Reflections on Anzac Day

Today was the coldest and wettest Anzac Day in Melbourne for many years. I started by attending the dawn service at our local Doncaster RSL and then went on to the Anzac Day March in the city. During the dawn service it was pouring, while during the march itself, we had a few showers but not continuous rain. We were very grateful for the relatively good crowd who watched the march, considering the cold and wet weather.

I noticed on the TV that in one of the WW2 units, the veterans from HMAS Arunta were led by a George Joubert. He was described as having worked in the engine room, but I recollect that his actual job on the ship was as a stoker. Coal fired ships are now as ancient as dinosaurs. George was my parent’s next door neighbour in East Malvern. He used to regularly go to the pub on a Saturday night and then walk home in the early hours of the morning home singing loudly. My pious mother would always exclaim “There’s George again and drunk as usual”. It was great to see him today in good enough health to lead his unit, even though he was perhaps a little stooped.

I looked up my Vietnam War diary to see what I was doing on Anzac Day while I was in Vietnam. Anzac Day occurred only a couple of weeks after I had arrived there as a twenty year old in 1969. My day began with a dawn service on the helicopter pad. I remember thinking that I would return home as a real Anzac with all the acclaim and respect that Australian returned servicemen were given. However, as we later found out, the treatment of Vietnam Veterans by the public was nothing like this – often one of rejection and criticism.

During that Anzac Day, I was tasked as Duty Driver. My day finished with being rostered for picket (guard) duty in which pairs of soldiers patrolled our work base on a series of overnight shifts – two hours on, and then two hours off. This took place every night between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.

This was the night when the red trailer reflecter incident occurred. I was rather nervous and a little jumpy on this, my first picket in Vietnam. Somewhere down in the very dark and very back of our transport yard, I noticed a red light that appeared to be blinking on and off. I wasn’t sure whether this was something that I should report, shoot at, or investigate. With a bit of trepidation, I decided to investigate and found that it was only a bright reflection from the tail light of a parked trailer. It was quite a relief to find that it was nothing really sinister.

Today was another good Anzac Day with old mates and one in which I knew that all my family supported me and would be looking out for me on the telecast of the march.


I lifted this photo from my friend, Rob Horton’s Facebook page. He saw me in the march while watching two of his children who were marching in school bands. These bands make a great contribution to the march and we are always grateful for their hard work and contribution.