On November 11, 1918, the guns of the Western Front fell silent, the Armistice was signed, and the First World War was over.
To mark 100 years since the end of WWI, Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch held a moving Remembrance Day service on Sunday.
About 150 people turned up to honour Australia’s military history and those who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation, outside the Gerringong RSL Memorial Hall.
Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch president Major Glenn Kolomeitz (Retd), welcomed guests and read the honour role, before one minute’s silence was observed.
All three local churches rang their bells in unison as the clock struck 11am.
Afghanistan veteran Daniel Carolan was invited to give the commemorative address.
“To all those we have lost defending this beautiful, sunburnt country of ours – we will remember you.”- Daniel Carolan
Carolan joined the Army in 2009, before he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 to assist in the mentoring of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
He spoke of the challenges soldiers face when they return home – difficulties those who came home from the Western Front would also have had to negotiate.
“Coming home from deployment is a unique, often bewildering and sometimes terrifying experience,” he said.
“It’s a pretty quick turnaround from the wild lands back to civilisation.”
While he was in Afghanistan, his camp was attacked and three of his fellow soldiers were killed.
In 2014, Carolan discharged from the Army, he had no real plan, and said he was “pretty much winging it”.
“I travelled and did bar work for a few years trying to find my place in the world – but something was missing in my life,” he said.
“It’s not a quick fix to find peace, it took a lot of support and time from those around me. It’s not something that everyone who returns from service finds, and it’s the reason why we gather here on days like today to acknowledge those who have gone before us and those who will go again.
“To all those we have lost defending this beautiful, sunburnt country of ours – we will remember you.”
Wreaths were laid by members of the public, representing various community groups, to the sound of bagpipes.
To conclude the service, Gerringong Public School choir sings As the Band Plays Waltzing Matilda and the Australian National Anthem.
As part of the national commemorations, Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC, made a statement on behalf of the department.
He said the Centenary of the Armistice to end the First World War was an important milestone in Australia’s military history.
“Today we do not only remember those killed in the First World War, but all Australian Defence Force personnel who have served since and continue to serve on operations, protecting Australia’s national interests at home and in many countries around the world,” General Campbell said.
“We honour by remembering, and we have remembered for 100 years.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, people made their way to the eastern end of Belinda Street to unveil a plaque, which signals the beginning of the Commemorative Pathway leading the to Memorial Flagpole where the Anzac Day Dawn Services are held.
The pathway was constructed with funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs and was built by Kiama Council, while the gardens were planted by Eye Of The Garden and RSL volunteers.