AS daybreak lit the city’s windswept cenotaph, old soldiers reflected on times long past yet still vividly etched in their collective memories.
More than 2800 people braved the early morning chill at Warrnambool’s dawn service yesterday, with organisers claiming yesterday’s attendance numbers were the largest ever.
Young and old united in reflection at more than a dozen services held across the region, including Ellerslie where four generations of the Vick family gathered in respect.
World War II veteran Jim Vick was joined by his 61-year-old son Stephen, 37-year-old grandson Nathan and five-year-old great-grandson Darcy at the hamlet’s morning service.
Strong crowd numbers were also evident at Terang, Port Fairy, Cobden, Camperdown, Mortlake, Koroit, Portland and Hamilton with younger participants well represented.
RSL Warrnambool branch president John Miles said he was impressed with the number of people assembled around Artillery Crescent yesterday. He said it was heartening to see gain greater recognition among the wider community, especially those with no direct family link.
“It’s incredible to see so many people attending; it was quite an emotional event for many that attended including me,” Mr Miles said.
“While we have only a dozen or so World War II veterans around this year, we still had strong representation from Vietnam, Korea and all the other events Australia has been involved in in recent times.”
The city’s new Lighthouse Theatre was packed with veterans and interested onlookers as words of reflection, the royal anthem and prayers were included on the morning service agenda.
Retired brigadier Geoff Christopherson was guest speaker at the event, noting the role of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign in the national psyche.
He said there had been renewed interest in Anzac Day during the past two decades, due largely to the increased presence of military history in the classroom.
Ex-serviceman Arch McKenzie spoke to The Standard about his experience as a wireless operator in WA from 1941 to 1945.
The retired farmer and mechanic said his memories of World War II were “as clear as if it was yesterday”.
“We had dark days during the war, there’s no doubt about that, but it was a time that brought the whole country together,” Mr McKenzie said.
“Everyone worked together because we had a common purpose. Having said that, everyone was glad when it was over.”