GALLERY: New generation marches in Wollongong

Ebony admires the service medals of her great-grandfather, Fred Gregory, as she is held by her mother Kelly Gallagher.
Ebony admires the service medals of her great-grandfather, Fred Gregory, as she is held by her mother Kelly Gallagher.
Pictures: KEN ROBERTSON, GREG TOTMAN

Pictures: KEN ROBERTSON, GREG TOTMAN

Fred Gregory has been marching at Wollongong for 30 years and still it chills him.

As he made his way up Church Street yesterday the cheers hit like waves. 

Thousands lined the kerbs to contribute their applause and wave a flag.

The mood was celebratory, almost. Something bitter-sweet hung in the air.

‘‘When you’re marching through and you can hear them cheering and clapping, it puts the hairs up on the back of your neck,’’ Mr Gregory said. 

‘‘It makes you feel something.’’ 

This year’s Anzac Day city march was Mr Gregory’s proudest, because his granddaughter, Kelly Gallagher, of HMAS Creswell, marched beside him. 

He was army, she, navy. Marching together gave them a kind of silent communion, for Mr Gregory, who served as part of the armoured corp during World War II, never talks about his time at war. 

‘‘We don’t need to know exactly what happened,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

‘‘I’m even prouder to serve with the navy because of what my granddad did.’’ 

Crowds ran seven-deep at parts of the parade route along Church and Burelli streets.

At the front, when the cheering lulled, they could hear the soft tinkle of the medals knocking together on the Diggers’ chests. 

The old men were well groomed, with hats and tailored jackets, pressed collared shirts, clean black shoes. 

They stepped in time with a marching band or, in the Vietnam Veterans’ Association section, to the call of ‘‘left, left, left-right-left’’. 

Their less regimented comrades, on this day, were children. They wore the oversized suit jackets of their grandfathers, or a faded Rolling Stones T-shirt, paired with baggy jeans, long hair and medals. Thirroul mum Natalie Mar believes it is children that are causing parade crowds to grow. 

She brought along Piper, 7, and Zack, 5, for the first time, believing they had reached an age where they could appreciate the Anzac story.

They clapped and waved plastic flags for all those marching, but were keeping special watch for Piper and Zack’s grandfather, Robert Denham.

‘‘There’s a lot more respect...a lot more learning what has happened in the past,’’ Mrs Mar said. 

‘‘People want this tradition to go on forever really, so it’s important the kids are involved.’’ 

Some of the biggest cheers in Wollongong were saved for the Illawarra Diggers Aged and Community Care bus, which carried Diggers unable to walk. 

There were  similar events  at Corrimal, Port Kembla, Coledale, Austinmer and Helensburgh, among others. 

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