Remembrance Day

Reg. A. Watson

It was more than a hundred years ago that our Tasmanian ANZACS came home. Home to Tasmania away from the hell of war. Home to recover and home to start their life again. It was hard to do.

What name should we give our particular Tasmanian ANZAC?  Johnny is a good name, but his name varied as did his background and personality.  And why did he go in the first place?  No doubt there were various reasons….Patriotism?  Duty and obligation?  Social Pressure?  A chance of adventure?  Perhaps escaping from some problem that existed for him?

Whatever reason he left the security of his home and went to war.  We tend to think that most of our ANZAC chaps were from the rural areas of Tasmania, but even in 1914 as is now, most lived in the cities, Hobart, Launceston, Burnie and Devonport. Their occupations were tram, bus and train drivers, bank clerks, sales assistants, factory workers, tradesmen and on a broader scale, farm labourers, fisherman, forest workers and deck hands.  Officers were mainly professional people, clergymen, accountants, vets, chemists, doctors, and lawyers.

Johnny was young, not much more than a boy. He stood five feet eight inches tall.  He had just begun shaving but his complexion was still fresh, but that would change. Perhaps he was one of the eleven who enlisted from Melton Mowbray in the Midlands.  Or one of the sixty who enlisted from Gormanston or one of the eleven to enlist from Old Beach.

We can visualise Johnny on that fateful morning when he was to leave, packing his bag and maybe his dad was well off enough to own a car and take him to the train station.  Before leaving he said goodbye to his family by hugging mum who had tears in her eyes, a manly handshake from dad, a kiss from his sisters and a handshake from his brothers, who were in awe of him. Mum wondered what the war had to do with ‘us’ while dad was proud of his son, now in uniform. Dad said he was brave which they also said at the community hall last night when the locals put on a supper to wish him God Speed and best wishes.  There he said goodbye to his ‘girl’. Would they even see each other again? Yes, dad said he was “brave” but deep down he felt a foreboding, a longing in not wanting to really go.  But he had signed, he was now in uniform, made his commitments and now he was to leave.  Training would be first at Claremont then to be shipped to war. Funny though he did not feel brave, but he believed he was going to do what was expected of him.

Off he goes and sails the Indian Ocean to his destination.  The transport ship was overcrowded and the trip was long.  They spent their time in exercising, smoking, playing cards, gambling, boxing and in shooting practice.  The meals were reasonable, but theft was rife. The officers had cabins and ate their meals separately.  There were numerous cases of insubordination, of sickness, fighting and even one bloke jumped overboard never to be seen again.

Finally he was taken off the ship to undergo further training.  Then to the battle zone where the real tests were to be experienced.  Perhaps our Johnny first went to Gallipoli where he took ill with dysentery and after recovering was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel.  He was taken to one of the hospital ships where he met remarkable Tasmanian Matron, Elizabeth (Liz) Orr who had, after the war, a break down because of her service to our men.

If Johnny survived Gallipoli he would be sent to the Western Front and if he thought he saw the worse horror of war, he would see much more in France and Belgium.  There perhaps he saw General John Gellibrand, Tasmania’s most decorated soldier;  a brave, humane man who clashed with General Monash over the unnecessary casualties that were being caused.

The eucalyptus and the alluring paddocks of Tasmania were replaced for Johnny by mud holes so deep you could drown in them and a landscape because of incessant bombardments, similar to what the moon’s landscape must look like..  Men’s wounds and suffering would torment him in monstrous dreams for the rest of his life. He was to write home expressing his thoughts, but never letting them know the true story.  After all, they would worry and he would not want that.

Yet somehow he survived it all…sick several times, wounded twice.  On occasions he visited while on leave Paris as he did Old Blighty (England) and London.  He had relatives in London so when there he looked them up they gave him a mighty reception.  As an Australian he was a hero.

Then November 11th 1918 it was all over and to Tasmania Johnny would go. He did return to his home, but he felt a stranger to his parents and the boy they sent away now came back as a man and they were painfully aware he had suffered and saw much.

He was one of the lucky ones.  Near 3000 Tasmanians died in the war and with a ratio of 1:3 nearly 9000 were wounded.  All returned emotionally and psychologically effected.  Johnny had repaired from his wounds, but many of his comrades came back without legs or arms, or both.  Some came back with parts of their faces missing.  Many coughed uncontrollably because of the gas attacks. Some were so bad mentally they were sent to the Derwent Valley Asylum to spend the rest of their days there.

Yes Johnny was lucky.  He eventually married his ‘girl’ and had a family; only to see his son join once again for another war. More Banker’s wars.

The Service and Legacy of Her Majesty the Queen

With the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we witnessed history.  For most here today, all we have known is The Queen!  Suddenly to realise that she is no longer with us comes as a bit of a shock even though of course she had been frail for some time.

It was Winston Churchill, her first ever Prime Minister, who said that she will be the founder of a second Elizabethan era.  Having reigned for seventy years, the era has become exactly that. She was, when alive, the only Head of State world-wide, to have worn a Second World War uniform, serving in that conflict when only a girl. She was, naturally, of that previous generation to take the matters of obligation, service, and duty to heart.  She believed in those old, but honoured virtues. During her reign there were many times of extraordinary stress, family scandals and disappointments. The year 1992 she described as annus horribilus – meaning a horrible year.  Who of us cannot forget an elderly lady suffering alone when inspecting the aftermath of the burning of her beloved Windsor Castle on the 20th November 1992. And then there was the funeral of her husband of 74 years in April 2021, sitting alone because of necessity in Westminster Abby.  How sad and how cruel it was. She did it without complaint. In her oath taken 2nd June 1953 she pledged, “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep.  So help me God.” And what did she promise in her Coronation Oath?  Among many things, was to serve the people and “to maintain the Law of God and the true profession of the Gospel”.  She took her oath seriously.  As a dedicated Christian her title of “Defender of the Faith”” meant to her more than just mere words. It was a promise.

William Shakespeare from his “Twelve Night” said “some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them”. The Queen had greatness thrust upon her.

What dramatically intervened in her life was the Constitutional crises involving Edward the Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson. The affair ended in controversy when Edward, the king, abdicated in 1936. This meant that his younger brother George had the throne forced on him, a role he had not preferred to have inherited.

The King did not enjoy good health and underwent an operation and afterwards appeared though weak, fitter. His illness, however, continued and it was obvious he was dying of cancer. At this time Princess Elizabeth and the Duke had two young children, Charles and Anne. For a number of months the King prevailed. On the 31st January 1951 the King waved goodbye to his daughter and son-in-law from the London Airport. They were off on a tour of East Africa.  In the small hours of 6th February 1952 the King died.

The young couple were enjoying a stay at a hunting lodge, a wedding present from the inhabitants of Kenya, when the news of the death of her father, was received. She had planned to move on to Australia and New Zealand, but she immediately drafted apologies herself. One vital chore she had, as now monarch, was to declare as Queen, how she would be known. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra May.  Her title would now be Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland.

The Queen developed a delightful sense of humour and surely it was needed in times of difficultly. This is in contrast to King Philip II of Spain, as recorded by historians, who laughed but twice in his life.  I am not sure when he did so, but I do not think it was because of the Armada. That was during the reign of another Elizabeth.  Who can forget of recent times Her Majesty’s afternoon tea with Paddington Bear or her entrance to the London Olympics with James Bond in 2012 descending to the arena from a helicopter.

She recognised a higher power which gave her humbleness.  One is reminded of a young Queen Victoria. When attending a performance of Handel’s Messiah, she was informed that she was not obliged to stand when the Hallelujah Chorus was sung.  When The King of Kings was being performed, Queen Victoria rose from her seat and stood head bowed during the rest of the chorus.

When the term “Queen” was used world-wide all knew to which Queen it was referred, even though there are other queens in the world. Her passing had not just affected her loyal subjects in Great Britain and the Commonwealth, but throughout the world.

I have never seen such pouring out of grief or seen such huge respect given to one person and may I suggest we will never see the same ever again. Oh, how much more can be said of this amazing woman?

I must add her connection to Tasmania. She first arrived here when only a young lady. She had accepted awesome responsibilities in February 1954 by visiting her realm of Tasmania which included the opening of the Tasmanian Parliament on the 22nd of that month.  She was accompanied by her husband the Duke of Edinburgh. She and Philip arrived Saturday 20th February 1954 on the royal yacht, Gothic and were received by a royal salute of 21 guns from the Queen’s Domain. The itinerary for the royal couple was relentless. First was the unveiling of the sesquicentenary memorial on the historic site of Hunter Island.  The memorial was erected to commemorate the foundation of Hobart under Colonel David Collins in February 1804.  Names of all those who arrived with him are carried on its reverse side and later included those who arrived with Lieutenant John Bowen RN at Risdon in September 1803. Then on the Monday it was the opening of Parliament followed by an investiture at Government House. Later it was a State-wide visit to many centres, flying from Tasmania on the 25th from Launceston airport for Melbourne. It was an exhausting programme and one wonders how a young lady endured it physically. She was an incredible woman.

Her Majesty visited our island State eight times, the last in the year 2000, visiting both Hobart and Launceston.

Her success lay in her ability to be apolitical, a talent she had during her reign. Her son, Charles, while being a Prince has spoken on various issues which have political overtones. For him to be a successful monarch, like his mother, he too will have to stay away from providing political opinions. This he has recognised, stating that being a King is a different role from that of a being a Prince.

Now her reign is over and it will be hard to follow. It will be a challenge to fill her very successful shoes.  We hope and give our blessing to the new king, Charles III.

So how can we sum up her reign?  Well, it was so pleasing that she enjoyed her platinum jubilee not long before her passing. She proved to be the longest reigning British Monarch, just one of the many records she broke. Her service is a reminder that the monarchy has endured and the monarchy stands at the apex of our system of constitutional law. Her reign prompted a new awareness for our young people, looking for stability and endurance. In any sense of a word, her time as monarch was an outstanding success.

As a monarch who believed most strongly that a higher Monarch reigned over her and that she was but a servant of the Most High, she gave her life to that knowledge.  May the Lord welcome her with those immortal words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. 

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Her Majesty the Queen will be enjoying her platinum anniversary during the first week in June, from the 2nd until the 5th.  There will celebrations throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, which of course includes Australia.

While the date marks the platinum anniversary, her coronation came later, 2nd June 1953. Events and activities for her platinum may also be held at any time throughout this year.

Her first visit to Tasmania occurred in February 1954 when she was invited to open the Tasmanian Parliament. The Queen was accompanied by her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

The Queen was the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She did not expect to become monarch so soon, if ever.  She was third in line, after her uncle, Edward, The Prince of Wales and her father, the Duke of York.  She and Philip married 20th November 1947 at Westminster Abbey.  Her husband, the Duke of Edenborough died 9th April 2021, three months shy of his 100th birthday.

Among many activities across Australia to highlight the occasion will see iconic buildings and monuments illuminated in royal purple during those four major days.  Government House Tasmania was similarly illuminated on 6th February this year to mark Accession Day. Also on that day, there was as church service at St David’s Cathedral and the hosting of a reception at Government House, the day following.

What dramatically intervened in her life was the Constitutional crises involving Edward the Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson. The affair ended in controversy when Edward, the king abdicated in 1936. This meant that his younger brother George had the throne forced on him, a role he had not preferred to have inherited. The reluctant Prince, then known as Albert, proved to be a great king.

The King did not enjoy good health and underwent an operation and afterwards appeared though weak, fitter. His illness continued and it was obvious he was dying of cancer. At this time Princess Elizabeth and the Duke had two young children, Charles and Anne. For a number of months the King prevailed. On the 31st January 29t 1951 the King waved goodbye to his daughter and son-in-law from the London Airport. They were off to a tour of East Africa.  In the small hours of 6th February 1952 the King died.

The young couple were enjoying a stay at a hunting lodge, a wedding present from the inhabitants of Kenya, when the news of the death of her father, was received. She had planned to move on to Australia and New Zealand, but she immediately drafted apologies herself. One vital chore she had, as now monarch, was to declare as Queen, how she would be known. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra May.  Her title would now be Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

In 2022, she is also the Queen of 14 Commonwealth Countries and Head of the Commonwealth of Nations.  He has the title, “Defender of the Faith”.

By the time of her crowning in June 1953 she was the celebrated monarch of nearly a quarter of human beings then living on earth.  She was crowned against the setting of Handel’s, Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet.

Australia’s first visit of the royal couple was when they arrived in Sydney 3rd February 1954 and later, on Saturday 20th February 10:30 am, the royal yacht Gothic berthed into Hobart where their hectic and extensive tour of Tasmania began. Upon arrival they were met and addressed by the Lord Mayor of Hobart, Sir Richard Harris and Lady Harris, at the Town Hall. It was on the Monday that Her Majesty opened the fifth session of the 30th Parliament of Tasmania, which was followed by a Garden Party at Government House. The media on the day said that 150,000 people lined the city streets as the royal couple proceeded from Parliament House to Government House. On the way in Stoke Street, a little Dutch girl, Jeltje Folkerts, in national costume, was waiting with a bouquet of roses as a tribute of loyalty from the New Australians.  The Queen’s car halted, the Queen leaned over and accepted the bouquet with a warm smile.

On the Tuesday they departed from Cambridge aerodrome to fly to Wynyard and from there visited, Burnie, Ulverstone, Devonport and Launceston.  They flew out of Western Junction aerodrome to Essendon, for Melbourne and for elsewhere.

It was part of a six month tour, so that the new Queen could meet her people world-wide.

The Queen is now 96 years old.  Her reign has seen dramatic changes throughout Australia and the world.  She has served faithfully for 70 years, making her not only the longest serving British monarch, but the longest serving monarch in the world.

Many of the years have not been easy for her, but she has endured through the ability to see things through, to sacrifice herself and dedicate her life to her people, not to governments, but to her people.

Tasmanians at war

The date for ANZAC Day, April 25th, was chosen because it was the day of landing at Gallipoli in 1915.  The day has been honoured ever since, now an incredible 107 years ago. Tasmania’s contribution to the war effort of WWI was massive from what was then a small society. 181 Tasmanians lost their life at Gallipoli.  They rest in the various cemeteries located in Turkey.  Many Tasmanians saw action on the first day of landing, such as Harry Hodgman who lost his life .They served with the 12th AIF Battalion (Bn) of which more than half were from Tasmania. 

Tasmanians were also strong in representation in the 15th Bn, which held the infamous Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill.  Both endured the accuracy of the Turkish guns.  Tasmanians served too, with the 26th Bn and the 9th Battery Field Artillery.

The 3rd Light Horse, with their mounts left behind in Egypt, was used as reinforcements three weeks after the landing to join the 15th Bn at Pope’s Hill.

Gallipoli veterans wore the small letter “a” on their colour patch.

Nearly twenty thousand Australians were wounded at Gallipoli with 8, 300 dying.  Many died at a later date as a result of their wounds and are buried elsewhere.

In round figures, 60,000 Australians died during the war, and (again) in round figures this includes 3,000 Tasmanians.  Dating from April 1915 until November 1918, I calculate approximately 7-8 Tasmanian young men died every three days at the front. This is not counting the wounded or sick. Each day the local newspapers would carry their names.  One can only imagine the stress and grief of the families at home. It is an incredible statistic; a tragic one.  Such figures would not be acceptable in this modern era.

WWI, however, was not the first occasion Tasmanians have been involved in wars and have lost their lives. The first war that Tasmanians served, 158 of them, was the one in New Zealand, 1863-64. I have not been able to find any fatalities among those who left, although I suspect there were one or more. The first recorded Tasmanian to die in battle that I have researched was Arthur Dobson who died 25th March 1879 during the Zulu War.  Other Tasmanians served. Then in the Sudan, artillery man James Robertson died 31st May 1885.

Between 1899-1902 Tasmanians served in South Africa during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. I have found and documented 42 of our sons who lost their life in that far away land. In comparison to WWI of course that may not sound a lot, but putting it in perspective, our recently involvement in Afghanistan, 41 Australian soldiers died over a 13 year period – 41 too many I agree and we must take into account eight times as many veterans have committed suicide since returning.  Something is dreadfully wrong here. Tasmanian, Corporal Cameron Steward Baird was awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his services in Afghanistan.  Sadly he was killed in action June 22, 2013.

Two VCs were awarded to Tasmanians during the South African War, eleven in WWI and one in WWII that being Teddy Sheean which was awarded, 12th August 2020 many years after his action.  He was our first naval man to receive the honour.

The conclusion of WWII in 1945 did not see the end of our involvement in war.  We have noted that Tasmanians served with great distinction in Afghanistan with the death of Baird who had served also in East Timor and Iraq. There were Tasmanians serving in the Korean War, The Malaysian Campaign (which really was a war) and the Indonesian Confrontation and in every conflict Tasmanians died.

Then there was the most controversial war of all, Vietnam where a number of Tasmanians died. One of the very few who lost their lives serving with the Royal Australian Air Force was a Tasmanian, Ronald Betts. There is a lovely memorial to Tasmanian Vietnam fatalities at ANZAC Park, Lindisfarne.

ANZAC Day then is a time when we rightly remember all those fallen, all those who returned wounded, at time with horrific wounds which lingered until they passed away. We remember all who served in every theatre of war. This includes the deserts of North Africa, the terrain of South Africa, the jungles of Asia, the Pacific region and of Vietnam, the hell of the western front and Gallipoli. Many experienced the bitter cold of Korea. Our naval personnel served on every ocean of the world and our airmen over the skies of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and North Africa. On ANZAC Day we also reflect on those at home who worked diligently to support our fighting men and of course we remember our nurses who served with valour throughout the war where-ever our military served.

Why the Sport Stadium in Hobart cannot be built

There are very good reasons why the proposed sports stadium to be constructed at Regatta Point, Hobart, cannot be built, rather than it should not be built.

The stadium appears to hang on the acceptance of a Tasmanian team into the AFL as stated by the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Nic Street.  The proposal will cost $750 million and will be funded by various government levels and investment from the private sector.  The site is owned by the people of Tasmania and is managed by the Hobart City Council.

The site is near to the Hobart Cenotaph and the grounds of the Royal Hobart Regatta which includes the historic John Colville Pavilion.  There are other recreational facilities which will be impacted and which are enjoyed by Tasmanians, it being so close to the CBD of the capital.

The impact will be considerable. The government has stated that it will be in continual dialogue with the RSL and the Regatta Association.

However, there are considerations not yet taken into account and are not stated on the government’s website regarding the proposal.

I have had on good authority that if the stadium is built, it will block out any visual observance of the rising sun during the dawn service on ANZAC Day. This, alone, is why it should not be constructed at Regatta Point.

Near the proposed site exists the old Queen’s Battery and is close to the Domain Cenotaph where the main military observances take place in the south. Built in 1864, the Queen’s Battery served as protection from foreign invaders until the mid-1920s. It is also the site where the 12th battalion camped before going to WWI.  The site was excavated some decades ago and by the request of the RSL in 1992, it was filled in. Another historic aspect, still there under the earth, are trenches of a zig-zag formation.  These exist closer to the John Colville Pavilion and while their purpose has been forgotten, I surmise they were bomb shelters from WWII.

The question must be asked; what impact will such a huge stadium have on these historic structures?  This also must include the John Colville Pavilion with its many plaques imbedded in its stand, such as those to the boatmen and rowers who served in both world wars. There are tablets also in memory of John and his brother Charles Colville who served with distinction in promoting and serving the regatta in past years.

Other questions must also be asked.  Is the stadium needed?  In the south for large entertainment productions we have the Deck near Elwick and in Clarence, Blundstone Stadium for sporting events, such as cricket and football, including AFL matches. Is the proposed new stadium warranted, even though it is a wonderful dream?  It will be financed by government and private funds.  We all know that budgets blow out and the said $750 million will probably be no exception.  Governments will borrow to finance it and if the private investment does not eventuate as it is hoped, then we the tax payer will be paying more for its completion. Will it prove to be a white elephant?

Upon inquiry regarding parking for the stadium I have been informed that it is still being planned.  If parking will be close to the site, then roads will have to be constructed to the venue and huge parking areas will be provided. Parking on the existing Queen’s Domain is quite a distance away from Regatta Point and how it would be managed has not been suggested.

This does not even take into account the impact upon future regattas after the stadium is completed and ready for the 2027 football season. The Royal Hobart Regatta, dating from 1835, will see its 185th anniversary next year.  It is the oldest continuous regatta in Australia.

Too many questions are still not answered and I would suggest they have not even been considered during the eagerness to plan the stadium and how much, already, has the government paid to the architects in drawing up plans?  It has to be substantial.

That the stadium will block out the sun during the dawn service on ANZAC Day is enough to say ‘no’ to the proposal while taking into account other questions regarding its construction.