Members of the 177 Army Cadet Unit, Nanango, stand guard on the Nanango Memorial after the main parade
Wreaths surround the Murgon Memorial (Photo: Murgon Moments)

April 26, 2021

Any suggestions Anzac Day commemorations are losing public support were blown away in the South Burnett on Sunday.

After last year’s pandemic-enforced private “Light Up The Dawn” activities, there were fears that Anzac Day could be forgotten by some people this time around.

But record crowds turned out on Sunday for Dawn Services and Anzac Marches right across the region.

There were all the traditional solemnities in just about every town (see below): parades, hymns, wreaths and soundings of the Last Post.

There were also a number of RAAF flyovers: an F/A 18A  Super Hornet in Murgon and Wondai; C-17A Globemaster III in Kingaroy; and two Chinook helicopters in Yarraman.

But Anzac Day is not just about the past, something which the guest speaker at Murgon’s commemorations emphasised.  

Former Private Joseph Thompson grew up in Murgon, served five years with the Australian Army and was wounded in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is the longest conflict Australian troops have been involved in, but has slipped out of the public consciousness.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced recently all Aussie troops would be withdrawn by September.

More than 26,000 Australian soldiers have served in this almost-forgotten conflict: 41 were killed and 249 wounded.

Tragically, more deaths have continued at home in Australia, prompting the recent announcement of a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

* * *

An excerpt from Joseph Thompson’s moving speech, which sums up what Anzac Day is all about in 2021:

“I had the honour to serve with the 6th Battalion RAR in East Timor and Iraq but it was in Afghanistan that I really cut my teeth as an infantry soldier. It took nine years from September 11 but I finally had my chance to pick a fight with the Taliban.

“I served on Mentoring Task Force 1 from February to October 2010. 

“Little did we know it but we were about to face the worst fighting season in the war to date.  This deployment would earn my Task Force a battle honour, The Meritorious Unit Citation, also four Medals for Gallantry, one Star of Gallantry (which is the second highest honour an Australian soldier can receive) and no less that two Victoria Crosses, awarded to Corporal Daniel Keighran and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. 

“The media can try and fling mud on Roberts-Smith as much as they want but I know for a fact if it wasn’t for him there would be a lot more names on the honour roll in Canberra.

“In terms of casualties, the deployment was an extremely violent one, with the battle group suffering 10 killed in action and 58, including myself, wounded in action.  I won’t go into details on my close calls because my mum is here listening.

“Today is about remembrance so there are 10 names I would like to mention because if I don’t these men will be forgotten by our nation: Sapper Jacob Moreland (who grew up in Gayndah), Sapper Darren Smith, Private Timothy Aplin, Private Benjamin Chuck, Private Scotty Palmer, Private Nathan Bewes, Trooper Jason Brown, Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney, and finally, Private Thomas Dale and Private Grant Kirby.

“These last two men are especially important to me as we were in the same platoon, the very same section and I watched them die during an IED ambush on a worthless patch of earth in the Baluchi Valley during the largest clearance operation the Australians had fought in since the Vietnam war. 

“That patch of earth is not just another part of the planet. An Australian soldier met his end there.  It’s now hallowed ground and I hold it in just as much significance as Anzac Cove.

“Of the 102,000 Australian soldiers to die in war, these are the men I will be remembering today.”

* * *

[Photos on this page are by southburnett.com.au, Cherbourg Radio, Murgon Moments, Cr Kathy Duff, Ros Heit and the Bunya Mountains Community Association Inc]

Footnote: If you have photos from your town that you would like to add to this round-up, please email them to news@southburnett.com.au

Captain (AAC) Jenni Wilson, from 177 ACU Nanango, Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington and Nanango RSL Sub-Branch president Chaz Kemp took the salute during the Nanango Anzac parade

Murgon guest speaker Joseph Thompson with his parents Elaine and Brian Thompson … Joseph grew up in Murgon, served in East Timor and was wounded in Afghanistan (Photo: Murgon Moments)

Cr Kathy Duff and Wide Bay and Burnett RSL District president Trevor Williamson OAM presented Murgon’s oldest surviving WWII veteran, Alf (Mick) Purser, with a Quilt of Valour

Vietnam veteran Uncle Eric Law with fellow veteran Claude Malone who comes back to Cherbourg every year to catch up with mates on Anzac Day (Photo: Cherbourg Radio)

The official party at the Wondai commemoration Neil Burrows (Wondai RSL Sub-Branch), Cr Scott Henschen and guest speaker David Scrimgeour (Wondai RSL Sub-Branch)

Carolyn Farmer with her father, Doug, 97, one of the oldest members of the Kingaroy-Memerambi RSL Sub-Branch and a stalwart at Kingaroy Anzac Day commemorations

School captains David Rowberry (St Mary’s Catholic College) and Isaac Kelly (Kingaroy State High School) were presented with the flags they carried
Kingaroy guest speaker Chief Petty Officer Barry Thompson and South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto took the salute for the Kingaroy Anzac parade

* * *

Bunya Mountains 

The largest crowd seen at an Anzac Day commemoration on the Bunya Mountains turned out on Sunday morning.

Rev Ian Harris welcomed residents and visitors and Mrs Ruth Wright said the Prayer of Remembrance and Prayer of Commitment.

The National Anthem and “O God Our Help In Ages Past” were sung and wreaths laid, before the Last Post sounded.

[Photos: Bunya Mountains Community Association]

* * *

Cherbourg

Cherbourg’s annual Anzac march and commemoration ceremony attracted a crowd to the town’s war memorial at 8:00am on Sunday.

Guest speaker was Joe Flick, from Dubbo, who spoke about the Indigenous servicemen who served on the bloody battlefields of France and Belgium during World War I.

Cr Kathy Duff and Wide Bay and Burnett RSL District president Trevor Williamson OAM presented a Quilt Of Valour to Wakka Wakka Elder and Vietnam veteran Eric Law.

Community members and visitors laid wreaths at the foot of the Memorial wall.

Children from Murgon State High School, St Joseph’s Murgon and Cherbourg State School also took part in the ceremony.

[Photos: Cherbourg Radio]

* * *

Hivesville

About 150 people attended the Dawn Service at Hivesville’s Memorial Park.

Children from Wheatlands State School and St Mary’s Catholic College joined local residents for the commemoration at 5:30am.

The crowd then enjoyed a community breakfast in the park.

[Photos: Cr Kathy Duff]

* * *

Kingaroy

Kingaroy’s Anzac Day commemorations included a Dawn Service at 4:28am, visits to war graves and the traditional march to Memorial Park.

The Dawn Service attracted a huge crowd, including a big contingent of Kingaroy Scouts.

The community commemoration later in the morning included a parade, led by pipes and drum and students from St Mary’s Catholic College and Kingaroy State High School bearing flags.

Veterans were joined by emergency services personnel, schoolchildren, community groups and local residents.

In Memorial Park, Elgan Leedie played the Lament on didgeridoo. the Resolutions were read, hymns sung and wreaths were laid as the Honour Roll was read.

Matt Phillips, from Kingaroy State High School, played the Last Post and Rouse before the KSHS choir and symphonic band played the Australian anthem, and Eri Carey sang the New Zealand anthem.

Guest speaker, Chief Petty Officer Barry Thompson, shared his thoughts on the spirit of Anzac Day, especially the valour of sailor Teddy Sheean in 1942.

Sheean was finally awarded a Victoria Cross in 2020 for his actions in protecting his fellow sailors from being strafed by Japanese aircraft after HMAS Armidale was torpedoed in the Arafura Sea.

Despite being wounded himself, Sheehan kept firing as the Armidale sank, giving his life to save his crewmates.

* * *

Murgon

Murgon’s annual commemorations began with fellowship in the Diggers Room of Murgon RSL at 4:45am, followed by a Dawn Service at the Murgon War Memorial at 5:30am, and then a Gunfire Breakfast back at the club.

The traditional community parade was led by pipes and drums and featured a strong turnout of marchers.

Vehicles belonging to Windera militaria collector John Kratzmann also featured, including a bren gun carrier and a 1942 Jeep.

“Simpson” and his donkey also appeared along with World War I nurses and students from all local schools.

Cr Kathy Duff and Wide Bay and Burnett RSL District president Trevor Williamson OAM presented a Quilt Of Valour to Murgon RSL Sub-Branch’s oldest World War II veteran Alf (Mick) Purser.

[Photos: Murgon Moments]

* * *

Nanango 

Nanango’s commemorations began with fellowship at Taras Hall at 5:00am followed by a Dawn Service at the town Memorial and a pilgrimage to local war graves.

The march later in the morning down Drayton Street was led by cadets from 177 Army Cadet Unit, Nanango, followed by a large contingent of former defence force personnel and community members.

* * *

Wondai

Wondai’s commemorations also began with a Dawn Service.

The march later in the morning was in two parts, with community members leading the way followed after a short gap by the Wondai Town and District Band leading ex-service personnel.

At the Memorial, guest speaker David Scrimgeour explained the significance of Anzac and Anzac Day before wreaths were laid on the Monument in front of the Memorial Hall.

* * *

Wooroolin 

A small community committee organised Wooroolin’s Anzac Day commemoration.

The short march along the Bunya Highway featured the Wondai Town & District Band as well as students from Wooroolin State School.

The official proceedings were held inside the hall, led by former councillor Ros Heit.

[Photos: Ros Heit]


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One Response to "Record Crowds At Commemorations"

  1. Rosemary Pratt  April 28, 2021

    Thank you so much for your freely available great coverage of a very special day in our region.

    Reply

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