The boy from the bush survived four years of active duty in New Guinea front line.
Then, within a few months of returning home, he found himself a part of sporting history.
Now the Geelong footy great will lead his mates at the Torquay Anzac Day march on Thursday.
Like most returned soldiers, Flanagan is humble and plays down his war exploits.
But the former Cats captain said he would be proud to lead the ceremony and remember his comrades killed in action.
``When the bands start to play, it will bring back a lot of memories, not all of them cherished,'' he said.
``It will be a day to remember the things that happened during the war. I'll be remembering my friends that were killed in action.''
Flanagan was recognised for bravery when mentioned in dispatches while serving as an artillery soldier.
``I did something anyone in my position would have done, helped a couple of mates in action.,'' he said.
``New Guinea was a terrible place full of danger. War is terrible; it was not exciting.''
Flanagan said this year's Torquay parade was the first Anzac Day march for the Torquay and District Ex- Servicemen's Club as a sub-branch of the RSL.
``It is quite an honour to be asked to lead the march on this special occasion,'' he said.
``Anzac Day is terribly important in the lives of ex-servicemen; it is always a wonderful experience, but a sad experience.''
Torquay's dawn service, at Point Danger, has become a major event in the region. Last year it drew more than 4000 people.
Following the service, the community will meet the ex-servicemen at a breakfast sausage sizzle.
Club president Kevin Egan said the dawn service was planned so young people could meet veterans and talk with them at breakfast.
``Other the years we have tended to march away from the service, leaving behind those who came to join us in respect for the fallen and others who served their country in times of conflict,'' Mr Egan said.
``It is essential that our young people understand the relevance of Anzac Day, and what better way to do that than to chat with veterans on the one day that so many come together to remember their mates.''
Mr Egan said members of the club, guests and friends would gather at the clubrooms for the last major get-together in the old hall.
``Next year we will be in a different location,'' he said.
``It will be sad to leave the old clubrooms, but unfortunately they no longer meet the needs of ex-service people and their families.''