Port Fairy veterans speak about the importance of continuing the Anzac Day tradition

As our World War II veterans age, a Port Fairy Vietnam veteran has spoken of the importance of him and his fellow soldiers continuing on the proud Anzac tradition.

Jim Ryan was in the artillery in Vietnam, based at Nui Dat and said it was up to the veterans to ensure the revered occasion lived on. 

“We’ve got to the stage now where the Vietnam fellas have got to step up and start taking these ceremonies and keep the RSL going,” he said.  

“It’s a very serious message to pass onto the younger people about the Anzac spirit and putting yourself in danger’s path to protect others... If your country calls you’ve just got to be willing step up and go.” 

Mr Ryan was one of the soldiers who attended the Port Fairy commemorative and wreath laying services, led by Port Fairy RSL president Doug Nolte.

Mr Nolte, an infantry forward scout, said he counted his blessings everyday after working in “frightening situations”.

“I was very lucky to survive over there because of different situations that we came across,” Mr Nolte said. 

"I could have been taken anything up to four times but fate was with me and a little bit of good intuition I guess, having good reflexes and having a good insight knowing the change of soil textures and undergrowth with trip wires and mines. 

“You had to be alert. You had not only your own life, but your platoon behind you that you could lose and I saw that happen.” 

Mr Nolte said about 500 people attended the dawn service and similar numbers were at the mid-morning commemorations.

He said this Anzac Day was significant because it marked 100 years since the end of World War I and 50 years since the battle of Coral- Balmoral which he was involved in in Vietnam.

World War II veteran Mick Wentworth and his wife Iris were determined to attend Wednesday’s service in Port Fairy. 

Despite his ailing health, the 92 year old was pleased to be there. “I haven’t missed one yet,” he said. His grandson Tom, 20, who is in the army, wore his medals at a service in Adelaide. “He was as proud as punch.” 

Other youngsters honouring the Anzac spirit were Port Fairy and Brauer College school children who spoke at the service. 

St Patrick’s Primary School principal Sue Paulka shared how students had made personally inscribed crosses which were placed on graves at the Villers Bretonneux cemetery in France on Anzac Day.

Ms Paulka said the students were connected as part of the Anzac Centenary School Link project and students at their sister school in Peronne in northern France placed the crosses for them.

“We feel it’s very important for all our children at St Patrick’s to learn about the Anzac tradition and how it affected our nation and our community,” Ms Paulka said.

Port Fairy Consolidated School principal Kath Tanner said students had been learning about the day and the history of the war. She said it was important for the school community to honour the brave men and women who served.

“We certainly remember and commemorate the sacrifice that the soldiers made as it forms the foundation of the Aussie spirit of being a community and serving others,” Ms Tanner said.   

School ambassadors Phoebe Reaburn and Ariana Matthews wrote Anzac Day poems, while Jack Lee wrote about his grandfather’s perspective of war and Anzac. Elsie Adams is recited some lines from a storybook she had at home about a battered bear that a child took in to school for show and tell that helped the child’s grandfather through the tough times at war.

Woolsthorpe Primary School student leaders also laid a wreath at the Warrnambool ceremony and school representatives and families also marched.

Principal Simon Perry said they also held a service at school on Tuesday, as part of a 20-year long tradition, which was led by the grade six students.

Mr Perry said the service was a “special and unique morning” which was attended by Country Women’s Association, ex-servicemen, parents, grandparents and local community members.  

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