Anzac Day 2016

ANZAC DAY 2016 was a very overcast rainy day, but it did not deter a great crowd of approximately 300 from attending our very special service. We were very fortunate that the rain stopped prior to the start and didn’t commence again till after the service. The particular atmosphere that this service has created over the very few years of its existence, draws not only local people, but others from outside of the district. One ex-local traveled hundreds of kilometers to attend and even camped in his campervan overnight.

The Welcome and Introduction was presented by Stephen Lamont followed by a Prayer and Reading by visiting chaplin from Tasmania, former local resident Reverend Lesley Borowitzka..

Pickering Brook Primary School Head Boy Jordan Radice and Head Girl Olivier Bucknell presented two short readings. The was followed by the Address presented by Former President of the RSL WA, Bill Gaynor This is the third year he has honoured us by presenting another very interesting and detailed address. This stirred many emotions within the crowd.

The Address in full, is reproduced on this website now, for you interest.


The Address

Every year we come here to commemorate our Fallen.Every year we come to the same place, at the same time, say the same sort of things and the crowds continue to grow around this country.
That’s because every year is not the same.
Every year is a special and fresh event for thousands of citizens who have either lost loved ones or have some connection with them.
Every year we become more aware of the almost unbelievable sacrifices of the 102,000 men and women who have served and died for this country; who died not on Australian soil but in places often far away.

Last year we commemorated the Centenary of the landing at Gallipoli, when 1,023 Western Australians died.
This year we commemorate the thousands more who in the First World War died on the Western Front, precisely 100 years ago.
It is estimated that something like 46,000 Australians lost their lives on the Western Front, including at least 3,500 Western Australians.

Believe it or not, accurate numbers are still being calculated because at the time so many killed were never identified or given grave.

What we do know is that the First World War was one of the worst conflicts in human history. It tore the young heart out of Australia.In those days, Australia had a population of 4.9 million and 416,809 men volunteered, of which more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner.
In total more than 17 million on both sides were left dead. It was called the “war to end all wars”.

Let us not forget that there were other significant battles in 1916 and that 2016 also commemorates the following anniversaries:

* 100 years since the Battles of the Western Front.

* 75 years since the Siege of Tobruk and the Battle of Crete and Greece.

* 50 years since the Battle of Long Tan, and

*25 years since the Gulf War.

We still have survivors of Tobruk, Long Tan and of course the Gulf War amongst us.


The Western Front

The Western Front was the most significant battleground of the First World War.
The front stretched 750km from the Belgian coast through France to the Swiss border. It was where opposing armies stalemated for four years in trenches, mud and death.
More than 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front and 46,000 lost their lives and 132,000 were wounded.
Battlegrounds on The Western Front were once household words in Australia — indeed WW1 soldiers were determined not to forget them and named locations after them: Pozieres, Bapaume, Amiens, Passchendaele State Forest to name a few.
In mid-July 1916 the three Australian divisions of 1st Anzac Corps were involved in incredibly deadly battles;


Fromelles, where in July 1916, the Australian 5th Division suffered a disastrous defeat in the first major operation on the Western Front. This was a war of at times unspeakable horror and Australia experienced its worst day in history with 5,533 casualties (including around 2,000 dead) in just 24 hours.
Fromelles was the worst Australian single day toll of either war, including the 1941 sinking of the HMAS Sydney with the loss of all 645 crew.


Pozieres, is a small village in the Somme Valley in France, where in a little over six weeks in July and August 1916 1st Anzac Corps captured Pozieres village and the heights beyond and suffered 23,000 casualties.
Australian historian Charles Bean – the “father” of the Australian War Memorial – reported that Pozieres ridge “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”.
Though British divisions were involved, Pozieres is primarily remembered as an Australian baffle. The village was captured initially by the 1st Division of 1st Anzac Corps on 23rd July 1916.
By the time it was relieved on July 27th it had suffered 5,285 casualties. The 2nd Division took over. It was relieved on August 6th, having suffered 6,848 casualties. The 4th Division was next into the line at Pozieres.
It too endured a massive artillery bombardment, and defeated a German counter-attack on August 7th – the last attempt by the Germans to retake Pozieres.

Mouquet Farm

Where in August-September 1916, the 1st Anzac Corps failed to capture its objective.
Charles Bean wrote,
“The reader must take for granted many of the conditions – the flayed land, shell-hole bordering shell-hole, corpses of young men lying against the trench walls or in shell-holes; some – except for the dust settling on them – seeming to sleep; other torn in half; others rotting, swollen and discoloured.”
One unit which saw the beginning and the end of the action at Mouquet Farm was the 16th Battalion from Western Australia.
In a very short period, the 16th Battalion lost the equivalent 76 per cent of their losses at Gallipoli – 637 killed, wounded or mi
sing (most likely killed). The 16th endured massive enemy bombardment and through the inferno the behaviour of one Western Australian, Private Martin O’Meara, later awarded the Victoria Cross, stood out.
Lieutenant William Lynas wrote:
“Private O’Meara is the most fearless and gallant soldier I have ever seen; besides doing the very arduous duties imposed on him, by reason of his being in the Scouting Section, efficiently and cheerfully, this man used to fill in his time bringing in the wounded under all conditions.”
Ultimately, the 16th were unable to hold Mouquet Farm or other nearby positions they had taken in their first rush. Determined enemy counter-attacks threw them back virtually to their start lines. Heavy rain had also turned the shell-torn earth of Mouquet Farm into a quagmire in which the mud penetrated rifle and machine-gun mechanisms, rendering them useless and even clogged the firing pins of grenades.


The Western Front rightly earns its mantle as one of the deadliest theatres of war.
I remind you – 46,000 Australians died here.
By comparison, 8,709 Australians were killed at Gallipoli over eight months in 1915 and in Vietnam, 521 Australians were killed or listed as missing presumed dead.
But now I want to talk on something totally different. It’s about what happens when wounded soldiers come home either after the war of because they have been injured.
The battle casualties at Gallipoli shocked everyone back in Australia and it was felt that something should be done for the wounded ANZAC’s.

In Mount Hawthorn, just a short distance from where we are today, the community decided to build a memorial – not the magnificent memorials we see in parks in cities throughout the country – but a house for a returned wounded soldier from the battlefield at Gallipoli.
The enthusiastic citizens of Mount Hawthorn began the planning and required processes to get the building underway.
Generous donations of building materials were available as well as offer of voluntary labour. More importantly, donations of money, furniture and other household items were also offered.
Using volunteers the chosen block of land was cleared and the site made ready for the builders.
The scene was now ready for the most amazing event in community support for our soldiers.


They Wanted To Build The House In A Day

A very good friend of mine wrote a book on this event. It is called “The House that was built in a Day – ANZAC Cottage”.

The story goes like this:

At 4.00am on the 12th February 1916 fifty men gathered on the cleared plot of bare black sand in Kalgoorlie Street in Mount Hawthorn. At 4.30am they were ready to go. As first light peeped through the trees and a chorus of birds welcomed the dawn, the foreman builder said – “Let’s set a record and build this cottage by nightfall.” Not wasting a minute the men began digging trenches and mixing concrete.
Early morning walkers paused at the scene on the dirt road and watched with amazement as the one hundred men went to work with their shovels, trowels, levels, bricks and cement. The builder paced up and down the site inspecting the work and encouraging the men with “Give it your best lads – just like our soldiers gave their best on the shores of Gallipoli”..

Heavy boots tramped the dust along Kalgoorlie Street and men who finished their work at midday to take up tools.
The women were also there to support their men and worked in a makeshift kitchen to feed the hungry workers. Buttered bread, mugs of steaming hot tea and a hearty stew fed the workers as they laboured on their project – only pausing to remember those who had been to war.
Just after midday the bricklayers, carpenters, cement mixers and labourers had built the walls to roof height, which meant the chimney and roof structure could be set in place.
The house was now starting to take shape on the outside and the men moved inside. Walls were plastered, flooring nailed in place and doors and windows fitted, Plumbers fitted baths and sinks and painters began their decorating.

At around 4.00pm the foreman looked at his watch and gasped “Put your backs into it lads, we only have a few more hours of daylight and there is much to be done.”

By this time a crowd of more than 4000 onlookers had gathered in Kalgoorlie Street to watch the building finally reach its completion.

Just before sunset Governor Barron and Lady Barron arrived. Lady Barron place a special plaque at the gateway entrance to honour the achievement.
The Governor stated
“I congratulate the Mount Hawthorn Community on this generous deed.”
A special flag was then hoisted – special because it was the Australian National Flag with the letters ANZAC sewn across the bottom of the flag.
(This flag can still be seen at ANZAC Cottage today)
And as the sun dropped over the horizon, the works foreman’s voice boomed out that the house had been completed and we have just set a record.
With nightfall upon them, the men packed up their tool and the women put out the fires in their bush kitchen.
The people of Mount Hawthorn headed homewards with their head held high leaving darkness to settle on the roof of ANZAC Cottage.
The first soldier to occupy the cottage on 15th April 1916 was Gallipoli Veteran Pte John Porter and his family. They resided in the Cottage until his death in 1964.

At your service today, remember the ANZAC’s.

Remember their courage, determination and spirit.

Above all, to the young generation of Australians, this world is being passed on to your hands. Use it well and remember, that without the sacrifices of the ANZAC’s of the past, you may not have had the world such as you know it, in which you live.


After the Service, members of the Pickering Brook Heritage Group prepared and
served a “Shotgun Breakfast” in the true tradition

References: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, Warwick Hemy
(, 10, 11 Gordon Freegard