Planning for the 2021 national reunion is well advanced, surprisingly so given the ‘distraction’ brought about by COVID-19. This has had some effect on our planning because we could not visit Canberra. However, Noel Fairley, John Burns and I have just returned from a reconnaissance of the city visiting the venues for all the planned activities.
What is clear is that members should make accommodation bookings ASAP. Not only Is the Canberra Floriade on, a major tourist activity being conducted at the same time as the reunion, but the period also covers 3 of the States’ and the ACT’s school holidays. If you have any queries in this regard, we urge you to contact Ellandale Travel, Ms Caroline De Haas on 0433 059159 for any assistance.
So far, there are 107 firm commitments to attend the reunion. We would like this figure to be a tad higher but understand there is some nervousness in planning because of COVID-19. Elsewhere in the newsletter there is an ‘early bird’ offer which we would encourage members to consider. In the event, the committee is conscious of the tentativeness and has determined that 31 May 2021 is a crucial date where a decision will be made whether to hold the reunion as planned or cancel it so that members can obtain refunds for any cancellations that are necessary.
While still to be finalised, events planned are:
- Sunday 19 September:
- 1300 to 1630 – Registration Ainslie Football Club; and
- 1700 hrs to late – Meet and Greet, Ainslie Football Club.
- Monday 20 September:
- 1030 to 1200 – National Commemorative Service Operation Ivanhoe.
- 1230 to 1300 – Reunion Photograph (TBC) – Australian War Memorial (AWM).
- 1300 onwards – own arrangements; and
- 1800 to late – company functions.
- Tuesday 21 September:
- 0900 to 1530 – own arrangements.
- 1500 to 1630 – Move to AWM for Last Post Ceremony and Reunion Photograph (TBC).
- 1655 to 1715 – Last Post Ceremony AWM.
- 1730 – Return to accommodation; and
- 1900 tO 2330- Reunion Dinner – Ainslie Football Club.
- Wednesday 22 September.
a. 0800 hrs onwards – ‘sick parade’ and dispersal.
National Commemorative Service
This event, organized and funded by DVA, is being held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Ivanhoe and the Battle of Nui Le .and will be of mammoth proportions. Nationally televised, attendees will involve senior government, political and defence officials. Importantly, the event will honour veterans of all campaigns.
If members would like to get an idea of what it the event is like they are invited to watch the televised recording of the 50th anniversary of Operation Hammersley (8 RAR) at the following link https://iview.abc.net.au/show/australia-remembers-operation-hammersley. The recording runs for about an hour and is well worth watching.
It was made very clear by DVA that they see these 50th anniversaries as essential to give recognition and closure to all our members whatever campaigns they served in.
Last Post Ceremony
This ceremony at the AWM, although relatively short (maybe 20 minutes) is succinct yet solemn and poignant. It affords those attending the opportunity to reflect on the supreme sacrifice made by thousands of Australians. One such soldier is featured each day; on 21 September 2021, the soldier will be Private Ralph Niblett. Ralph, a machine-gunner, who was in 11 platoon, D company at the Battle of Nui Le and was mortally wounded in the opening exchange of fire. He died a short while later before he could be evacuated. He was the last Australian soldier to die in Vietnam; he had also the unfortunate distinction of being the last National Serviceman to die.
On 18 September 2021, the 50th anniversary of the eve of the commencement of Operation Ivanhoe, the Last Post Ceremony at the War Memorial will remember Private Kevin (Kiwi) Kingston-Powles, also a machine gunner, who was among those killed in action on 21 September 1971.
There were five 4 RAR soldiers killed during the battle and while only Niblett will be featured at the last post ceremony on 21 September each of the others will be mentioned. Additionally, DVA will fund the attendance of the next-of-kin of each soldier killed, whom we have managed to track down.
The dinner will be held at the Ainslie Football Club commencing at 1900 for 1930. A 3-course meal will be served, and a 4-hour drinks package is included in the dinner cost of $150.00 per head. This price was negotiated over 12 months ago and has since been increased but the club is honouring the original quote.
Along with the 4 RAR colours being present, a band combo (hopefully from the RMC band) is being arranged and a comedian/magician, Mr Phil Cass who performed at the 2011 Gold Coast Reunion, has also been engaged. (Phil’s brother Russ Cass served in B company on the battalion’s first tour of SVN.)
The reunion should be a great event given the hard work of the committee to make it so. If you are in some doubt, consider this. The planned Canberra reunion may well be the last such event. The simple fact is that there do not appear to be any takers, from the younger ‘millennial’ military generation, prepared to take over. These comments are not intended as a criticism, but they simply represent the inevitable changes that have always occurred from generation to generation. We are doubly disadvantaged, however, as we do not have a line battalion to assist with networking. Sadly, these are the facts.
So, join is in Canberra for a real ‘knees-up’! And please spread the word.