A day of memories for many veterans in the record crowd in Canberra

April 26, 2014

Fleta Page and Henry Belot

Marching are VC recipients (from left) Ben Roberts-Smith, Daniel Keighran and Mark Donaldson.

Marching are VC recipients (from left) Ben Roberts-Smith, Daniel Keighran and Mark Donaldson. Photo: Graham Tidy

A record 25,500 people turned out for the Anzac Day national ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Friday morning.

While for some there may have been a royal attraction, for the thousands with chests adorned with medals, the occasion was about reflection, remembrance and recognition of those who have served.

Nan Brooks was among the veterans in the crowd. She served in Morotai in World War II with the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service.

Visitors to the ceremony, 91 year old Nan Brooks of Flynn with her daughter, Anne Prins of Kambah.


Visitors to the ceremony, 91 year old Nan Brooks of Flynn with her daughter, Anne Prins of Kambah.Photo: Graham Tidy

Stationed at the 2/5 Australian General Hospital, she was a dietitian for the troops, “keeping them in line”, according to her daughter Anne Prins. Mrs Brooks marched every Anzac Day, until two years ago when she was 89. But she still attends the national ceremony knowing she will always have a seat. Mrs Prins had also attended the earlier dawn service, one of many people to go to both.


Another person to attend both ceremonies was William Phelan wearing the medals belonging to William Lever, the grandfather he never met.


“He was wounded on the Western Front and he died about 18 years later as a result of the wounds,” Mr Phelan said.


“It was really nice that [Victoria Cross recipient] Corporal Donaldson mentioned all the wounded people because I often feel sad that [my grandfather’s] name is not on the wall of remembrance.


“It feels as though you’re a bit forgotten – he did die as a [result of the war] – he got shrapnel in the head and chlorine gas, which destroyed his lungs and he died [from his injuries] when mum was just 12.”


Bethany Halmy also wore her relative’s medals.


“They were my great-grandfather’s. He was in the Second World War and he passed away as a prisoner of war,” Ms Halmy said.


She and her mother joined her grandparents in the trip from Sydney, but for the 18-year-old, the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge was an extra motivation to attend.


Ms Halmy was one of the first to seize the opportunity after the ceremony to sit in the seat occupied by Kate during the ceremony for her own brush with royalty.


Crowds at least six-deep lined Anzac Parade as servicemen and their representatives prepared to march in the direction of Mount Ainslie with Parliament House at their backs.


As they reached the War Memorial parade grounds where thousands waited for them, the marchers passed the Duke of Cambridge, who was standing on the steps of the memorial with the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, on his right. Hours earlier Prince William and Catherine were surprise guests at the dawn service.


The couple stood on top of the stairs before the memorial next to Sir Peter and Lady Cosgrove.


They sang the service hymns with the crowd during the dawn service, but did not join in the singing of the Australian national anthem.


The couple, both clad in black, left the war memorial shortly after the conclusion of the service and returned to the Australian War Memorial at 10.30am for a national ceremony.


Australia’s three serving Victoria Cross recipients – Corporal Daniel Keighran, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith and SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson – also attended the services.


Corporal Roberts-Smith spoke at the dawn service.


”We are Australians; we are born of the Anzacs,” he said. ”We are the custodians and stewards of their spirit now and into the future. We must take good care of it.”

Source : The Canberra Times

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