Children from the Lower Clarence schools joined ex-servicemen and women in the day of remembrance.
Children from the Lower Clarence schools joined ex-servicemen and women in the day of remembrance.

Crowd attends service in Yamba

‘THEY were once young and fit with plans for a career and to settle down for a good life – but they had a war to fight instead.’

Speaking to the crowd of hundreds who gathered in Yamba to honour the Anzac tradition was Royal Australian Navy commanding officer Michael Hickey.

He described those men and women who served and are still serving Australia as ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.

With a membership now standing at 84, the Yamba RSL sub-branch service drew a crowd of several hundred. Many ex-servicemen commented that the number of young people turning out to recognise and remember those who have served Australia increased every year.

Children from Yamba Public, Palmers Island Public, St James Primary, Maclean High School and the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club were well represented in the parade that made its way from the top of Clarence Street to the cenotaph which faces the mouth of the Clarence River.

At the Len McDermid Memorial Hall in Yamba after the service, the servicemen and women and their families gathered in a more relaxed atmosphere as lunch was served and stories swapped at the bar.

Among those families who gathered were the Murphys, who spanned four generations from around the country to honour their father and grandfather, Max Murphy, who spent two and a half years defending Australia at Darwin in the 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery.

Reflecting on his 25 years in the army, former company quartermaster, Ron Gildersleeve, said he has had a good life with the opportunity for friendships and travel.

Mr Gildersleeve was just 15 years old when he joined the merchant seamen, soon finding himself in Korea and then Japan where he joined the regular army, setting the course for several tours of Malaysia and Vietnam, punctuated with postings in the Atherton Tablelands, Townsville and Singleton, training national servicemen.

“They’d call me ‘that mean bastard’”, Mr Gildersleeve said of his pupils and those he commanded as company quartermaster.

“I’d been in the army long enough not to have the wool pulled over my eyes,” Mr Gildersleeve said.

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