A small red poppy was pinned to nearly every shirt or lapel of those gathered to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Hundreds of people attended the Wollongong Returned Services League Sub-Branch’s Remembrance Day service at MacCabe Park on Sunday.
They were there to honour and pay tribute to the brave soldiers who have fought or been killed defending Australia in world conflicts.
Sub-branch president Peter Poulton welcomed everyone after the five members of the Catafalque party marched under the Cenotaph arch on a beautiful sunny day.
“Remembrance Day is a day we’ve come to reflect originally on the 62,000 who were killed in WWI but since then we have to reflect on everybody that has gone since in conflicts, which still run today,” he said.
“The words of General Douglas MacArthur at his farewell speech really ring true, ‘only the dead will know the end of war’.
A minute’s silence was observed at 11am after the Flame of Remembrance was brought into the service.
Wollongong City Council Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery then led the Prayer for Peace.
Lieutenant Colonel David Charlton, who is the commanding officer of the 4th/3rd Battalion, gave the ceremonial address.
“One hundred years ago on November 11, 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent after four years of continuous warfare,” he said. “With their armies retreating and close to collapse, German leaders signed an Armistice bringing to an end the first World War.”
Lt Col Charlton then told the crowd about Australian soldiers’ vital role in the Allied forces’ advance to victory in 1918.
“By early October, the exhausted Australians were withdrawn from battle,” he said. “They had achieved a fighting reputation out of proportion to their numbers.
“But victory had come at a heavy cost. They had suffered almost 48,000 causalities during 1918 including more than 12,000 dead.
“At no time in history has Australia had as great an impact on international affairs as we did in 1918.”
Lt Col Charlton spoke about the huge loss at the Battle of Passchendaele, the sacrifice to protect the village of Villers-Bretonneux and told the stories of a few soldiers who earned themselves Victoria Cross medals for their brave actions.
“Now thankfully, a great many Australians have no personal experience of war,” he said. “No way of knowing the anguish of forced separation or the greater grief of separations made permanent.
“For that reason among others it is time to renew our pledge. A promise to remember all who have been lost to war and to give thanks to their valiant service in defence of our freedom and to demonstrate the value we place in those freedoms so selflessly forged.”
The commanding officer named a few Wollongong soldiers and asked the crowd to think about the families of all soldiers.
Distinguished guests, members of organisations and residents then laid wreaths at the Cenotaph.
Hymns were sung, the Ode to the Fallen was said, the Last Post was sounded and the Australian and New Zealand national anthems were played to close out the service.
Mr Poulton’s grandson Patrick was one of two flag raiser during the ceremony. He is serving in the Royal Australian Navy at HMAS Watson.
“I wanted to be a part of the service as a favour to my grandfather,” he said. “I am sure he took great pleasure in seeing me there.
“The service is an important way to continue traditions and to honour those who have served in the past and continue to do so today.”
Eight year old Keira Graham laid flowers during the services to pay her respects to her relatives who went to war.
“The soldiers fought for our country and it is important for us to know about and respect their service,” she said.
Balgownie resident Jean Groves laid flowers to remember her father George Ernest Wheatly who served in the British army in France when he was 17 years old as well as her eldest brother who died during World War II.
“I thought the service was lovely and it was good to see so many people attend,” she said. “It is important to remember those who did not come back and if they did come back then many were never the same.
“We owe a lot of our quality of life today to those people.”
Lest we forget.
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