Returned servicemen, their spouses and descendants march away from yesterday’s Anzac service at Maclean.
Returned servicemen, their spouses and descendants march away from yesterday’s Anzac service at Maclean.

Mick O'Reilly remembers

AS A 22-year-old country boy from Western NSW, Mick O’Reilly had no idea what he was getting himself into when he signed up to the Australian Infantry Force in 1942.

Now 92 and living in Maclean, Mick said he was not sure whether he would have gone had he known what lay ahead.

As an engineer, Mick said he helped build roads and bridges in New Guinea and faced the Japanese in about eight months of active service during his four-year tenure in the army.

“You just don’t see them (the enemy) when you’re fighting in the jungle, it wasn’t like World War I,” he said.

Despite having some close calls and seeing some horrible things, Mick said his experience was nothing next to the soldiers who fought on the treacherous Kokoda Track.

“Those blokes lived in hell,” he said.

Asked to reflect on the changes war had brought to the world, Mick said nothing had been learned from past mistakes.

“World War I was supposed to be the war to finish all wars, then it was World War II, but if you look around the world it’s worse today than ever.”

Anglican minister Angela Dutton, who addressed the 800-strong Anzac service crowd at Maclean, said the service was not about glorifying war, but rather honouring those who have fought ‘for the very peace under which we and other nations live today’.

“For some, going off to war was no doubt an adventure, but the realities of war would, I’m sure, have overshadowed those initial longings and ideals,” Reverend Dutton said.

“As many of you will know far better than I, war is not pretty, it is devastating and brutal, yet the consequences of not standing up and fighting for our freedom and the freedom of others can be even more brutal and devastating.”

An Anzac gathering was held at the Maclean RSL.

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