They gave up their tomorrows for our today

by SANDI MILLER
6th May 2024

ONE OF THE largest crowds in recent times gathered at the Warrandyte RSL this Anzac Day to commemorate our fallen service men and women.

The March, this year led by Jim Pleasance stepped off from Whipstick Gully towards the Warrandyte Memorial Gardens.

Older veterans were given the dignity of a seat in a former army 110 Land Rover, provided by, and driven by Justin Welander.

Marching veterans were joined by dignitaries, CFA, Scouts, sporting groups, schools and community members who this year numbered in the hundreds.

The March this year culminated in a flyover by four PC21 RAAF aircraft on their way to the skies above the March at the Melbourne Shrine.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, where 3,200 Australians took to the beaches of Normandy.

RSL President David Ryan told those assembled that Anzac Day holds a sacred place in the hearts of all Australians and New Zealanders, as we pay homage to the invincible spirit of our Anzacs who forged a legacy of sacrifice and resilience on the shores of Gallipoli over 100 years ago.

Their unwavering dedication to duty and their profound sense of camaraderie serve as guiding beacons for us all, inspiring to uphold the values of mateship, courage and sacrifice in our own lives.

The service also reflected on the discovery last year of the sunken Japanese transport ship Montevideo Maru, which was sunk in 1942 in the South China Sea, with more than 1,000 Australian Prisoners of War on board, the worst maritime disaster in Australian history.

A sobering speech from Member for Menzies and Afghanistan Veteran, Keith Wolahan MP vividly depicted the loss of life from war.

Imagining standing on the field of an empty MCG with its 100,000 seat capacity, Mr Wolahan took us through the casualties list of each war from World War I until the most recent casualties in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Timor.

“As young Australians lose their lives in conflict you will see on some days, one or two seats fill up, on some days a few rows, and in some devastating days, whole stands fill.

On April 25, 1915, 620 Australians will take their seats before you.

By the end of the Gallipolli campaign, 8,141 — one-third of the Olympic stand.

In Fromelles on July 19, 1916, 1,917 Australians will take their seats in a 24-hour period — more than the people standing here — in 24 hours.

In the Battle of the Somme, in the space of a few weeks, 6,800 will take a seat before you — half of the Ponsford Stand.

A few months later, the second half of the Ponsford stand will be filled by those 6,800 who lost their lives at Pozieres, in Bullecourt, 2,000 lose their lives.

In Passchendaele from, the end of July through the middle of October 1917, 12,000 young Australians will lose their lives.

Before you 61,000 seats have filled just from WWI, from a population of five million.

We don t need to be a computer to know that that means there wasn t a family left untouched by that tragedy.

A few decades passed and some of the young boys who stood next to their dad or their granddad at the memorials like this are now serving in uniform in World War II.

749 will take their seat from Tobruk, 1,789 from the full of Singapore — and 7,000 as Prisons of War, who will die later.

On July 1, 1942, the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, 50 rows of the MCG.

And on March 23, 1945, nine will take a seat nine who never came back from an RAAF Liberator aircraft and one of those was William Flanagan from Warrandyte.

In Bomber Command 3,500 Australians were killed, and just under another 3,000 from El Almain, 625 from Kokoda.

At the end of World War II, The MCG, every seat, and all the standing room, is now full, with the additional 39,657 who died in that conflict.

And as we continue on through many other conflicts, those who die won t have room to sit down and they will have to move out onto the grass and the boundary in front of you.

In Korea 340 — 53 from the Battle of Kapyong alone.

From Vietnam 523 — 17 in one battle at Long Tan, 25 from the Battle of Coral-Balmoral.

And as we move through other conflicts, we will see 47 take their seats from Afghanistan, where a friend of mine from Doncaster, Greg Sher, who takes his seat on January 4, 2009, as well, Marcus Case who takes his seat on May 30, 2011, and is buried across the river in the Eltham Cemetery.

So right now, at this moment in time you were looking at 103,021 with an average age of just 19 or 20.

Lest we forget who you were, lest we forget what you did, lest we forget that you gave up all your tomorrows, so we can have our today.

But the other part of Anzac Day is just as important.

It s not about gratitude and memory.

It is about looking forward to the lives we want to live, to the country we want to build.

And when you do that, you wonder about their memories of home.

I know that their memory was a happy one, because it was a place called Australia.

And for many, it was a place called Warrandyte.

And that is a place that stood for something it still does.

A place that we will dedicate ourselves to be one that is worthy of their memory, worthy of their sacrifice and if required, one that is worth fighting for.”

Photos Bill McAuley and Anna Maree

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