The marchers make their way down Skinner Street, South Grafton, yesterday.
The marchers make their way down Skinner Street, South Grafton, yesterday. Adam Hourigan

The Dawes' bravery remembered

FEW families can boast a military history like Burt Dawes’.

Two generations of the Dawes family received the bravery awards – Burt’s father Ernie Dawes was awarded the Military Medal during World War I and Burt the Military Cross during World War II.

Burt was one of only a handful of World War II Diggers at yesterday’s Anzac Day service in South Grafton, and the 89-year-old spoke proudly of his family’s war-time achievements.

“My uncle, Tom Dawes, served in Gallipoli as a stretcher-bearer,” Burt said.

“When stretchers were short, these big, bronze Anzacs went out by themselves and put a wounded man on their back and brought them in. My uncle Tom Dawes was one of those. He got a bullet in his back. He had lasted 78 days before he got that Turk’s bullet in his back. He got back to Australia, a paraplegic, and he lasted for another 10 years before he died.

“He never complained.”

Tom’s younger brother Ernie – Burt’s father – was wounded at the Battle of Polygon Wood in France.

“He was awarded the Military Medal as a signal sergeant preparing telephone lines under shellfire,” Burt said.

“He was made an officer straight away. He only lasted two weeks when a shell took half his foot away. He was repatriated to Australia like his elder brother, Tom.”

Burt, who was a well-known dentist and orthodontist in the Clarence Valley, served as a signals officer in the 2/33rd battalion in Borneo, where he too was awarded the Military Cross.

People like Burt are the reason a nation pauses on April 25 each year to reflect and give thanks for the lives we enjoy today.

And judging by the numbers at South Grafton and Grafton yesterday, the tradition will continue for generations to come. There were people of all ages and generations at the Lane Boulevard cenotaph.

In a first, South Grafton RSL sub-branch secretary Bob Hayes delivered an Anzac Day address. It is likely to become a regular feature of South Grafton services in years to come.

The ceremony concluded with a poem penned by St Andrew’s Christian School student Grace Debruin. The poem, which received second place in the 2009 Australia My Country competition conducted by the NSW RSL Branch, talks about sacrifice and why our forebears fought in various conflicts since the mid-1800s.

It’s safe to assume the poem struck a chord with Burt.

He lived it.

Read more:

Anzac spirit lives in Grafton

Proud Australian's honour Anzacs

Mick O'Reilly remembers

Crowd attends service in Yamba

Iluka veterans honoured



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