Per Ardua Ad Astra.
On 28 July 1914, half a world away from Australia, Europe had begun its journey into a conflict dubbed “The Great War”, later known as the First World War.
By April 25, 1915, Australia and New Zealand were drawn into the conflict. On that day they were deposited on the Gallipoli Peninsula (Gelibolu) in Turkey in an unsuccessful campaign to take control of Constantinople and the sea route from Europe to Russia.
These first troops of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps forged their way into the history books, and to this day are known as ANZAC(s), as are all troops who followed in their footsteps.
The Gallipoli campaign lasted just on 8 months and heavy losses were sustained to both the Allied and Turkish forces. Some estimates put casualties as high as 500,000 including some 100,000 killed. The allies eventually abandoned the campaign and by January 9, 1916 many of the troops had withdrawn to Egypt.
Appropriately, each year on April 25th, both nations pause to remember those who have fought, those who did not return, and to honour those still serving. This year, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of that first conflict.
Each year services are held all around both countries, you would be hard pressed to find a town in Australia or New Zealand that didn’t have a memorial of some description recognising the sacrifices made by so many men and women in conflicts since that date.
As this year marks the centenary of that first conflict, The Pillion and I decided to attended the 09:00 ANZAC Day Service at Sandgate. This was one of the larger services to be held in our local area and is about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) north of the Brisbane CBD on the shores of Bramble Bay.
After the service, we decided to stay around the Sandgate foreshore, enjoying the scenery and the relaxing atmosphere. It’s easy to see how the town became a popular escape for the people of Brisbane in the early part of the 20th century.
Time got away from us, and by late afternoon we found ourselves at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Memorial behind Eventide at Brighton. The memorial was erected to commemorate those who served at the Sandgate RAAF station during World War Two.
Between 1941 and 1947 Eventide was used by the RAAF as a base for ground operations and to process returned veterans, including prisoners of war. The Womens Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) were also based here for training.
Eventide did not have an air strip but that didn’t stop a ‘Flying Fortress’ making an emergency landing in the bay adjacent to the base in 1942.
Today, Eventide is an aged care nursing home.
When we arrived at the memorial it was a hive of activity. The local Australian Air Force Cadet (AAFC) 212 Redcliffe Squadron were preparing the site for an afternoon ANZAC Day service.
Each year 212 Squadron host the service for residents of the nursing home and for people living in the local area. They handle everything from installing flag poles, seating and a lectern, through to hooking up the PA system. They also assist Eventide residents out to the memorial, either with assisted walking or in wheel chairs.
No resident who wants to attend is turned away.
The whole affair is done with such military precision, you’d forget the cadets are as young as 13, and no older than about 18. It was a pleasure to be a fly on the wall watching the goings on. It dawned on me that these cadets have maturity beyond their years and are a credit to their parents, their squadron and the local community.
If some decide to continue with a career in the military after graduating from school, I’m certain they will serve with pride and honour, as those that served before them did.
I’m just as certain Australia’s defence will be in very good hands.
P.S. I bought some inner bags for the bike so I don’t have to take the hard panniers on and off all the time 🙂
- Per Ardua Ad Astra: Through adversity to the stars.
- Digger: a man, especially a private soldier (often used as a friendly form of address).