Tumut remembers its heroes

Robert Watson, World War II veteran Ray Back and Warwick Butler.

 A good-sized crowd gathered at the Richmond Park Memorial on Wednesday for the Tumut RSL Sub-Branch’s Remembrance Day service.

The event marks the day when the guns finally fell silent at the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

Wreaths were laid and host Robert Watson, the Sub-Branch president, talked about the sacrifice paid by the nation and Tumut during “the war to end all wars”.

“Australia and in particular Tumut paid a heavy price for our involvement in this war,” he said.

“From a population of just under five million people, approximately 330,000 Australians saw active service on the battlefields far from home during the period 1914-18. 61,000 were killed and more than 150,000 became casualties.

“More than 400 Tumut men and women saw active service with an approximately 50 per cent casualty rate and 63 killed in action.

“In the decade after World War I there was one long funeral procession with another 60,000 soldiers dying of from their war injuries, sickness and suicide. Their deaths were usually explained in one word – Gallipoli, Somme, Pozieres, Passchendaele.

“Australia and New Zealand fought side by side in many battles during World War I – it was the beginning of a special bond. The Anzac legend was born and after 102 years the Kiwis remain our closest allies.

“Australian soldiers, the great majority of whom were volunteers, without previous military experience, had commenced the war at Gallipoli with the reputation as being as good as any other soldier in the British Army.

“By 1918 along with the Canadians and New Zealanders were acknowledged as the elite shock troops of the British forces.

“The pain of loss from the first World War is still felt by Australians – our World War I veterans, just like many of our veterans from following conflicts had seen and done things no human should have to. They returned home in many cases broken men and to very little support.

Only after three or four generations did perspective start to form on this war; only then did Australians begin to realise what their grandfathers had endured and achieved. By then most of them were dead.

“So we gather again at this place 102 years on, to renew that pledge to never forget their sacrifices of not only our World War I veterans but all those who have served and died or have suffered from their service.”