A Digger, A Sapper, A Combat Engineer

• One of Condobolin’s oldest serving Diggers Ron L’Estrange with Vietnam Veteran Alan Townsend, who gave the 2016 ANZAC Day address. Mr Townsend served 21 years as a Combat Engineer and achieved the rank of Sergeant Major. Full covergae of ANZAC Day on pages 8, 10, 11 and 12. MB

The 2016 ANZAC Day address was given by Alan R Townsend RAE (Sapper) ARA (Retired). Mr Townsend also works at Lachlan Shire Council as the Manager Building Services.

Today we come together not to celebrate battles or to glorify wars, but to honour and remember those who have served and who are currently serving in all conflicts as Australians protecting Australians, their way of life, and the freedom to enjoy, through selfless sacrifices they have endured.

The spirit of the ANZAC was bequeathed to all Australians, by young Australian diggers and New Zealand soldiers, on the 25 April 1915 at Gallipoli, and now is our National Day of Commemoration.

At Gallipoli the ANZAC fought a formidable enemy, with ferocious intensity, at all cost, over the harshest of terrain and at such a young age, some didn’t even shave. The campaign was lost, some 8,000 diggers had given their lives, and more than 24,000 soldiers were wounded, before the final withdrawal creating the ANZAC legend to be born.

The Australian’s didn’t take kindly to the loss of her sons, forcing the World and the Empire to recognise their value, their worth. Australia, a young country, 14 years old, was now given a bond, of courage, determination, of fighting prowess, of mateship and larrikinism, and they proved they were the best.

The first Australians to serve in a foreign campaign, was a NSW contingent in the Sudan War in 1885, and at the turning of the century, Australians again saw service in the Boer War. The Great War to end all wars, saw Australia drawn into World War I, declared by others with a sense of duty to the Empire, King and Country. The first contingents were all volunteers with firm beliefs this was the basis of ferocity which created the ANZAC legend. The Australians and New Zealanders acquitted themselves with distinction throughout the Great War with heavy losses through Turkey, France, Belgium and Egypt, and to the ultimate success to end the Great War.

Let us pay our respects and remember all service men and women, at home and abroad, who have sacrificed their freedom, so that we as Australians can live a lifestyle enjoyed by all. To be safe and secure, with protection of rights, in a humane environment, with that ANZAC Spirit looking over us at night.

We pay our respects and remember those who gave the supreme sacrifice defending our country in all campaigns from the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the service of all who have served Australia in Peace Keeping and multi-national campaigns or operational service around the world.

In Australia today, with terrorism and evil on our doorstep, serving our nation means much more than the foreign campaigns, therefore we must also, pay our respects to the Emergency Services, keeping us safe from harm’s way, guided by the ANZAC Spirit. I once worked for an Emergency Services Commissioner, and in a hostile situation, he looked me in the eye and said, “Whatever it takes”, a true expression of the ANZAC tradition.

We should remember and pay our respects to those who have supported our service men and women in service and returning from service, because unfortunately they change both physically and mentally from the service that they have given and endured.

There are no winners in war, just legends born, from every day men and women, not wanting to die, but willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, for abnormalities or war, so that we may enjoy what Australia is today, your freedom of choice, and your right to have your say.

Today I would like to make a special mention of the last Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel, Mr Faole Bokoi of the Manari Village, who passed away on the 7 March 2016. The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, fighting for freedom in their own country, helped save many a digger’s life as bearers and guides, on the Kokoda Track in World War II, and just like our ANZAC’s, they became legends and a spirit reincarnated from the horrors of war.

I would now like to read a poem written by a Digger about those Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

“Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”

Many a mother in Australia

When their busy day is done

Sends a prayer to the Almighty

For the keeping of her son

Asking that an angel guide him

And bring him safely back

Now we see those prayers answered

On the Owen Stanley Track

For they haven’t any halos

Only holes slashed in their ears

And their faces worked by tattoos

With scratch pins in their hair

Bringing back the badly wounded

Just as steady as a horse

Using leaves to keep the rain off

As gentle as a nurse

Slow and careful in the bad places

On the awful mountain track

The look upon their faces

Would make you think Christ was black

Not a move to hurt the wounded

As they treat him like a saint

It’s a picture worth recording

That an artist’s yet to paint

Many a lad will see his mother

And husband see their wives

Just because a Fuzzy Wuzzy

Carried them to save their lives

From mortar bombs and machine gun fire

Or chance surprise attacks

To the safety and the care of doctors

At the bottom of the track

May the mothers of Australia

When they offer up a prayer

Mention those impromptu angels

With their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

Written by Bert Beros Sapper. Bert a veteran of both WWI and WWII, wrote this poem whilst fighting on the Owen Stanley Track in the highlands of New Guinea. Like myself, Bert wasn’t famous, just a Digger, a Sapper and a Combat Engineer.

For my final words of commemoration today. I have written my own short poem.

Please let us all remember,

And never ever forget,

Who gave you what you’ve got today,

Don’t take it all for granted,

Our diggers pay the price,

Remembering the Spirit of the ANZACS,

And the ultimate sacrifice.

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