Youth Anzac Day presence so significant

Rutherglen High School co-captains Riley Welsh and Joe Brooks at the town’s Anzac Day last week.

With the passing of time and soldiers from wars, it is reassuring to see the involvement of children and teenagers from all local schools and various youth groups at such a significant occasion as Anzac Day.

Rutherglen High School co-captains Joe Brooks and Riley Welsh have acquired considerable knowledge from family going to war and while being an exchange student respectively.

Describing their speeches at Rutherglen’s Anzac Day Service last week as “great”, Rutherglen RSL Sub-Branch President Craig Williams believes it is such an important part of the service each year to have their generation and the younger ones involved.

Rutherglen youth groups Joeys, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers and students from all Rutherglen schools formed part of the record crowd for Anzac Day 2022.

“It's important that the meaning of the day is continued to be taught to our young people and listening to the school captains speak you can tell the Anzac Spirit is still definitely alive and will not be forgotten,” Mr Williams told The Free Press.

“I've also said at the sub-branch many times that Anzac Day is not about or done for us as an RSL Sub-Branch but it is for the community, young and old, to come and say thank you to those past and present members of our Defence Force and remember those that did not come home but paid with their lives for us to have the freedoms that we have today.”

Loud applause followed the captains’ speeches. Joe is the great grandson of Edward Albert Brooks, also known as “Tedda” by family, who enlisted on the 7th of January 1915, was a member of the 20th infantry battalion and fought at Gallipoli as a young 20-year-old man.

“On the 26th of June 1915 Edward left Australia on the H.M.A.T Berrima and arrived at Gallipoli on the 16th of September. He would spend the next three years fighting until returning home on the 24th of August 1918 due to a badly ulcerated leg,” Joe explained.

“Being a survivor of WWI, Tedda settled back into an everyday lifestyle in Sans Souci Sydney, soon marrying my great grandmother Elizabeth McClure. They went on to have five children, one of whom is my grandfather. Tedda was able to advise and be behind the scenes of the film ‘Gallipoli’ starring Mel Gibson, as he was president of the Gallipoli legion at the time; then going on to live a long life, living to the ripe old age of 102.

“My grandfather, Max Brooks son of Edward, grew up as a young boy through WWII. Pop was born on the 1st of December 1931 and can remember growing up through WWII in Sydney, he told me a story, at the time Pop was 10 or 11 and he remembers watching the movies with his brother when the Japanese submarines invaded Sydney harbour. Pop told me a message on the screen appeared saying that ‘everyone is to go home and be safe or stay and continue watching the film’.

“Pop and his brother decided to stay, but he told me how when they left the cinemas, Sydney was in darkness, the power had been cut off, he was frightened. I also asked Pop about school and what school was like in during WWII. He said teachers were all brought out of retirement and had some age about them as the younger ones went off to war.

“I not only had family go into war, I also had family who stayed home in Australia to farm and harvest crops for food, for the soldiers and local areas. My Nan’s father never went to war, he stayed home to maintain the farm and harvesting crops for food and keeping the economy running whilst war was on going.

“ANZAC day is a day that I can be proud of who I am and my ancestors. Whilst talking to my grandfather he said ‘If old Pop Brooks never came home from the war, we very well might not be here today, you and I’. So, I am proud that I can say my great-grandfather served his time at war, and I can feel proud and honoured to wear his medals and march with my school to remember not only him, but the thousands of men and women who fought for our country’s freedom.

“The bravery they showed back then is unforgettable. As a young 18-year I am grateful that because of them I have the knowledge and choice that I hopefully won’t have to fight at war. I am proud and honoured that I can celebrate ANZAC day with my school, my town and my country.”

Riley has been an exchange student in a town called Arras in the north of France. “I learnt of the Australian impact upon them,” she said.

“Australians had helped defend the town and surrounds during the Battle of Arras and Battle of Somme. Now in that area there are memorials commemorating the Australians who sacrificed their lives having served for them.

“The ANZAC spirit and Australian soldiers have been remembered across the world. This is evident by the cove on which the ANZACs landed upon 107 years ago, being named after them, ANZAC Cove. But also, to Western Europe.

“It is said that my generation is out of touch with the meaning of ANZAC Day. We have never had to fear an invasion. We have never had to fear death from war.

“But with a war so similar to that fought 107 years ago by people at such a similar age has caused me to think about the ANZACs and the sacrifice that so many gave for our today.”

So impressed by the co-captains’ addresses, Master of Ceremonies David Martin OAM commented: “The future in commemorations of Anzac Day is very strong.”

And that message continues to be promoted among the younger-than primary school age children at Rutherglen Kindergarten.

"ANZAC day connects us with the community and gives children a sense of belonging and pride in being able to contribute to, and be involved in, something that has meaning for all and particularly one that brings everyone together," kindergarten director Joanne Lucas said.