Remembering Ashley Birt
FALLEN Gympie war hero Ashley Birt had plenty of friends in Kilcoy yesterday, as his many mates and loved ones gathered at the town's RSL headquarters.
They held a special commemoration to mark the renaming of the sub branch bar, now the "Ashley Birt Anzac Bar".
Kilcoy's RSL members welcomed about 70 of Cpl Birt's Gympie family and lifelong friends, along with his Army comrades from the 1st Topographical Squadron, based at Enoggera.
"We had about 300 people here," sub branch secretary May Wallace said yesterday.
"I've been run off my feet serving drinks," she said during a short break mid afternoon.
The unit, of which Cpl Birt was a member, has a long association with the Kilcoy RSL, she said.
"We had a meeting to approve the name change and it was unanimous.
"They just said yes straight away," she said.
The bar, which was already named the Anzac Bar, now has its new identity bedded in with renewed celebrations of Cpl Birt's life and the courage of the fallen.
He will now be remembered more specifically in Kilcoy, as well as Gympie, as one of those absent comrades whom age shall not weary nor the years condemn.
Cpl Birt was one of three Australian troops murdered in Afghanistan last October by a rogue Afghan soldier they were training.
A spokesman for Cpl Birt's lifelong Gympie mates, Dean Walker, told The Gympie Times yesterday that a very large crowd had gathered at the sub branch headquarters, where the bar is oper
ated. Troops from Enoggera joined Kilcoy locals and a big contingent from Gympie, led by Cpl Birt's parents, Linda and Don.
Sub branch president Les Thomson welcomed the diverse crowd, with the help of Mr and Mrs Birt, Ashley's brother and fellow soldier Dale and Kilcoy sub branch patron Ken Kuhn.
Mr Thomson said Cpl Birt's unit had been linked to Kilcoy RSL for 12 years.
"Ashley was a member of the 1st Topographical Survey Squadron and had attended ceremonies here in Kilcoy to aid our sub branch.
"To us the news of Ashley's death hit home; he was to us part of our family."
Mr Thomson then handed proceedings over to the Birt family and Mr Kuhn to unveil a very personal town tribute, in the form of a timber slab carrying the bar's new name.
"A local supplied the timber, a carpenter built it and he knew a cabinet maker who finished it," Ms Wallace said.