Crowd moved by student’s Anzac Day speech

May 6, 2011

People attending the Anzac Day luncheon on Monday heard a moving account of Bingara student, Gabbie Brennan’s research into the role her great grandfathers played in the defence of Australia during World War II. 

Gabbie, the daughter of David and Tania Brennan, is also the Bingara Central School Captain.

The luncheon followed a busy morning of activities.

The Anzac Day dawn service attracted a pleasing crowd of close to 130 people.
RSL Sub Branch President, David Young said this represents five percent of the town and district population.

The traditional march along Maitland Street was also well attended. Three golf buggies were used to transport some of the Returned Servicemen and women, including Mrs. Helen Jack, the only World War II veteran to take part in the march.

Pipers, Donald and Andrew Mack again led the march, which also saw a strong contingent of students and staff from Bingara Central School.

The number of people taking part in the march was up on last year, and included some visitors.

Marching behind Mr. Young was Navy Lieutenant Matt Schroder, who has recently returned from duty in the Gulf of Iraq. Matt and his wife, Kristen, were visiting Kristen’s parents, Reg and Roxene Dennis.

At the service held in the RSL Memorial Park following the march, the Last Post and Reveille were played by Brent Weightman.

About 100 people attended the luncheon which followed. Gabbie, who has lived in Bingara all her life, is the daughter of David and Tania Brennan.

At the beginning of the luncheon, Mr. Young and guest speaker, Gabbie Brennan, were piped into the hall by Andrew Mack.

“ANZAC Day is the anniversary of the storming of Gallipoli by the Australian and New Zealand troops in WW1,” Gabbie said.

“But today it is remembered for not only that, but as a day to recognise all soldiers, both past and present, those who fought and those who are still fighting.

Austin Mack, Snow Anderson and Helen Jack rode in style in the Anzac Day march.

“It is a day where Australians come together for ceremonies, to pay our respect. For me personally it is a chance to say thank you to the people who have given me the freedom that I now experience. It is a day to appreciate the blue skies and free lands that we experience. It is a day to mourn the countless lives lost, and to pray that they are not lost in vain. It is a day to think of the soldiers and peace keeping operations that are active at the moment in the World.

“It is hard for me to imagine putting myself in the shoes of the soldiers, being 17 years of age myself, most boys were lying about their age, and already enlisting. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the heartache that families would have gone through, losing a young member of their family, and never knowing if they would in fact return again. Just trying to visualise losing the boys in my class, the boys and men in the community, and even my younger brother, if he lied about his age, is just not possible.

“ This is why I am so appreciative of the current peacekeeping operations that soldiers are enforcing in certain parts of the world, to prevent another war. And I hope that in my life time, I will never have to experience what so many others before me have.

“I have lived in Bingara all my life, and growing up here has given me a different perspective on ANZAC day than other people my age would have. Each year we participate in Orange Picking Day, an event that is looked forward to by all students at Bingara Central and the children attending the local pre-school.

“While this is a day to pick and eat the oranges, the memorial created by the trees is unique to Bingara. As Mr Ron Irlam said in his publication, ‘There are other living memorials in other parts of Australia, but nowhere is there the unique link with the following generations of children who are an integral participating part in the ceremonial picking of the fruit, in the care and a safe guarding of the trees and the oranges.’

“Over the years I have seen firsthand the protectiveness towards the trees shown by all members of the community. I have heard of and seen countless times people tell visitors to the community not to touch the trees. Even the younger children, while not fully understanding their meaning, are still very protective.

“The trees are a living memorial to honour the soldiers, something put in place in the 1950’s, which has been going strong ever since. The original Valencia trees have since been replaced by navel trees, as the fruit is much sweeter. Mum and dad both remember going to school and picking the original fruit, and having to pour heaps of sugar on them to be able to eat them.

“Although the picking of the oranges falls much later in the year than ANZAC day, there still is a ceremony held to reflect on the meaning of the trees and to pay respect to the fallen soldiers, and acknowledge those who served and returned, some of whom are still living in our community to this day.

“By growing up around the trees, I believe that all members of the community have a deeper understanding of ANZAC day and more respect for the local soldiers who fought in both WW1 and WW2. The picking of the oranges will be an event that people who have lived in Bingara will always remember, and tie to the remembrance of soldiers.

“On ANZAC days in the past, in the one minute silence, it has given me a chance to think about my great grandfather, and thank him. But this year it was different for me, as while preparing for this speech I have discovered that he was not the only family member that served in the war, all my great grandfathers on both sides of the family fought.

“Two of them have their names written on the memorial outside, while the others were not from this area.

“Starting with my dad’s grandfather on his mother’s side. Hilton Howson enlisted in the Australian Army in 1940, as a gunner. He served for six years, in the 2nd 9th field regiment. Sadly he passed away only years after being discharged.

“I never met him, but I have learned about him through my great grandmother, my nanna, Audrey Legg. It was not until recently that I was able to put a face to the name, when my family started to research our family tree, and found a photograph of him. It was a ‘thinking of you’ document with a picture of Hilton that was sent home, when he was in Egypt.

“Nanna passed on the medals, dog tags and personals effects that Hilton received or carried on him during the war, to my dad. Dad has also researched and found remembrance and appreciation medals, which he accepted on Hilton’s behalf to keep with the other medals and personal effects. These are hanging, framed in our lounge room, as a continual memorial to Hilton.

“After talking with my nanna about Hilton, she also mentioned that Hilton’s brother, Jim Howson, also served in WWII, but was never found.

“Dad’s grandfather, on his father’s side, Aubrey William Brennan, joined the Australian Army in 1942, as a 3 battalion volunteer defence corps, part time duty – serving 3 years.

“On my mum’s side, both my great grandfathers fought in WW2, with my nan, Jan Baldock’s father George Herbert Martin, Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air force in 1939, serving nine years in air and ground radio communication.

“My Pop, Bill Baldock’s father, Harley Francis Baldock served in the Australian army in WW2 with the 16 machine gun regiment.

“To find out this information I have had to rely on my great grandmother, documents that my parents had and war documents, as all of the family members I have mentioned are no longer with us. I grew up knowing my Nan and Pop’s parents, but never knew until researching for this speech that they were in the war, as it was something that was never spoken about. It was not my age that prevented it, as both my Nan and Pop were never told about their parents’ war days either. It wasn’t until their parents’ passings that Nan and Pop were able to learn about them with journals and personal documents being discovered.

“I am grateful for this opportunity that has been given to me, as I have discovered more about my ancestors and past that I had never known, and still wouldn’t have without doing this.

“I am so thankful to my family for their part, whether it being short or long, part time or full time, in Australia or overseas, in the war – along with other Bingara families, families in the community and families Australia and New Zealand wide, for the freedom that they not only gave my family but everyone in our country and New Zealand.

“I would like to say a special thank you to those of you in the audience who have fought; it is a great HONOUR to stand here today, sharing my perspective of ANZAC day when I have not experienced an ounce of what some of you have. I would love to hear some of the stories and memories that you have, to get the opportunity to hear your experiences first hand – as I never had the opportunity to do this with my own family.

“I would like to read and extract from the poem ‘The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’ by Jennifer McKay. This is in dedication to my great uncle, Jim Howson, and to all those who have lost someone, who never returned or was never found.”

The brave young man
that left his love,
was gone to face
the lord above,
His human body never found,
with poppies blowing,
there came a sound.
A service to remember them,
who came before,
the brave young men,
a cannon booms,
and a bugle sounds,
the tomb of those
whose life it crowns.
We remember with
a Tomb of Stone,
for the soldiers still unknown,
all those who fought
and died before,
and those who’ll
fight in future wars.
Through many wars,
o’er many years,
Men and women looked
past their fears;
this tomb remembers
all of them,
The Tomb of
the Unknown Soldier.
“Lest We Forget,” Gabbie concluded.