.
Suggestions that Tom return after the war to take a position with A.N.G.O. were often made by the senior officer.
Returning to Australia in 1946, Tom became senior assistant, then acting Department of Primary Industries inspector, having a staff of sixty-four in the tick eradication campaign in Northern N.S.W. This entailed some wild riding down the steep spurs and rugged gullies of the Rivertree, Boonoo Boonoo, Bookookara and Undercliff cattle properties where cattle had been missed in previous musters and had become wild rogues. Every head had to be accounted for. Only the nimble, sure footed and game horses need apply for the job. Tom also had in his charge seventeen men on duty at border tick gates. He found time to become the president of the Amosfield Branch of the Public Service Union, the first secretary of the Woodenbong branch of the R.S.L. and a Justice of the Peace. In the 1960' he moved to Tweed Heads with the D.P.I. as cattle inspector responsible for testing for all diseases in stock including T.B. in the Northern Rivers area of N.S.W. In 1970 he suffered a heart attack and in 1977 was boarded out of the Department on medical grounds.
Tom has been a member of the R.S.L. for fifty years. He was the Tweed branch hospital visitor, President of the T.P.I. Association from 1978 to 1986 and is a life member of the Association. He is a life member of the 2/10th Infantry Battalion Association and also a member of the 7th Division A.I.F. Association.
Tom played and enjoyed the game of Rugby League in his early years and for seven years coached and was president of the Tweed Heads Junior League. He accompanied a team overseas in 1973. He is also a life member of Seagulls and was on the steering committee of the Twin Towns Services Club at its inception.
Nowadays Tom is a member of the Boonah Golf Club, a horse steward at the Boonah Show, Vice President of the Fassifern Historical Society and a foundation member, vice president and an active rider with the Boonah troop of the 2/14th Light Horse.