‘Lest We Forget’

Robinvale Remembered 1957

Supplied courtesy of the © Robinvale Sentinel

Mr .J.B. Grelis of Red Cliffs, a State Councillor and a Life Member of the RSL, a very rare honour for any Second War soldier, was guest speaker at the Anzac Day Service at Robinvale last Thursday.

The 10.30am service at Robinvale is always a very impressive one, and this year was no exception.

At 10.30am the Robinvale and District Pipe Band marched down Perrin Street towards the Cenotaph dressed in the very colourful uniforms.

Behind them in mufti marched the returned men from both the two Great World Wars.

The crowd stood around on three sides of the Cenotaph. Copies of the service were given out by the Girl Guides and Brownies.

Mr. Vic Wilson, President of the Sub Branch, opened the proceedings and introduced Rev. Max Stansall, who asked the people to sing the first hymn “Lead Kindly Light.”
Although it was all in the open air, the singing of the crowd was very impressive.

The accompaniment of Laurie Glover on the piano-accordion seem to fit into the whole scheme extremely well.

After the Rev. R. Cameron led the crowd in the Lord’s Prayer, a hymn followed.
Then the President introduced Mr Grelis who said: This is the 42nd Anniversary of Anzac Day.

Anzac Day happened in 1915. It was on that day that we, as a nation, came into being. It was on that day there came from the whole of the world that we had bred a nation of brave unselfish men, and brave, courageous, lovable and devoted women.

For it was on this day, back in 1915, that the first of our soldiers of the first AIF went into action to fight a hard, cruel and ruthless enemy- the Turk.

The fight against the Turks on the hilly rugged shores of Turkey took place from the early hours of the morning, right at daybreak. It was a cold wet morning on which none of us want to get out of bed. But it was not a matter of our soldiers getting out of bed, they had not been to bed, rather they had lined the decks and the rails of their ships the night through, waiting the word to send them ashore.

They went ashore in dingies, rowboats and small boats of all kinds. Much like we go fishing in on the Murray. In lots of cases, these ships or boats were guided by bits of boys of sixteen and seventeen, midshipmen of the Royal Navy, who kept on going although Turkish bullets were flying all round them.

As our men reached the shore they got out of their boats as best as they could and as quick as they could. Then had to run and fight their way to the hills, gullies. ravines and bits of trees, anywhere as long as they kept going towards the enemy and away from the open beaches.

When they got a hundred yards or a few hundred yards up the hills, they dug themselves trenches. It was in these trenches that thousands of our men lived and fought for many months.
The reason why our men fought at Anzac was to link up with Russia, and also the Turkish army would be kept occupied because we did not want the Turks to get into Egypt. Sometimes we may be pardoned for thinking it may have been just as well if they have given Egypt to the Turks and be done with it.

The children may wonder where all these soldiers of ours came from. Well, they came from what then, was the earliest days of Robinvale and of Red Cliffs too; from Mildura, Melbourne, Woorinen, Warrnambool, Swan Hill and Sydney, from all over the bush and from the cities, too.

They were teachers, traders, butchers bakers, and probably some bankers too, clerks, clerics, road makers and cattlemen – men from every different walk of life imaginable.


They were brave as one could be. But you may as well say all wars have brave men, why must we praise the Anzacs only? History tells us of brave men such as Drake and Nelson, Napoleon, The Duke of Wellington, Earl Grey, Lord Mountbatten, Rommel, Eisenhower, Macarthur, Monash and Blamey. They were brave capable men, but they were individuals, of individual greatness.

The men of Anzac as an entire fighting force were brave, but their bravery is not the main reason we honour them, because all of them were great in the fact that they hung on under the most sickening of conditions and mid horrors and hardships untold and untellable day after day, week after week and month after month.

They hung on when defeat looked at them, every minute of every hour they refused to give in or let go.

Each and all of them looked after the welfare of his cobbers. They would share the last puff of a cigarette when cigarettes were more than under the counter. They’d share the last dregs of their billy tea or the last flakes of their hard, hard biscuits. They’d cheer on and help their wounded and their sick. They were unflinching under conditions that almost defy adequate words.

They were great within themselves when their dead lay piled three deep around them, great when the place was filled with sickness and with sorrow, great when the reason had all but gone and the blue of the skies but a mockery as if to say there is no heaven.

Yes, they were great in the many little but important angles that add up into the all important overall patterns.

But their greatest greatness was in the mettle of themselves, because they knew the trust that had been placed upon them and they knew that, come what may, they must hang on and be true to that trust, so that you and I may live to enjoy the freedom which is ours.

Theirs were the hearts of men of the world and the greatness of their hearts carried through when hope faded and help failed. When the world seemed as if it would crumble and fall around them. And, when that was so , they faced what was to come undismayed, unconquered and unselfish.

When it was all over, 7600 of the best and bravest men of our land had been killed. That many men is more than there is in in the whole of Robinvale, Euston, Annuello and even Swan Hill too.

19,000 WOUNDED

Some 19,000 had been wounded – and 19,000 men is more men than there is in the whole of Mildura, Robinvale, Swan Hill, Merbein, Red Cliffs and even Irymple.

Here in Robinvale with your delightfully modern compact new hospital, you can handle some sixteen or eighteen cases, you have two doctors and many nurses.

The wounded Anzacs had one doctor to four hundred wounded, very few nurses, but those nurses and those doctors, like your own nurses and doctors, were the best in the world, and they too, had a greatness beyond conceive.


And so it is, because of the greatness of Anzac and of the men who made Anzac, that this day is a national holiday, a day reserved on the anniversary of the landing at Anzac to commemorate and honour the hallowed memories of those who fell in war.

And so, where do we go from there? To my mind that is the real question of any Anzac day.

Do we sit and compare the jam tin and the Mills bombs of Suvla Bay to the atomic horrors that make the headlines of today.

Or do we rant about Nasser and what we’d do with him if we had him here. Nasser is a nice topic of conversation I’ll admit, but it gets us nowhere.

Or are we – and by we I mean in particular the chaps of the second war, game to take hold of ourselves and have a good look at what these original Anzacs did fight for.

Because, if we do, we will face up to some terrifying facts. And if we don’t, well then Anzac Day misses its true meaning in what it could or should mean with us.

Behind the greatness of the men of Anzac was the fight to live and to love. The fight to be one’s own boss and to carve out a way of life best suited to each capacities and own individual outlooks. The freedom to drink or not to drink; to play football or not to play football. Freedom of our wives, our families, our country, and our church.

All of these freedoms are ours, because of Anzacs, but upon you, as men of second war, has descended the mantle of the men of the men of Anzac and all the terrible yet glorious responsibilities that the mantle carries with it.

The men of Anzac literally have said: “She’s all yours Dig.” With that comes to us the responsibility of seeing that those of the first war too, grow not old not the years condemn.
Ours is the job of seeing they get that with which to live. That they get the odd cigarette or two. That they get a spot of laughter thrown in for good measure now and then.
Upon us has fallen the task of seeing that the wives and the widows are never hungry, nor cold, nor weary, nor sad.

Above all, that they never are lonely, because of all the sadness of this life of ours, there is no sadness like the pitiable helplessness of the lonely person.

These responsibilities are ours, because of our own free will we followed on in the 2nd AIF where the 1st AIF left off. Because of this above all, we MUST NOT LET THEM DOWN.

If you think, or if you kid yourselves, no such cases exist in Robinvale, you’re either not dinkum or you’re not trying.

Somewhere right near some one could do with a pound note: some widow could do with a spot of wood chopping or lawn mowing; some family could well do with some kindly friendly advice. All of them would love a cheery smile or a warm shake of the hand.

We second war folk remember the happy-go-lucky ‘”Saida George” of the wog kids. That was their way of greeting us, the Sholom of the Jews and the grin a mile long and a chain wide of the fuzzy wuzzies. Those grins and cheerios meant a lot to us at the time. They mean a lot to us thinking back even today.

Why then shouldn’t we who revere the memory of Anzac, put a lot of the same medicine into bottles of happiness and dispense them free in our everyday life.
It won’t cost us anything, and if like some other medicines it doesn’t do much good, it won’t do much harm either.

The care and the upkeep of our own families is our first responsibility, no doubt about that, but our second job as soldiers and citizens, is the care of those, and especially those of two wars, upon whom the goodness of heaven might not have showered itself so heavily as it has upon the rest of us.

The floods of last year showed we have some of the spirit of 1915. That was a combined effort of help; a sharing of cigarettes and of sandwiches, of giving of work, worry, time and labour for the common good and the common cause.

So! It shows that what we do for the common good we can do for the individual good.

When we, each and all of us, pass on our help, not tomorrow, but today, and every day and then and then only will we have captured the innate goodness and the truth of the golden and glorious meaning conjured up in miracles and the magic of the one word “ANZAC”.

Piper Dick Voege played while the wreaths were being laid on the Cenotaph. After the one minute’s silence, the Last Post, Reveille and finally God Save the Queen.

More Robinvale Sentinel Tribute Stories

Translate »