I spent yesterday commemorating another ANZAC Day. I guess that by now, my international friends will understand that ANZAC is the iconic reference to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It is the name given to the organisation in which troops from both countries were first organised at Gallipoli in WW1 (101 years ago) and it has endured as an everlasting name, and bond, ever since.
This year, I again began my day attending the dawn service at the local Returned Services League (RSL) Hall at Doncaster, a couple of kilometres from home. A number of he RSL branches have now become very commercial but this one is a real ‘Dad’s Army’ branch. It just has a meeting hall, a room full of memorabilia and a memorial and flag pole in the front garden.
The dawn service is basically a re-enactment of the ‘Stand To’ which every soldier serving on active duty has experienced as they stand watch at dawn to ensure that they are safe from any over night enemy intrusion. It is a quiet and simple reflective time that begins with a brief introduction followed by the flag being lowered to half mast and then a bugler playing the Last Post. After a minute’s silence, Reveille is sounded. Then wreaths and poppies are laid at the memorial while a piper plays a lament. This happens in every city, town and small community right across the country.
Just as in every previous year, the local council garbage truck again rumbled along the road and passed the service, right in the middle of the minute’s silence. This bloody truck has done the same thing every Anzac Day for the last six or seven years. I think that it’s now time to write a letter of complaint to the council!
This year is the 50th anniversary of the first Australian troops arriving in Vietnam in 1966. They were the highly decorated Australian Army Training Team. Four members of this team were awarded the Victoria Cross, and they didn’t withdraw from Vietnam until 1972. In 1966, my friend Robert Bruce reported for duty as a conscripted National Serviceman. In that year, i had just turned eighteen and I remember having to get some time off from my employer to attend my test for my driving licence. Robert was one off the first members of 85 Transport Platoon which was the first unit of the Australian Army specifically formed for active service since WW2. I eventually joined this unit in 1969 after my call-up for National Service which began in 1968. I can’t believe that is now 48 years since I was deployed to Vietnam.
After a breakfast at a local cafe with my old mate, Ken Wriedt and some other friends, we travelled into the city to join the Anzac Day March, as we normally do. Because it was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of our involvement in Vietnam, we Vietnam Veterans had the honour of leading the march. While this was a very nice honour, it created a bit of a rush for us with little time to get from the dawn service, through breakfast, and then be in the city in time for the march to start. This photo is one that that I captured form the TV recording of the march and shows me behind the 85 Transport Platoon Banner
I did enjoy having all my family join me for lunch at the pub in which we had our ANZAC Day reunion. We all take it much more easy than we might have done ten or twenty years ago and I have to confess to having a ‘Nana Nap’ after getting home late in the afternoon.
If you haven’t already read it, you are welcome to read my previous post that tells of my family’s history of war service.