Anzac Day 2017

ANZAC day Service at Pickering Brook was another very well supported event. Each year the crowds get larger and larger. This year estimated to be topping 300. It was great to see many past residents of the district once again supporting the event. This included “Scruffy” Smith, again this year, who travels all the way from Bruce Rock, and Helen & Peter Skehan from Rossmoyne, to name just a few.

The weather was magnificent and turned into a lovely sunny day. The noise of the birds breaking the morning silence was just so apt for the service.

The Welcome Introduction was presented by Stephen Lamont.

The prayer and reading was given by Father Anthony Suresh, the Kalamunda Catholic Padre. He spoke very sincerely and with a lot of feeling and meaning.

Again this we were privileged to have the Pickering Brook Primary School Choir in attendance. A much larger group than last year. They sang beautifully although drowned out a bit by the loud music. However this will be corrected for next year.

The School Address was given by the Head Girl Hannah Biddlecombe and Head Boy Archie Simmonds.

We were very honoured to have Margot Harness as our Guest Speaker for the day. Margot, despite being in the middle of shifting house, agreed to fill the gap and our original speaker unfortunately broke a leg the week before. Thanks Margot. Beverley was so relieved and your speech was very well received.

The Speech

All of us have come here today to remember, honour and respect all those Australians and New Zealanders who have served our countries in times of war. Many gave their lives: and of those who came home – many were scarred in body and spirit. Some of those survivors are here today. In their service, they – and you – helped forge us as a nation committed to democratic ideals and the upholding of human dignity and freedom; and we give thanks to them – and pay homage to them all.

When invited to make this address to acknowledge the special significance of this day and its place in our Australian modern history; I decided to focus on what is usually a seldom-mentioned aspect of war – and that it: what war meant to the womenfolk of our land. There is no doubt that the major burden of warfare falls on the shoulders of our men: and in the fields of battle – whether on land, sea or in the air – their terrors and suffering bring the horror of war to us in its terrible reality. But it is also a fact that as the 20th century unfolded, and war afflicted our nation – time and again, the country relied more and more on the contributions made by its women.


In the past, when conflict has confronted us, women have predominantly been restricted to a supportive role. The fortitude and resilience asked of them was delivered :behind-the-scenes”. As early as the Boer War – before federation, and while Australia was still a nation of separate states – 28 nursing sisters paid their own fares to South Africa. Some years after that, approximately 2000 Army nursing sisters served overseas in the AANS during the Great War of 1914-1918 – many on hospital ships anchored off the Gallipoli coast. 388 received decorations for their efforts, including seven MMs for bravery under fire.

For other women of that WW1 era however, the only support they could offer was limited to the “home front” and “keeping the home fires burning”. Hardly any family was untouched. Wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts did whatever they could to support their men-folk’s morale and hope – through letters, comfort-parcels, and keeping homes and families going day-to-day, for their men to come home to. For the men who didn’t come back – it was left to their young widows to complete the raising of families on their own. Mothers who had lost husbands and sons had to struggle just to live – as few women had any source of income; and no pensions to rely on.

As most of you know, with the coming of WW2 – and particularly when war came to the Pacific, and Australia for the first time came under a direct threat of invasion – the nation was in peril and had to mobilize. Every capable man who could be spared enlisted into the services. These vacated jobs had to be filled – and for the very first time, women had to step up to the crease and take on far more varied and practical tasks.

Fortunately, they proved themselves – in many ways. Some of these roles ……

Due to staffing shortages in critical industries crucial to the war effort (eg: munitions/provisions of tinned food) women – many of whom had never worked outside of home – took over jobs and skills hitherto carried out only by men.


Like their counterparts in Britian and the U.S., Australian women enlisted in large numbers in all three services. Many nurses and nursing sisters joined up – and served alongside our men in theatres of war overseas – sharing the deprivations of living under canvas as well as the risks of being bombed, torpedoed and killed in action. Some were captured, and died or suffered in POW camps. Thousands more back home rallied to undertake support roles in the three services. They undertook typically female tasks – as cooks, drivers, pay clerks and working in stores and personnel administration; but increasingly they took over tasks usually carried out by men – such as wireless operators and coders; firing artillery or operating search lights.

Australia at that time was greatly dependent on agriculture and farming – so the Women’s Land Army was formed to take over the important role of helping to produce the nation’s food, and keep the farms viable in the absence of rural men, who’d enlisted and gone to fight.

A handful of Australia women overseas became involved in intelligence work. One – Nancy Wake, a journalist married to a Frenchman and based in southern France, became a major figure in the French Resistance: a courageous and effective “spy”, known as “the White Mouse”. Nancy was Australia’s most decorated woman. She lived to the age of 98. I would be hard-pressed to name a more feisty, gutsy Aussie “sheila” than Nancy Wake.

Australian nurses also showed their mettle in the Pacific during WW2. 22 Nursing Corps sisters survived the sinking of the ship “Vyner Brooke” and managed to swim to a beach at Banka Island, just of Sumatra – only to find themselves, within days, surrounded by Japanese soldiers. Male survivors were bayoneted. Knowing they too were about to be executed, the unarmed sisters were ordered to walk into the sea. Wading together into the surf, their Matron: Irene Drummond called out: “Chin up, girls! I’m proud of you all and I love you all!’ – before they were machine-gunned from the beach. Only one, who feigned death after being shot, survived. That was Sister Vivian Bullwinkel, who then survived three years seven months as a POW(J). Had she not survived, no one would ever have known about the massacre.

Back home, families had to keep going without fathers, brothers and sons; and once again it fell to women to take over shops, factories and homes to ensure their fighting men could come home and be able to pick up on their fractured lives.

Female WW2 veterans won respect from their menfolk for the quality of their capability and commitment and paved the way for women having a far greater role in Australian society generally. Modern Australian women today owe a huge debt to the WW2 era of women – because for the first time in the nation’s history, women were given the opportunity to demonstrate just how able, and resourceful, and reliable, and brave they could be. And they seized it with both hands.

When the Korean War came along – nursing sisters and nurses came to the fore once again, and served in hospitals in Japan – with a small nursing contingent in Korea itself. Fifteen years later, with the Vietnam War, women of the RAANC and WRAAF Nursing Service, as well as those with the Red Cross, made a greatly valued contribution to nursing the wounded and assisting in air evacuations. Back here in Australia, women took over hundreds of Army, Navy and Air Force training roles, so that men could be released for duty overseas.

Today in the Armed Services – approximately 10% of personnel are women. Australia has never asked its women to be combatant – or to serve in the “front line” – but they can be found as pilots of transport aircraft, air traffic controllers, engineers, doctors, dentists, drivers, linguists, stores personnel, signalers, and administrators – some even command ships. As always, nurses (sisters and orderlies) are a unique, vital and invaluable part of all three services – at war and in times of peace. In recent years, women have served beside men in East Timor, Rwanda, the Gulf and Iraq.

War is a tragedy – and women, as well as men, fear it, and try hard to avoid it – none more than those who have had to go through it. Alas. however, as we all know, sometimes it is inevitable that in a volatile world, our nation becomes involved.

Speaking as an ex-service-woman – both in the ranks as a Navy Radio Operator in the WRANS and later an Army Officer during the Vietnam War years – I salute all those fine, wonderful women who went before me; who saw where they could help, and did their bit, side-by-side with our men. We treasure their memory, just as we cherish and recognise the sacrifices of all the sailors, soldiers and airmen who fought in the firm belief that they were defending our precious freedoms and Australian way of life.

To echo the sentiments already expressed today ; LEST WE FORGET


After the service we had the traditional “Shotgun Breakfast” available. Our volunteers worked very hard catering for the large crowd. Making Bacon & Egg Rolls, and tea and coffee. We under-estimated the expected crowd and ran out of bread rolls and had to make and emergency rush to find extras.

Our “new” shed proved to be a great asset providing a nice area to sit and chat.

References: Article: Pickering Brook Heritage Group

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