Serendipity Part 1 : Yungaburra, FNQ.

In November 2020, during the middle of a Pandemic, I wrote about a musical tribute to our servicemen and women in the form of a CD called Spirit Of The ANZACS. Country singer, Lee Kernaghan, along with other Australian singer/songwriters Garth Porter and Colin Buchanan, were given access to the diaries, letters and stories of Australian and New Zealand diggers held by the Australian War Memorial as a project for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.  These letters covered 100 years of ANZAC history from the First World War right through to Afghanistan. Many of the lines in the songs on this CD have been directly lifted from these letters, many written on the battlefield.

The song I included in that post was titled I Will Always Be With You from a letter written by Private Benjamin Chuck, 2 Commando Regiment, who lost his life in 2010  in the mountains of Kandahar Province  in a chopper accident during his third tour of Afghanistan. 

It’s been a year for serendipitous events.

Earlier this year I attended a social function commemorating Australian servicemen and women. There were several interesting stories including that of Hilda Rix, artist. Google her -it’s a fascinating tale. Another story was that of a father from Far North Queensland who lost his son in Afghanistan and who fund raised and worked his tail off to create The Avenue of Honour at Yungaburra on Lake Tinaroo.


The Avenue

The Avenue with its 250 m of sand coloured path representing the barren Afghanistan landscape, twin rows of Illawarra Flame Trees and Central Monument symbolizes ‘the final journey home’ of the Fallen. It comprises 3 main elements:
– The entrance and pathway to the Central monument
– The Monument and The Honour Board
– The journey home leading from the Memorial

A plaque representing each one of the 42 fallen soldiers (40 killed in action plus one training casualty and one non-combat related death) from the Afghanistan Campaign is present on the Honour Board adjacent to the Memorial. The centrepiece of the Memorial is a cairn of stones sourced from Afghanistan surmounted by a pair of sculptured wings in full flight depicting the contributions made by all services and symbolizing the undaunted spirit of the Australian Digger. The Avenue has all night lighting with the Honour Board and Monument bathed in blue light.

A series of plaques distributed throughout the Avenue feature service commendations from Military Commanders, Five VC Award Recipients, references to major engagements fought, the role of Explosive Detection Dogs, and literary contributions from community members.  

     – from https://www.avenueofhonour.com.au/memorial/history/


The entrepreneurial gentleman was Gordon Chuck, father of young Benjamin Chuck.

In April at my local Dawn Service in Cleveland, thousands stood in the cold and the rain to honour those who had served. This year the names of the fallen from recent theatres of war were announced over the loud speakers with nominated persons depositing a wreath by the cenotaph. It was a moving service with many shedding a silent tear. And Benjamin Chuck’s name was amongst those called.

I’ve started packing for a road trip. Shouldn’t. The financial advisor will spit chips but you know what ? You’re a long time dead.

One of my stops will be The Avenue Of Honour at Yungaburra, Far North Queensland.

Jezzine Barracks, Townsville (Wulgurukaba)

It’s been thirty years since my last significant visit to Townsville 1,400 kms north of Brisbane. I did visit fleetingly ten years ago and not so fondly remember the tropical heat pushing me to a pub at 11am for a refreshing G&T and having to take a minimum of four showers a day to stop from smelling myself in the humidity.

Townsville, Australia’s leading garrison city, has undergone some mammoth changes in recent years and is a vibrant centre which manages to meld its Indigenous, Military and Colonial histories in equal parts.

Case in point, Jezzine Barracks, named after a fierce battle at Jezzine in Syria in 1941, which is a definite addition to your Must Do List.

The Traditional Owners of Garabarra are the Wulgurukaba people and the Bindal people, who retain an enduring ‘connection to country’ despite the impact of non-Aboriginal settlement in the area. For thousands of years Garabarra was the centre of a common food foraging area for local Aboriginal people – an area with immeasurable cultural and spiritual values.” – Wikipedia..

This area became a military base in 1886 and up until 2006 was very much Secret Squirrel territory. The area had been utilised for 120 years and is situated on the Kissing Point Headland on the northern end of The Strand, Townsville’s esplanade bordering the city central, with an outlook across to Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea.

Townsville is just coming out of a 10 day weather event like most of the East Coast.


Opened to the public in 2014 this 15-hectare heritage precinct now commemorates the military and Aboriginal heritage of the area, including majestic water views. There are 34 specially commissioned public artworks, extensive interpretive signage, a coastal walkway connecting to Rowes Bay, as well as the restoration of significant elements of the Kissing Point Fort complex.

The Seven Sisters – based on the seven sisters who came from the heavens to create all that was beautiful, being “Women’s Business”.


The site also includes the Army Museum of North Queensland – closed for my visit but I’ll be back there soon- as well as traditional plantings along the ethno-botanical walk, the Crossed Boomerang Amphitheatre, and the Kennedy Regiment Plaza ( which is bordered by it’s proud history).

The picnic and barbeque areas are popular with both visitors and locals and for a change of pace, a gorgeous little Art Gallery located in old army huts will provide your wallet with the opportunity to enjoy a little dance.

Parade Ground highlighting the regiments that were based at Jezzine.

An example of the history that borders the Parade Ground.
You’ve got it made when you have a Prawn Shell dish from Townsville:)

Next post I will cover the monument commemorating the The United States 5th Air Force Memorial that is featured at Jezzine Barracks. I’m still processing Townsville’s role in military history and it’s connection to the Battle of the Coral Sea ( which of course was not covered in our schooling. Please note sarcasm).

An Excellent Group Of Women.


Some of you would know of Terrigal on the Central Coast of New South Wales with its beautiful beaches making it popular with locals and tourists alike. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500.

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches anywhere along the Australian Coast. From the Surf Club at Terrigal only four men were available to patrol the beaches when 72 men went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

They were trained in surf lifesaving skills by chief instructor Harry Vickery and were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin. In two exams some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to volunteer to patrol the area over the summer seasons.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion. They even made their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­ despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women being relegated to their previous tasks.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 , those “peaches of the beaches”, were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to the families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

The Surf Life Saving Association finally admitted women as full members in 1980 and now benefit from more than 80,000 dedicated female members of all ages across Australia contributing in activities from active patrolling, to surf sports, education and everything in between.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Nancy Wake (1912- 2011)

AKA -The White Mouse

Born in New Zealand Nancy relocated to Sydney, Australia, as a child along with the rest of her family. She trained as a nurse and a journalist and moved to Paris in the 1930’s.

When World War 2 commenced she was living in Marseille with her French husband. When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Wake became a courier for an established escape network where she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to Spain which was neutral. She herself fled to Spain in 1943 and continued on to the United Kingdom when the Germans became aware of her activities, calling her The White Mouse. Her husband was captured and executed.

In Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name”Helene”. In April 1944 as a member of a three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups, participating in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force weeks later. At the aftermath of the battle, a defeat for the maquis, she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.

Immediately after the war, Wake was awarded the George Medal,[36] the United States Medal of Freedom, the Médaille de la Résistance, and thrice, the Croix de Guerre. She worked for the intelligence department at the British Air Ministry, attached to embassies in Paris and Prague.

It was not until February 2004 that Wake was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.In April 2006, she was awarded the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association‘s highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold. Wake’s medals are on display in the Second World War gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Wake remarried in 1957 and returned to Australia with her husband.

Her autobiography is a fascinating read and numerous other books have been written ( as well as movie scripts) about her courageous deeds.

“I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” – Nancy Wake

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge


NOTE:

When my daughters were in Primary School all those years ago there was an occasion where they celebrated famous Australians. Each child had to do a presentation about their favourite Australian.

There were talks about pop stars, cricket players – especially Shane Warne, and celebrities such as Steve Irwin, Wildlife Warrior.

When it was Pocahontas’ turn she did a flawless presentation on The White Mouse. God love her……

.

             

ODE


This time next week, on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders will commemorate ANZAC Day.

The Ode of Remembrance has been recited to commemorate wartime service and sacrifice since 1921. The Ode is the 4th stanza of the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon.

In 1919, Binyon’s poem was selected to accompany the unveiling of the London Cenotaph and was adopted as a memorial tradition by many Commonwealth nations. The poem was read at the laying of the Inauguration Stone at the Australian War Memorial in 1929.

Ode of Remembrance

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them.

Response:

We will remember them
Lest we forget

At this time it is important to remember all the woman who have served or who are serving in the Defence Forces in the many varied roles. We remember our nurses, doctors, and VADs, as well as the women who worked on the land ensuring the nation remained fed. Of equal importance are all the mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts, who “kept the home fires burning……”.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge

Tilly Aston  ( 1873 – 1947)

Matilda Ann Aston was the youngest of eight children in a family that lived in Carisbrook, in the Victorian goldfields. She was born with a vision impairment and lost all sight at the age of 7 in an era when blind people were isolated ( as in often locked away from society). This did not sit well with young Tilly who insisted that she was ” going to get out there and do something with my life.”

A chance meeting with a blind itinerant missionary meant that Tilly learnt Braille, and a little later, a visit to Carisbrook by the choir of the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind, where she was encouraged by the Principal to enrol in the school as a boarder, were both interactions which changed Tilly’s life.

Her achievements include:

  • Being the first blind person to matriculate in Australia.
  • Being the first blind person in Australia to attend University (which she did not complete due to a lack of Braille text books).
  • Established the Advancement of Writers in 1894 which later became the Victorian Braille Library.
  • Founded the Association for the Advancement of the Blind in 1895 which is now known as Vision Australia.
  • Fighting for and winning voting rights for the blind and free postage for all Braille material.
  • The publication of numerous books of both verse and fiction.

Tilly Aston was awarded the King’s Medal for distinguished citizen service – twice! 

 

    “Poor eyes limit your sight. Poor vision limits your deeds.” 

                                        – Tilly Aston

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

#AtoZChallenge

Another Project Giving Life To History

Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.

The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.

According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died.  The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918.  The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee.  However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates.  The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”

There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country,  and their individual military heritage,  were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A). 

The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony.  The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.

If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.

A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?

It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore.  Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’!  Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.

Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

Author Talk At Local Library

I have only one word to say after attending an Author Talk at the local Library : Wow! Just Wow!

Heather Morris is the author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz (2018), Cilka’s Journey (2019) and the recently released Three Sisters.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, is the story of how Slovakian Jew Lali Sokolov fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp and is based on a true story.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When they are little girls, Cibi, Magda, and Livia, the Three Sisters of the book title, make a promise to their father – that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just fifteen, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Cibi, only nineteen herself, remembers their promise and follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.

Heather Morris is passionate about telling stories and these are mighty powerful stories.

Other than the stories themselves two things stood out having listened to the author talk about her writing :

  1. In 2003 Heather was invited to coffee with a friend who wanted to introduce her to a gentleman with an interesting tale. Lali Sokolov entrusted Heather with the details of his life during WW2 which ultimately became her first book. He also shared stories about another young woman, Cilka, which became the second book. Three elderly women in Tel Aviv then reached out to the author having read about Cilka and their story became the third book. The story about how these books evolved is as fascinating as the tales within the books.
  2. Heather Morris wrote her first book at 65. You go girl!

Has anyone read these books?

NOTE : The author has been in discussions with the NSW Department of Education who have added The Tattooist Of Auschwitz to the school curriculum. WOW, just wow…

The Week That Was And Old Age

It was Melbourne Cup earlier in the week, Australia’s iconic horse race which literally stops a nation. Melbourne, in lock down for some 280 days due to Covid, opened up for 10,000 questionably fashioned party-goers at the racetrack – as opposed to the usual 100,000 plus- none of whom looked like they were a day over 25 years of age. I didn’t watch the race, didn’t pull a cork out of any bottle, and am unable to name the winning horse.

Is this a sign of old age?

The Beersheba Re-enactment ( for the anniversary of the Charge in 1917) at the Laidley Pioneer Village was interesting and well done, though I was disappointed with the lack of spectators. These dedicated horsemen and women are passionate about both their history and their horses and I would have thought that the event would have attracted scout groups, girl guides, and high school groups as history via a whiteboard and text book never worked for me. Neither did Shakespeare.


Saved a baby crow fresh out of the nest. Spent the morning on the phone to the Wildlife mob as he was wobbly on his feet and the other larger birds were overly interested. Did you know that walking on the ground for a week or two is what baby crows do? It was just unfortunate that this was the same day the first Brown Snake of the season slithered by the back door.

Went to the theatre to see Mamma Mia last night. Wonderful to get caught up in the joy of the music, and….da da…enjoy it maskless. Last live performance was four months ago when masks were compulsory. Do you know how depressing it is not to be able to sing along with a favourite performer? And I mean depressing. I would have been happier listening to a CD and ordering a pizza at home it was so sad.

So energised by the music and dancing – and that was just the audience, not those on stage – that I vowed to open a bottle of bubbles when I made it back home.

Didn’t happen. Too tired.

I’m just getting old, I tell you.