Our oldest veterans came together ahead of Anzac Day commemorations

OUR World War II veterans are declining. Since last Anzac Day we have lost 33 of them in the local community.

On Monday night RSL secretary Hans Mouthaan read out the 33 names at an Anzac Day dinner.

The dinner, held upstairs at the RSM Club, was held for our frail veterans who can no longer attend Anzac Day.

The dinner was the brainchild of Pat McMahon from the RSL sub branch and was held for the first time last year and is a very informal affair.

Everyone is encouraged to chat among themselves, if they want to share a story they are handed the microphone, and despite the sombre remembrance of what Anzac Day stands for the atmosphere is jovial.

One of the few formalities was a speech by Pat which, in about seven minutes, briefly outlined the history of Australia’s involvement in the Second World War.

Almost one million Australians served in the armed forces during the six years of the war. 

Its casualties from enemy action during the war were 27,073 killed and 23,477 wounded.

“In effect Australia fought two wars between 1939 and 1945,” Pat said. “One against Germany and Italy as part of the British Commonwealth’s war effort, and the other against Japan in alliance with the United States and Britain. 

“While most Australian forces were withdrawn from the Mediterranean following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, they continued to take part in large numbers in the air offensive against Germany. 

“From 1942 until early 1944, Australian forces played a key role in the Pacific War with offensive operations against the Japanese until the war ended.

“WWII contributed to major changes in the nation’s economy, military and foreign policy. 

“The war accelerated the process of industrialisation, led to the development of a larger peacetime military and began the process with which Australia shifted the focus of its foreign policy from Britain to the United States.”

He went on to outline the number of Australians who were Prisoners of War (POW’s) and the treatment they received depending on who captured them, the home front effort and how the war changed Australian society.

Another speaker was Jo McKinnon, a nurse and carer, who read an extract from a book written by veteran Keith Forsyth about his war service and experiences.

Last year the Anzac Day dinner was held for the first time to allow those to frail to make it to the ceremony to catch up with one another. 

On that occasion 22 men and women gathered for a photograph at the end of the night. On Monday night there were 11 in the photo. 

Apart from the veterans we have lost over the last year, some have become too frail to attend the dinner.

It’s now 68 years since the Second World War ended but their service is still remembered.

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