April 26, 2016
Wooroolin’s Anzac Day drew a larger-than-usual crowd this year, and credit for it was probably split evenly between a famous guest speaker and star power.
The famous guest speaker was Lt Colonel Harry Smith who led his troops on the ground at the Battle of Long Tan, the most iconic battle of the Vietnam War, where a heavily outnumbered group of 108 Australian and New Zealand troops defeated an estimated 2000-strong Viet Cong force.
Colonel Smith, who was accompanied to Wooroolin by a small group of Long Tan veterans, had been invited to address this year’s Commemoration Service at Wooroolin Hall.
The star power was supplied by Australian actor Travis Fimmel, who will play Colonel Smith in a new movie, ‘Danger Close’, which is expected to begin filming at Wooroolin’s paulownia forest and the Wooroolin Wetlands within weeks.
Travis rose to international fame playing the role of Ragnar Lothbrok in the historical TV drama Vikings, where he was the lead character for four seasons between 2013 and 2016, but he has appeared in many other stage and screen productions since he took up acting in 2003.
Travis attended the commemorations with members of Danger Close’s production crew including director Kriv Stenders and producer Martin Walsh, happily posing for photos (and the odd selfie) with anyone who asked.
Wooroolin’s traditional Anzac Day activities kicked off with a street parade at 11:15am, led by the Wooroolin State School Bugle Band.
Local schoolchildren from Wooroolin, Crawford and Tingoora also marched and were followed – after a short break – by the Wondai and District Town Band, local veterans, the Wooroolin Ladies Choir and emergency services personnel.
After this, the crowd of onlookers who’d watched the parade from the side of the temporarily closed Bunya Highway filed into Wooroolin Hall.
Things were so crowded organisers had to send out for extra chairs …
The service was compered by Cr Ros Heit.
Students from Wooroolin, Tingoora and Crawford State Schools read five Resolutions, and students from the Wooroolin School Choir and Wooroolin Ladies Choir sang “Lest We Forget” and the National Anthem before Colonel Smith delivered his address.
Colonel Smith asked everyone to remember that apart from great wars such as WWI and WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and recent conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, Australia has been sending troops into battle overseas ever since New Zealand’s Maori Wars during the 1860s.
He recounted each of these conflicts – some big, some smaller – and how many Australians had died in each campaign, and said the total came to slightly more than 105,000.
He reminded the audience that Anzac Day commemorates not only those soldiers who served in the better-known conflicts, but all Australians who have put themselves in harm’s way for the past 155 years to serve the nation.
After Colonel Smith’s talk, the service concluded with the laying of wreaths, a reading of the names of the fallen, the Last Post, a minute’s silence, the Ode and Reveille, and a performance by the Wondai and District Town Band.
Afterwards, Colonel Smith and his party accompanied the Danger Close crew to Wooroolin’s paulownia forest to inspect its suitability as a film location.
Colonel Smith said while the forest wasn’t a rubber plantation, it closely resembled one and he was certain a little Australian film magic could make it indistinguishable from the real thing.