Friday, June 21, 2024

Overcoming difficulties in adversity

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On a crisp Thursday morning, a large crowd gathered at the Barham Cenotaph to remember the Anzacs. The day marks the anniversary of Australian and New Zealand soldiers landing on Gallipoli in 1915 as part of the Allies’ invasion. 

In their first major engagement of World War I, Anzac troops, in the darkness before dawn, left the battleships behind in the Aegean Sea and rowed toward the shores of ‘Z beach’. Turkish forces opened fire before the boats reached land, forcing many of the men to launch themselves into the ocean to avoid the onslaught of bullets.

By mid-morning, around 8,000 Anzacs had landed on the beach, and by sunset, more than 600 Australians had lost their lives, with over 1,000 injured. The list of the dead would grow to over 11,000 Anzacs by the end of the Gallipoli campaign.

Following the dawn service, many enjoyed breakfast at cluBarham before the wreath-laying ceremony in Koondrook. Noel Lake welcomed the large crowd of school children, community members, service personnel and visitors.  

Koondrook and Barham police closed the roads in anticipation of the cross-border march. 93-year-old George Rathbone and his trusty steed Tuff once again lead the procession. People lined the streets as the Bendigo Highland Band kept the mass of people in time. The iconic bridge crossing was once again a highlight for onlookers with spectators crammed onto the sidewalks at the Royal Hotel.

The crowd of hundreds surrounded the Barham Cenotaph as Barham RSL President Bill O’Malley led the morning’s proceedings, with the Barham Community Choir performing.

Guest speaker was Kane Hall, chair of the RSL NSW Young Veterans Committee. Kane had served in the Australian Army Third Fourth Cavalry Regiment and deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 with the Mentoring Taskforce Three. During this time, Kane was blown up by an improvised explosive device whilst driving a Bushmaster-protected mobility vehicle.  Since leaving the army, Kane has dedicated much of his life to supporting and advocating for veterans and establishing the Nowra Wellbeing Centre. 

“Before dawn on the 25th of April 1915, 109 years ago, soldiers of Anzac, the finest of their generation, sat silently together, shivering in rowboats in the north Aegean Sea.

“In darkness onward, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps advanced towards their objective. 

“As the Anzacs approached the shore, they began to see more clearly the contours of the dark dominating cliffs, the Gallipoli Peninsula; cliffs that occasionally exploded into light and allied naval gunfire support, or erupted with hostile machine gunfire from the trench. As the rowboats entered the wave zone, enemy machine gunfire became overwhelming. Casualties were taken. 

“When arriving on the beach, the wrong beach, enemy fire intensified. 

“The Anzacs fought their way inland, up the slopes into the face of the enemy, their mates by their side. Snipers harassed them from the front, the left and the right, cover was almost non-existent.

“By the end of 1915, when the last allied ships withdrew to the west, over 8,700 Australians, 2,700 New Zealanders and 86,000 Ottoman Turks had been killed. 

“This is a day set aside for us to collectively give thanks to all those servicemen and women who have put their lives at risk, who have seen the horrors of war, and in over 102,900 cases, have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation. 

“On this day, we remember lives lost, families torn apart. We remember children who’ve lost parents, spouses that lost partners, parents that lost children, mates that lost mates.”

Kane provided an insight into what the day means to him and reflections from serving overseas.  

“Some of you may be familiar with the name Private Matthew Lambert. 

“Matty was a sniper from the Second Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, who deployed to Afghanistan with me in 2011, and who was killed in action on the 22nd of August that year.

“As a trained sniper, Matty Lambert was one of the finest soldiers of the unit. He could outrun and outfight anyone within his weight class. 

“To me, he was one of my finest colleagues. To his fiancée, Elise, Matty was her soulmate. 

Koondrook CFA members Nathan Goble and Jason Munro (left); BPS students Lenny, and Freda Mathers (top); BHS students Brooke Boyd and Alyssa Farrant (botton).
Photos: The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

“The early hours of the morning on the 22nd of August, Matty was lead scout of a small team in a mission deep within an insurgent high activity zone.

“He was moving through rocky terrain to establish a sniper overwatch position when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath him. 

“I will never forget Matty Lambert and his sacrifice. On Anzac Day, I also remember his mates who risked their lives to treat these wounds, to secure the helicopter landing zone and to backload him to the military hospital. 

“I also remember the shock of his death, our unit’s first of four fatalities. I remember the resolve of his mates to grieve quickly over a beer on the day of his death and then get back to the mission the very next day to give Matty’s sacrifice meaning. 

“To me, the greater meaning of Anzac Day is how young Australians in adversity can overcome difficulties to maintain their sense of humour and to display the moral and physical resilience that they know they ought to live up to the tradition of Anzac. 

“To me, Anzac Day paints a picture of possibilities that however hard things may be, however difficult those circumstances, ordinary Australians on the beaches of Gallipoli 109 years ago, in the mud of Kokoda, in the tunnels of Vietnam or in the freezing mine-infested hills of Afghanistan, or anywhere else where Australians have been deployed or will be deployed, when faced with adversity, they have done extraordinary things as Australians. That same potential lies within us all. Lest we forget.”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 2 May 2024

See the full coverage and photos in the issue.

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 2 May 2024.


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